Thursday, April 05, 2007

It's time to rethink a few things....

I read blogs, a LOT of them--sometimes when I blog myself, I feel like an echo of others' thoughts but recently Will Richardson posted an interesting article in Education Week: Let’s Abolish High School and since I had the opportunity to see Willard Daggett speak over this break--I really needed to take some time to make some connections. From the Ed Week article, Will quoted:
“A century ago, there was no way to address these concerns, but, thanks to computers and the Internet, we now have rapidly improving tools that will soon allow virtually all young people to master essential material at their own pace, and to do so at any point in their lives. There will probably always be a place for the classroom, but it will be a place where intense and intimate learning takes place with highly willing students, not a step on an assembly line.”
a place where intense and intimate learning takes place with highly willing students.... I have some concerns about this quote. Daggett was very clear that while he has traveled around the world, there is no place he would rather be that the United States because we are the one country that makes it their responsibility to educate everyone...

FROM MY NOTES taken during Dagget's session:
Our schools aren’t failing—we graduated more 18 year olds despite facts that have more state tests to pass—more children living below poverty line…World outside school is changing 4-5 times faster than world in school. We are suffering from a skills gap. Change is a process. We cannot and will not be able to change until there is more pressure for change than resistance to change. China says they will be #1 in biotech—1 year requirement…India has 2 year requirement—yet many of our schools are teaching sciences in isolation. Project 720—requires 2 years of foreign language—but what languages are we teaching? In China 110 million people studying English—must pass proficiency exam in English. India has 168 million preschoolers. If the preschoolers in India were a nation they would be the 4th most populated nation in world. The Math & Science requirements to enter HS in India are higher than that of our graduation requirements. That is the ones they CHOOSE to educate—The problem is that the ones they choose to educate are going to have us for lunch. Are we talking about this in schools?

Will stated... It’s getting to the point where I’m either going to have to stop reading stuff like this or put my blog where my mouth is in terms of my own school system…Often I feel very much the same way...

When ARE people going to stop reading and writing and start DOING? There are quite a few bold educators...who are taking risks and talking about it. Chris Lehman, Marco Torres, Vicki Davis, Karl Fisch and the teachers at Arapahoe immediately come to mind and I think PA is taking some bold steps between the Keystone Technology Integrators, Classrooms for the Future, Project 720, and PA High School Coaching Initiative but it is systemic change that needs to happen and I think we have a responsibility to our students to have ongoing conversations. Because when kids are given the opportunity to work and learn collaboratively ---and they go on to institutions of higher learning, they come out saying THIS

So I repeat what Daggett said MANY times during his session...Change is a process. We cannot and will not be able to change until there is more pressure for change than resistance to change. I challenge educators to talk more, be less resistant and start to make some changes.


  1. Well... come visit any time! You're right nearby!

  2. But if we offer students education their way, instead of our way, more of them will be highly motivated. It is conceivable that 100% will be highly motivated. Maybe not all for the right reasons, but certainly because without a diploma they will get no job. Welfare needs to cease being a state activity and revert to churches, were welfare originated.

  3. Anonymous11:08 AM


    You have some great points here... let me add some thoughts of my own.

    * Unions are a bad thing for schools in the broad picture. Sure, they're good for teachers, and they protect good teachers from imbecilic administrators, but they have created such barriers to change that they do not challenge anyone to do anything.

    * Tax laws prohibiting schools from raising money for change ruin the potential to do so. As one of my students said, "why do we spend $124 Billion in Iraq and not even $1 Billion on Education?" My feeling: the taxpayers aren't scared enough by the education gap - but it is scary if you can see the big picture.

    * I believe you get what you pay for. My college classes cost $1200 per class. That is about what I pay for a whole year in school taxes. If I paid $1200 for two semesters of 15 credit college classes, I would expect substandard education. So I guess I expect that my taxes are not going to bring much more than substandard education for my child.

    My wife and I were talking about Cisco Systems and India. Cisco's CIO defended its numerous H1B Visa applications because it simply cannot find qualified network/software engineers in the States. But they can find MANY Indian professionals that are more than qualified. Even though Cisco has the high school-level "Academies" in the States, the upper-level skill set required to program and design the next-generation network devices is rare in US candidates.

    I have some feelings about that. The Indian culture and government "gets it" when it comes to the value of education. You're right about many kids not getting into HS in India, that happens. But overwhelming is the drive for students to get into higher ed. And not just the students' drive, but the parents'. I watched a Frontline episode about this topic where they interviewed a parent. After the children came home from school, they were allowed to play until dinner time. Then, after dinner, the mother they interviewed talked about how she would bring her son coffee or food or whatever he needed to help him with his studies, which he did until bedtime - three or more hours each night.


    I believe that we can't change the public education system, that it is destined to fall behind faster than it can change. I do think it will change, but not as rapidly as private education - or pseudo-private education like charter schools or cyber schools. There are no perfect replacements - no model that WILL work, unless we test it. We have to be willing to take risks and try new things. We have to go look at how it's being done in other countries that ARE succeeding, with the understanding that students in the US have different ideas of what education SHOULD be like, and we have to tailor our findings to meet their needs. For instance, in India, children expect that they will sit in perfect rows and be expected to memorize concepts, multiplication tables, capitals of countries, etc. I don't think that's a model we want to use, nor do I think it would work for our students.

    I would like to help start a school that is technology rich, that is not subject to state-mandated tests unless they are as progressive as the school (doubtful). This school will have on its board champions of industry, of technology. Students will have a say, perhaps even a requirement to participate, in what is taught and how. We might start with the Chapter 4 standards and work from there. Mix in ISTE NETS, and then look beyond. I think we would work with local Technology Councils to identify the needs of the workforce, and also for forecasting. I TRULY BELIEVE that the purpose of education is preparing students for lifelong careers. I realize that since those careers may include 4-5 changes of job function, that MUST be reflected in the curriculum. Free thinking and ability to absorb new information without the help of a teacher are BIG on that list.

    I could see this school founded by a select group of teachers like "Keystones", along with some people in other technology-related organizations. I think we need corporate sponsorship, because what I'm talking about isn't cheap. In fact, the budget should only be limited by the results of multi-year studies. If a teacher thinks that every kindergartner needs laptops, he/she needs to get those laptops, and then the resources to conduct Action Research to prove/disprove their theories. And these teachers can't be working alone - there must be outside influence in their decisions - again based on the research we do prior to even accepting students.

    I don't know if this can happen. I can think of a school or two in my area that might be a better start than public schools. I just know that now that I have a personal interest, and I've read and seen evidence that shows that US schools will continue to pale in comparison to the world market, I want to try.

    Why am I posting anonymously? I think this flies in the face of my administration and frankly I like where I work, I want to try to help change...