The following is not exactly the letter Dr. Scott McLeod asked for awhile back in his post, “Edublogger letters to the next President,” but it hits near the mark for me. This is my comment to the USNWR blog post today by Eddy Ramírez, “Who Should Be the Nation’s Next Education Chief?”

Of the options you’ve listed here, Linda Darling-Hammond would certainly have my vote. I agree with others who observe that we need someone with K12 educational experience. Our next secretary of education also needs to have higher education experience, but a KEY issue is we need someone who can take away the destructive emphasis we’ve seen under NCLB on test scores to the detriment of so many other things which matter. Of course we need our students to score well on assessments, but we need to focus on differentiated assessments as well as pathways to learning. We need high expectations for student learning and achievement, but not under the umbrella of “rigor.”

The standards movement has gone too far, and the #1 thing lacking in most of our classrooms today is TIME. We have too many mandates from state and national governments, and many teachers do not feel empowered or even permitted to help students engage in the deep, project-based approaches to learning which lead to actual transfer and retention. We must have a secretary of education who rejects the vending-machine approach to learning which has become a policy mantra in past years. We need someone who understands the power of open content, collaboration, and hyperlinked writing. We need a secretary of education who champions the importance of teacher relationships with students: Teachers who KNOW their students and therefore understand how to best stretch and extend their skills, knowledge, and dispositions. We need a secretary of education who promotes not just Internet safety, but digital citizenship. We need a secretary of education who can not only form coalitions and partnerships, but can inspire our nation to transform our classrooms and schools into places where passionate learners gather to share, collaborate, create, and show what they know.

We need a secretary of education who can help our nation move forward into the 21st century. All our students need laptop computers starting in the fourth grade, and these devices should not be used merely as E-Book readers or digital worksheets. We need a secretary of education who understands our need to help develop a workforce which can creatively solve problems, work together, and validate information coming from a variety of disparate and often confusing sources. We need a secretary of education who can help reform our schools in the vision of leaders like John Dewey and Paulo Freire.

We don’t need a savior as secretary of education, but we do need someone with vision as well as practical wisdom. This is a tall order, but our children and our students deserve nothing less.

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