Reposted from the Connecticut Mirror:
The following commentary represents the views of 12 Connecticut superintendents of schools:
The journey of education reform, which has at times moved in a deliberate direction and at other times wandered in many directions, is currently at a very important and, potentially exciting, crossroads. At this moment, a narrow window of opportunity has presented itself. As the federal government debates renewing the failed No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), our state is set to submit our latest plans to be held harmless from the sanctions of NCLB through a federal waiver, last done in 2012, and due for renewal on March 31, 2015.
Any effective system is best served by knowing when an important juncture presents itself and identifying, at that precise moment, the changes necessary to travel down the road of continuous improvement. Our public school landscape is littered with initiatives, while the vision for learning in Connecticut lacks clarity and coherence. In this “vision void” our measures (i.e. test scores) have become our goals, confounding the purpose of schooling and perpetuating yet another round of piecemeal initiatives.
The path we should avoid taking is the one that implements the NCLB waiver plan as the de facto vision for the education of Connecticut’s children. Instead we should identify a clear and compelling vision for education in our state and employ all of our resources to achieve it. Staying the course of current reform efforts without a deep analysis of the effects in actual classrooms across the state will further cement the system of compliance and “one size fits all” that grips our very diverse school districts like a vise. One way to clarify the vision is to answer the direct and simple questions:
What are the most worthy outcomes of our public education system?
Are we preparing our students for the world they will enter when they graduate?
Is our public education system positioned for continuous improvement, as opposed to ranking, sorting and punishing?
To what extent do our laws increase conformity at the expense of innovation?
Reposted from A Principal’s Reflections:
The structure and function of the majority of schools in this country is the exact opposite of the world that our learners are growing up in. There is an automatic disconnect when students, regardless of their grade level, walk into schools due to the lack of engagement, relevancy, meaning, and authentic learning opportunities. Our education system has become so efficient in sustaining a century old model because it is easy and safe. The resulting conformity has resulted in a learning epidemic among our students as they see so little value in the cookie-cutter learning exercises they are forced to go through each day. The bottom line is that they are bored. It is time that we create schools that work for our students as opposed to ones that have traditionally worked well for the adults.
Creating schools that work for students requires a bold vision for change that not only tackles the status quo inherent in the industrialized model of education, but also current education reform efforts. Even though Common Core is not a curriculum, many schools and districts have become so engrossed with alignment and preparing for the new aligned tests that real learning has fallen by the wayside. We need to realize that this, along with other traditional elements associated with education, no longer prevail. How we go about doing this will vary from school to school, but the process begins with the simple notion of putting students first to allow them to follow their passions, create, tinker, invent, play, and collaborate. Schools that work for students focus less on control and more on trust.
There is a common fallacy that school administrators are the leaders of change. This makes a great sound bite, but the reality is that many individuals in a leadership position are not actually working directly with students. Teachers are the true catalysts of change that can create schools that work for kids. They are the ones, after all, who are tasked with implementing the myriad of directives and mandates that come their way. Leadership is about action, not position. Schools need more teacher leaders who are empowered through autonomy to take calculated risks in order to develop innovative approaches that enable deeper learning and higher order thinking without sacrificing accountability. If the goal in fact is to increase these elements in our education system then we have to allow students to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways.
Reposted from My Island View:
The point here is that it is not representative of what is going on in education in the USA. We are not as fully tech-oriented as the press and politicians would have us believe. Many schools lack the budget, or infrastructure to support it. Certainly the way PD is provided today, as it has been in centuries past, is hardly adequate to get educators up to speed. Trying to maintain a 20th Century model of education in the 21st Century is not moving us forward either, yet it seems to be a dominating education philosophy.
We need to somehow take the vision of what we see in education conferences and mix it with the reality of what is actually being done in education. If we want to focus on a better education for our kids, we need to focus first on a better education for their educators. If the promise of EdTech is ever to be realized than we need to clearly establish where we each are in that picture and make specific individualized plans to get us to where we each need to be. It will not happen organically. We will never have out-of-the-box, innovative learning until we promote and support out-of-the-box and innovative teaching. Technology in education should not be limited to PowerPoint presentations and word-processed book reports.
The picture of what American education is has been blurred by politicians, well-intentioned business people, profiteers, and to a great extent educators themselves. I don’t know if we can describe a picture of a 21st Century classroom that holds true for all classrooms. I imagine that the most typical class in America still resembles a 20th Century class which is not far different from a 19th Century class: Rows, a board, and a teacher standing in front of the room. The frustration I have always had as an educator is that the vision for education is far better than the reality.
Reposted from Velvet Chainsaw:
Vision…it’s easy to talk about. It’s hard to create and implement. And it’s often even harder to upgrade. What’s your vision for the 21st Century conference? How are conferences evolving? As the new year starts, there’s no time like the present to think about creating a fresh vision and adopting a new frame of mind for your next conference.
The world continues to evolve at a rapid and accelerated pace. Conferences are in a unique position to evolve to reflect societal changes or become prehistoric monuments of the past. The best visionary conference organizers fuel innovations inside great meetings. These visionary leaders have moved beyond operational effectiveness. They are using new tools and new points of view to meet their attendees’ needs.
When a conference organizer combines their team’s energy, vision and intelligence with the right 21st Century conference organizer mindset and tools, they can create remarkably powerful forces. Here are four visionary leadership mindsets today’s conference organizers should foster and implement…
How far have we come? How much does your classroom reflect the ideals shared by students in this video? Why haven’t we made more progress?
In a recent presentation I gave at the Systems Change Conference, I presented this reality, and suggested “It’s OK. Institutional change takes time.” A good friend and colleague of mine, Sherry Hughley Crofut, spoke up and challenged me. “But Walter, why? WHY is it OK?” She is right. I may want to use historical context to soften the OUCH of this video, but ultimately it’s not OK. Our children are the ones losing out. It’s time to push through to the promise of new learning, new creating, and new success.