What Would You Do?

It gets frustrating hearing the never-ending drumbeat of complaints about our educational system.

We need to:

mandate that teachers use technology, get the hierarchy into our way of thinking about technology and change, re-write the curriculum so that it is more engaging and relevant, provide better and more frequent PD, develop new read/write web learning communities, repeal NCLB, create more school choice and charter schools, reform higher ed and insure that we are graduating teachers that are ready to use technology tools and are prepared to teach in ways that engage students, have more federal and state leadership, expand the message of change to a larger audience of parents and community members, provide better and more effective leadership at all levels, develop passion based learning, project based learning, constructivist learning, use data to differentiate instruction, provide a computer for every student, online learning, interactive smartboards, and more Internet bandwidth.

For some, the answer is to tear down the entire system and rebuild it from the ground up.

There are issues of:

smaller class sizes, principals as instructional leaders, finding and keeping qualified teachers, providing decent urban school facilities, the readiness of students to attend school, their readiness to read, the cultural and economic backgrounds of the families and communities of the children the school serves, school safety, bullies, drugs, cultural decay, the enormous pressures on teachers to work with non-English speakers, even those that are illiterate in their native languages, low teacher pay, and shrinking resources available to support schools.

And then there are the students: dis-empowered, silent, passive, bored, dropping out physically and mentally, expecting nothing, cut off from relevance, and removed from the conversation.

There are educational statistics to be delivered on all sides. Great progress. Great failure.

Minimalists like Keith Fromme contend that the transformation we seek is created by finding teachers who love students.

If you could do something, what would you do?


13 thoughts on “What Would You Do?

  1. With education you can’t just pick on thing. You have to do it all, or at least try to do a lot of it. Our customers and products are people. And they will always be complicated, so there will never be one thing to fix it. In fact, one thing might fix it in one school, but not in another. We must continue searching until we find what works for our kids and our schools, and that may include Smartboards, but it may not. So what would I do? I would do SOMETHING.

  2. Hi Pete,

    This was an exceptionally thought-provoking post. Thank you.

    Increasingly I believe the “solution,” if there is such a thing, will be in individualizing, customizing education for all students. The one-size fits all model seems to really fit no one, least of all, kids who are unwilling or unable to sit and be passive learners. I’ve advocated for a very long time a genuine IEP for all students (and teachers, too).

    Thanks again for the great post,


  3. Pete,

    The SOMETHING could be ANYTHING. The point is just to do. I know of lots of teachers and administrators who spend so much time planning and worring about possible reactions that nothing gets done, or, when it does, the oppportunity for progress has passed. I’m part of the “jump in and get started and figure it out as you go along” party. If we sit too long, how many kids will be in and out of our schools while we are waiting for the perfect time or the perfect program?

  4. Hi Pete,

    Great philosophical question.

    Doug Johnson’s suggestion of an Individual Education Plan for all students reminds me of the Summerhill School in England. Below is the header for their website:

    “Where kids have freedom to be themselves…>

    Where success is not defined by academic achievement but by the child’s own definition of success…>

    Where the whole school deals democratically with issues, with each individual having an equal right to be heard…>

    Where you can play all day if you want to…>

    And there is time and space to sit and dream…>

    …could there be such a school?”

    Too radical?

  5. Hi Pete,

    I just wanted to make sure that you were invited to our education “Blogger Summit”. We hope you can make it and feel free to share this invitation with any other bloggers in the area that might be interested. The invitation is attached below.

    ED In ’08 Blogger Summit


    Strong American Schools is excited to announce the ED in ’08 Blogger Summit. Conference details are as follows:

    May 14th – 15th
    Palomar Hotel, Washington DC
    Registration is Free!

    An opening reception is scheduled on the evening of Wednesday, May 14th. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served before the screening of a new documentary film on education, Two Million Minutes. A Q&A session with the filmmakers is set to follow.

    Then join us for an all-day conference on May 15th. Nowhere else will you have an opportunity to meet and network with fellow education bloggers, participate in panels, attend workshops, and help tackle some tough questions on the state of education in America.

    Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP today!

    Register at http://edin08.com/bloggersummit/

  6. I agree that it’s overwhelming when we start looking at EVERYTHING that needs attention and funding and work in our public education systems!

    I’ve been feeling a theme developing for me and I’m pursuing it with vehemence in my district:

    It takes a community to raise our children – not one of us has the solution by ourselves and we’ve been spending too much time individually (or as seperate groups) trying to fix it by ourselves.

    Collaboration and a single unifying vision will take us to the next level.

    So, what I’m working on is:

    1) Bringing every discussion, every planning exercise, all data collection, every tech plan back to a comparison of how it helps us move toward the best intellectual, social and emotional learning environment FOR EVERY LEARNER. Does this proposal enhance or detract from that vision?

    2) Building bridges between partner groups (teachers, administrators, school boards, support workers, District management, parents, community groups, etc…). When we all understand our roles in the system and the value we bring towards achieving our vision, then we can work together to find the REAL solutions that will work for everyone!

    There is no ONE solution, no magic bullet.
    We cannot do it ALONE.

    The COLLECTIVE PASSION of educators and parents is more powerful than the bureaucracy that often stands in our way. Once we focus that passion, nothing will be able to stop us!

    We can do this! I see it happening and it`s powerful!

  7. Heidi,
    Wow! I can really feel the passion behind this. I think you are right about collective passion…or collective ‘ownership’ of the challenges by all groups…including students.
    Thank you for this inspiring comment.
    I’m sure some of us would like to learn more about what you are doing and how your efforts are progressing.

  8. Doug,
    I would be a strong advocate for IEP’s for all.

    I think this concept requires that students ‘own’ their education fully. I envision students having a hand in creating their IEP with their teachers which would serve as a an outline and map for their learning. They would have to do much of their learning independently, collaboratively (learning communities), and only partially with teachers…who would have a difficult time preparing 125-165 individual lessons and activities each day.


  9. Paul,
    Thanks for the link. The Summerhill School shows us what is possible. It respects kids and empowers them.

    This is not too radical…it is the next logical progression for our schools. If we can’t get kids to be interested and ‘own’ their own learning…nothing we do will be successful.


  10. Speaking of IEP’s for all – we have a project currently moving into its second year that’s REALLY exciting.

    It’s called the Universal Design for Learning Project – which is piloting a model of assessing each student, then differentiating instruction for ALL students (rather than just special needs).

    I’ve worked with one of the pilot schools and am going to an open house next week at another, to see how things are going.

    Here’s a link for more info:


  11. Pete,
    Thanks for the encouragement!
    I’ll write more about what I’m doing & planning, then link back.
    Take care,

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