We do not merely need education “reform” in our nation, we need educational TRANSFORMATION. The campaign “Will We Really” seeks to motivate folks like you and me to contact our elected representatives so they will commit to four things related to educational transformation:

  1. Every child deserves a 21st Century education.
  2. Every community deserves an equal chance.
  3. Every child deserves a well-supported teacher.
  4. Every child deserves high-quality health care.

The YouTube video “Yes We Will” includes the voices of students as well as teachers, articulating why we need to support a meaningful change agenda for education in the United States.

The Forum for Education and Democracy has organized and is sponsoring the “Will We Really” campaign. I encourage you to check out the august list of conveners to determine whether or not you want to sign your own name to this petition. Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, and Dr. Theodore Sizer are three of the conveners for whom I have tremendous professional respect. If these three educational leaders and catalysts for constructive change support this campaign, I have no doubt about the “rightness” of the cause.

I wrote the post “School refinance, vouchers, generational compact and class warfare?” in May 2004 after Dr. Valenzuela shared a presentation for educators at the College of Education at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Dr. Darling-Hammond had my vote back in December 2008 for U.S. Secretary of Education. (Unfortunately President Obama wasn’t reading/listening.) Dr. Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools has a set of common principles which I believe should be centerpieces of educational reform initiatives around our nation and world. See my January 11, 2009, post “It is time to drastically slash the number of state educational standards” and December 21, 2005, post “Habits of Mind” for more on why I believe CES is pedagogically “on track” when it comes to school reform and change.

Please consider joining the “Will We Really” campaign by signing the petition.

I haven’t been enthused by anything I’ve heard so far from Secretary Arne Duncan. Here is the comment I posted this evening on the US News and World Report article, “Arne Duncan: The Lesson Plan for Education.”

I am not optimistic about the transformation and renaissance of public education in the United States which we desperately need in the United States based on what I’ve heard from and about Arne Duncan so far.

We need to break with our relatively recent focus on thousands of educational standards and high-stakes accountability. Those things do not make great schools or establish high expectations for our students. Great and passionate teachers do that. We absolutely do NOT need to start passing out cash for high test scores. Of course our students need to do well on tests, but a high quality education is about MUCH more than simply the knowledge and skills which can be reflected in a multiple-choice assessment. We need classrooms where students and teachers are empowered to think deeply and critically, utilizing digital tools to collaborate and solve problems. Our workforce needs for the 21st century are very different than they were at the dawn of the 20th century. Our schools should support creativity and innovation, NOT standardization and the myth that quality education can or should only take ONE form.

We need to focus on “basics” like those included in the Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools:

All our students in grade three and up need laptop computers to access digital curriculum, and our teachers need to be encouraged to continually learn in professional learning communities. We don’t simply need laptops so we can force-feed digital worksheets down our students’ throats, we need a transformed curriculum and assessment landscape for learning.

These ideas aren’t pipe dreams, they are changes we need NOW for our students. So far everything I’ve heard about and from Secretary Duncan makes me think he is an educational “statist” wanting to simply continue the destructive and harmful focus on high stakes accountability that we’ve been given via NCLB.

Accountability and assessment are vital and important things in education and learning, but the high-stakes nature of testing which NCLB promotes “inherently corrupts the educational profession” (to quote Dr. David Berliner of ASU) and fails to support creative cultures in our schools which include differentiated learning opportunities or the chances to learn digital literacy skills vital for vocational success in our new information environment.

Hat tip to Matthew Tabor. (Matthew’s views on this campaign are quite different than mine, but I do want to give him linktribution for highlighting it for me via his blog.)

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3 Responses to President Obama: Please make REAL education transformation your goal

  1. Clay Burell says:

    Wes, couldn’t agree more. I’ve got a petition to Obama urging a top DoE post to LDH here: http://is.gd/iuEL

  2. kevin says:

    I’m with you on the concern about high-stakes testing and overly prescriptive standards. I also agree that it comes down to “great and passionate teachers”. I disagree that “All our students in grade three and up need laptop computers to access digital curriculum.” In fact, I think that the push for more technology in the classroom has interfered with good teaching as much or more than it has helped. Keeping up with technology is fairly expensive, and often not the best use for the money.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Kevin: In most contexts, as Clayton Christensen points out in his book “Disrupting Class,” technology has been “crammed” into classrooms on top of existing curriculum and pedagogy. Most classroom technology use takes an “accommodating” approach rather than a transformative one. We not only need digital tools in the hands of all learners, we also need a new pedagogical approach toward learning as well as instruction.

    We are living in the age of the self-directed learner. Learning is, to a greater extent than ever before, potentially self-serve. There are very important roles for teachers as both experts as well as learning facilitators, but the traditional role of “teacher as expert” is no longer the dominant role. Without wireless, digital devices to access content as well as create, communicate and collaborate, students and teachers are crippled in the digital learning they can do. The cost of technology tools is lower than ever. The announcement Monday in India of a $20 laptop prototype is yet another sign of the times. As price points continue to go down as processing power increases, the utility of providing every learner with a digital device will become more and more apparent.

    I don’t want to handicap my own children in their opportunities to be digital learners, so I provide them with access to technology at home. My kids shouldn’t have to come home from school to be digital learners, they should be able to learn with digital as well as analog means wherever they go– including the school classroom.

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