Educational reform…what can you really do about it?

In my last post I admitted that in the process of becoming an old guy with a white beard, I may have learned a few things about life that could be worth passing on.  Here’s one of them…

Everywhere you look (or read, or listen) these days people are talking about educational reform…fixing what’s wrong with things the way they are.  What are those things? Well, Johnny can’t read, math scores keep falling and kids in every other country you can think of are doing better,  science education is in the same mess, disadvantaged kids continue to do poorly, drop out, and fail at most of the challenges life offers them,  it costs too much, and “those teachers” don’t care anyway. 

What do I know about all that? Well, aside from already having several volumes in print that address in large part with a concern that our institutions of public education have not always dealt with well…being an unrecognized gifted kid at the opposite end of the spectrum from the disadvantaged ones…I have experienced life inside the classroom as a certificated teacher at the Middle School level in both New Jersey and Maine, and I’ve had the privelege of being married to a remarkable lady who recently retired after thirty two years as a first grade teacher, having done that job well enough that she was honored with a Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence by the State of Washington.  Between us we have seen plenty of ideas for educational reform come and go.  Some of them accomplished a little, some caused nothing but more confusion, but none of them solved the problems they were meant to address.

I would like to suggest that we may have been aiming, in large part, at the wrong target.  We need innovative new curriculum, we need dedicated teachers, we need up-to-date buildings, we need accurate testing protocols…but we also need standards of performance that will point kids in the direction we want them to go.

Where do those standards come from?  I suggest this: educational standards that will lead to the results we want can come only from parents who send their children to school motivated to learn, already imbued with the notion that success in life depends on accepting responsibility, and ready to work at it.

Easy to say…not so easy to accomplish.  There is plenty of evidence that it can work. What are you going to do about it?


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