The planet is transitioning from its Industrial Age to its Information Age. The Industrial Age’s mechanized physical labor demanded “citizens” with reading and writing literacy… [and] arithmetic, to drive its…
The planet is transitioning from its Industrial Age to its Information Age. The Industrial Age’s mechanized physical labor demanded “citizens” with reading and writing literacy… [and] arithmetic, to drive its economies. Those denied access to these literacies—like Mississippi-Delta sharecroppers so famously embraced by the Student-Nonviolent-Coordinating-Committee (SNCC)–were Industrial Age “serfs”… Do you all have to master algebra? Yes, if you all intend to be twenty-first century “Constitutional People” rather than Information Age “serfs”.
Robert Moses, in the Black Star Project’s blog, explaining why all children must learn algebra and other college-preparatory math in order to succeed in the knowledge-based economy. Implementing Common Core’s math standards (the subject of this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast) along with reforms in recruiting high-quality math teachers, is critical to helping our children gain the knowledge they need for success beyond school.
[Former teacher Juliette LaMontagne] concedes that she once knew little to nothing about design or business thinking. But what she did know, deep down, was that our education system is failing the students who find sitting in classrooms all day full-on painful… So she turned education on its head with a project called Breaker. (Yes, an odd name) Home-based in New York City — though with projects elsewhere — Breaker assembles interdisciplinary teams to “drive social innovation and collaborative learning.” Breaker leaders pose social problems, like increasing literacy or inventing urban farming techniques, and invites young people (who apply) to work with experts who have relevant practical skills. Together, the team uses an open-source IDEO design toolkit which lays out a process for collecting information, brainstorming ideas and testing solutions.
The point is to create a sustainable business that solves the problem on an on-going basis, if possible. So instead of a kid learning enough math, engineering, social science, communications skills to build something useful or remarkable later on, maybe, someday in the future, when there’s a job — build now. Learn the necessary skills along the way… Breaker’s problem-solving business is at the center of the work. Actually fix something. Don’t invent a little hands-on project intended to reinforce a lesson. Focus for real on designing a necessary product, service, business…
The question was how to bring more garden space to inner-city areas, so people could grow their own fresh food. The team assembled in Breaker’s New York City space and started collecting data. They discovered that U.S. urban areas have about a million acres of unused land that could be converted into farmland. But lots of these areas are stalled construction projects that lost funding during the recession. So the garden plots needed to be temporary, able to be moved relatively quickly when the owner or the Department of Transportation finally got around to needing the land back. The project became a business called “Farm Blocks,” which manufactures lightweight containers that become modular, raised planting beds…
Currently, Breaker reaches out mainly to 18-24-year-olds, a group whose 15.1 percent unemployment rate is twice the nation’s 7.3 percent rate. But as a frustrated K-12 educator, LaMontagne passionately recommends that schools adopt this go-getter entrepreneurial technique for K-12 kids maddened by educational passivity. “Students say I wish I were out in the real world making something happen. Have students decide what question to ask. The teacher becomes the facilitator. The product is the evaluation.”
Julia Steiny, discussing how relevance and learning can be brought into American public education, and in the process, help kids achieve economic and social freedom for themselves and the communities in which they live.
How America prepares its teachers has been a subject of dismay for many years. In 2005 Arthur Levine, then the president of Teachers College at Columbia University, shocked colleagues (and himself, he says) with a scathing report concluding that teacher preparation programs “range from inadequate to appalling.” Since then the outcry has only gotten more vociferous. This summer the National Council on Teacher Quality described teacher education as still “an industry of mediocrity.” The heartening news is that the universities that have so long resisted pleas to raise their standards are now beginning to have change pushed on them from outside… Philanthropies like the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which Levine now runs, have been pouring money into reform. And academic entrepreneurs like [Deborah Kenny of the Harlem Village Academies charter schools] are arising to compete with the established schools.
Of all the competing claims on America’s education dollar — more technology, smaller classes, universal prekindergarten, school choice — the one option that would seem to be a no-brainer is investing in good teachers. But universities have proved largely immutable. Educators, including some inside these institutions, say universities have treated education programs as “cash cows.” The schools see no incentive to change because they have plenty of applicants willing to pay full tuition, the programs are relatively cheap to run, and they are accountable to no one except accrediting agencies run by, you guessed it, education schools. It’s a contented cartel.
Among reformers, there is a fair amount of consensus about what it would take to fix things. The first step is to make teacher colleges much more selective. According to one respected study, only 23 percent of American teachers — and only 14 percent in high-poverty schools — come from the top third of college graduates… Once they are admitted, critics say, prospective teachers need more rigorous study, not just of the science and philosophy of education but of the contents, especially in math and the sciences, where America trails the best systems in Asia and Europe. A new study by the Education Policy Center at Michigan State, drawing on data from 17 countries, concluded that while American middle school math teachers may know a lot about teaching, they often don’t know very much about math. Most of them are not required to take the courses in calculus and probability that are mandatory in the best-taught programs.
Former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller pointing out an underlying reason why so many kids are condemned to economic and social enslavement: The shoddy recruiting and training practices of our nation’s university schools of education.
In statehouses across the country, school children deserve to have the Winston Churchill-types in charge. Instead, our statehouses today host too many Neville Chamberlains. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s lack of strong leadership on education, declared one of his top priorities, has caused a stalemate that has embarrassingly failed to achieve any significant reform despite his party’s full control of both houses of the state legislature… Gov. Bob McDonnell campaigned as the education-reform governor of Virginia, but despite his parting shot of securing state-takeovers of failing schools and allowing Teach for America into the state, he still governs a state where a 15-year-old charter school law is so restrictive that only two of these innovative public schools are operating despite the overwhelming evidence that good charter schools can achieve dramatic success with students. The list goes on.
Allegiance to party over principle and the ultimate goal of securing higher political office surely is driving some decisions by governors to avoid fighting the tough fights. But a willingness to do battle, even at the cost of one’s own political longevity, is what marks a truly courageous and effective leader…
To be sure, some of today’s governors hold the promise of becoming tomorrow’s education reform leaders. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker looked teachers’ (and other) unions in the eye and didn’t blink when reform was needed, and along the way expanded that state’s voucher law and strengthened its charter school law. Mike Pence in Indiana and John Kasich in Ohio have built on the reforms they’ve inherited without apology, even acting so bold as to expand school-choice voucher programs. Delaware’s Jack Markell seemingly has unleashed a no-nonsense education secretary with a directive to expand choice and seriously increase accountability of schools, despite his own hesitancy to put on the “reformer” mantle. And Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal has set records for positive education reform lawmaking in education in a state where a devastating and unwelcome storm served as a catalyst for a new public education landscape. Even in these states, however, parents are wondering whether it’s just another round of wasted potential and foregone opportunity, or if the current generation of school children really will be better-schooled than the last.
Former Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen, in the Huffington Post, pointing out the need for governors who will work strongly to advance systemic reform on behalf of all children. Schoo reformers must build the grassroots and political base needed to give such governors the support needed to transform American public education.