5 Ways to Transform Public Education. Or, Why Reform Doesn’t Go Far Enough.

Posted on: Thu, 06/15/2017 - 09:00

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” said Albert Einstein. Many of us – myself included – learned this lesson early in life. After all, there’s nothing like the pain of skinned knees and bruises to help you figure out how to ride a bike.

Image removed.Why is it that the people who design national and state education policy don’t seem to consider this critical life lesson? For over two decades, educational accountability systems have focused on testing students every year to see if schools measure up. And if they don’t, there are penalties including having a school be labeled as a “failing” school. This constant emphasis on a punitive accountability system is not getting the results we want or need for our schools, but more especially for our students!

So why do we stubbornly persist using an accountability framework that has not, does not, and cannot get us the results we want? How would Einstein answer that question?

It’s time to think of other possibilities that would truly transform how we deliver public education in the 21st Century.  Here are 5 “what if” statements that would break us out of the cycle of failed reform and move us toward what we really need – transformation of our schools.

  1. What if we designed a teacher preparation program that selected the brightest students who also exhibited qualities essential to successful teachers and then we paid teachers like we pay lawyers, doctors, and other critical professionals?
  2. What if we eliminated the traditional grading and testing system and focused on mastery of identified competencies that could be evaluated through a test OR a portfolio OR a performance task OR a presentation designed by the student?
  3. What if we ensured the technology in our schools reflected the technology students would be using in the workplace?
  4. What if we designed school schedules and calendars that were flexible in order to maximize opportunities and learning for students?
  5. What if business and community leaders assisted public schools with curriculum design, offering educational opportunities for students and teachers, mentoring of students, and providing real world work experiences for students?

Former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn is said to have once commented that “there is no education in the second kick of a mule.”  It is time for our national, state, and local leaders to move beyond reform efforts that do not work.  Let’s engage in the work of transforming public education!  What if….?

What ideas do you have for transforming – not reforming – our schools? Tell me about it on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether or not you agree with this post, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.