We Must Be Better

I read a great many articles about education reform.  During this political season, the conversation is heating up.  Sadly, though, the conversation is about the wrong things.  One one hand, there are conservative and business leaders who talk about vouchers for private schools, about merit pay for great teachers, about getting more for the taxpayers’ money (on average education costs about $10,000 per student per year in the U.S.).  On the other hand, many educators and learning innovators want public figures to get off the back of teachers and support good things that are going on in schools while stopping the trend toward high-stakes testing that has become the enemy of deep learning.

I see both sides.  I’m a taxpayer and a staunch conservative.  I’m also a teacher who is passionate about learning.  I can’t help observing that, although I know many teachers who are outstanding, creative, intensely committed stimulators of learning for their very fortunate students, I also know many teachers who are unwilling to change to employ the best research on how 21st century kids learn, who will not put forth the effort to learn how to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday, who, if they use technology at all, are stuck in the past  using only what they are comfortable with, usually tools that have been around for 10 years or more–and yes, I know that large percentage of teachers are limited as to what technologies are available to them.

I think the education reform we should be calling for is a reform in every classroom.  I think that teachers can improve year-by-year.  I think I can improve, and that I need to improve.  I think that at the state level, we need some of those visionary teachers making policy and leading innovation in the way we view the whole  structure of education.  I think we need to stop testing so much  that we don’t have time to teach.  I think we, as teachers, need to change methods that evidently are not working so that our students’ progress is so evident that legislators and other state leaders recognize that there is real growth in every district and school.

I’m encouraged when I see the talent and ability of so many teachers.  But I’m discouraged when I see that talent often wasted because teachers don’t get the training and administrative support they need to explore new ways of helping students learn with real mastery.

Mostly, I think we need to change the conversation.  We need to talk about ways to really change education for the future of every child and our whole society.

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