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From the Desk of... Chris English

Chris English
Free Throws

If I told you that Bob Fisher was better at basketball than Lebron James, you’d probably want to know who Bob Fisher is. If you know who he is, you might think I’m crazy.

Bob Fisher, Kansas’s native son, the pride of Centralia. Twenty-four time world record holder Bob Fisher. The man who set six basketball world records in one hour. Lebron James is nowhere near any of these records.

Back in 2011, Fisher set a record by making 2,371 free throws in one hour. He alternated shots between his right hand and left hand. With his right hand, he shot with 86% accuracy. This eclipses the paltry 73% free throw shooting percentage that Lebron James holds for his career. Bob sank 71% of his free throws using his left hand. 

Wait. I know what you're thinking. These are false comparisons. Fisher’s world records for free throw shooting don’t compare to the accomplishments James has had in his career. The idea that I would take this single skill set and use it to extrapolate such a bold and blatantly bad opinion is ridiculous. You might want me to consider all the other areas in which Lebron James excels and has demonstrated over and over again that he is in elite company in the world of basketball.
To that, I say free throws are important. You can’t win games if you don’t make free throws. They are free throws; they should be free points. Clearly, any player who can’t maintain an average of 90% or higher doesn’t belong in the NBA.

I know. Only Steph Curry, Steve Nash, and Mark Price have been able to hold above the 90% line as career free throw shooters. Only one of those three owns a championship ring. The measurement I’m using doesn’t make a lot of sense, seems arbitrary, and ultimately is a flimsy way to measure a player’s ability.

At The Independent School, we are proud of the success our students demonstrate on standardized tests. We value our STAR reports as a measure of student progress, and we take pride in the achievements of our students on ACT and AP exams. 

We also know, beyond a doubt, that none of these scores are an accurate reflection of who our students are as learners. They are a single measure—a measure that only reflects how well the student performed a specific task on a specific day. They give us a data point, but the data is meaningless if taken out of context. These data points do not define the success, the potential, or the intellectual ability of any student.

At The Independent School, we define our success in more meaningful ways. Successful students engage with the learning environment around them. They are inquisitive, driven more by questions than by answers. They are collaborative and willing to engage with others in meaningful ways to construct new understanding. They know how to change their minds, revise their opinions, and grow the complexity of their understanding when acquiring new knowledge.

They value the unique nature of every independent individual, and find joy in the commonalities that bring diverse groups together. They navigate numerous ways of accessing information from written texts, spoken word, multiple modes of media, and authentic human engagement. They find joy in their own growth and accomplishments and are proud of their peers’ successes.

The ways in which we define success at TIS are multifaceted and complex, and while it is quicker, more convenient, and brutally efficient to conflate a single score with the overall success or potential of a student, to do so is an injustice, an obfuscation, and an outright lie.

We will not sacrifice a high-quality, intellectually engaging learning environment for the sake of a test score. Make no mistake, we want to hit our free throws and will run drills to build skills, but we will not sacrifice being complete players for the benefit of a single statistic.  
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