Over the past little while, I’ve been blessed (or burdened if you’re a glass half empty kind of person) to have had a few experiences from which I have learned and seen so much around trying to move the needle in education. As colleagues of mine have said – “educated citizens are a nation’s only natural resource that increases in value as it increases in scale.”
KJ: On Thursday night, I had the honor of meeting Kevin Johnson – formerly of the Phoenix Suns and now current Mayor of Sacramento. He emphasized the importance of recognizing and rewarding great teachers and that only by doing so and having the courage to strive towards excellence will we have a school system that helps all of our children be prepared for the future.
Personally – I agree with him – and would add to that the sentiment that, even though I’m a parent who puts her children in enriching programs outside of school, what I do to help my kids is negated if all students don’t have access to a high quality education because my kids live in the world.
KW: earlier today, I went and visited Bing/REDU’s Re:Form School exhibit. It was absolutely incredible (I’ll obtain and post/link videos and photos shortly). It brought together artists from across the country to create pieces and experiences that draw attention to the need to fix our broken public school system. Whereas I usually get very sleepy in galleries and museums, this was thoroughly engaging and enlightening. For the building, they used what had been the oldest Catholic school in America and, because it shut down a couple of months ago from low enrollment, converted the entire school into the art exhibit.
Across both of these and other experiences lately – it’s crystal clear that we need everyone to have the same mantra: improving student outcomes for ALL students. There is definitely disagreement on how we get there – but if we can all recognize that as a common objective, then we can at least have respect heading towards that objective.
I believe – as do most – that the key to transforming education is by improving the quality of teaching. I also believe – and fewer people are talking about this, that we need to recognize that, if we’re measured by just reading, writing and arithmetic, we may never come out on top as a country. We hear all the time that the US is 17th, 23rd and 25th in various rankings. That’s all based on the 3Rs. But what if you were to rank off of social entrepreneurship? or Innovation? Or creativity? I don’t want to let us off the hook for being better in math, reading and writing. However, I also think we need to accentuate advantages we already have PLUS – develop muscle that isn’t a part of standardized tests. While it may not be to the level that many would like it, we still do have a history of creativity and ingenuity that helps.
I guess the thing that I want everyone to keep in mind as we work towards transforming our schools is to not throw the baby out with the bathwater and strip our schools and graduates of some of the things that makes them unique: Ingenuity and Innovation.