I applaud the Obama administration and its efforts to improve graduation rates within the nation’s schools. Like many other plans, that come out of Washington D.C., it isn’t the right program for local schools or individual students. What is needed are not new Federal mandates, but local engagement and a recognition that learning and intellectual capital is a national asset, but one that ascends from those local roots.
Here is my counter list to the administrations list (which can be found here: http://www.americaspromise.org)
Create programs that fund qualified local experts to teach in schools. In this time of high unemployment, this should be a place where we put brains back to work, not just bodies. Coaching on academics through adult models can demonstrate value over time to students often challenged by a lack of context in their learning. Let’s build the intellectual infrastructure for tomorrow, not just the physical infrastructure.
Engage legislative representatives in a dialog about a more distributed education system, and more freedom for schools to break out of old molds, be it curriculum or they way they see their buildings, the school day, etc. Further, we need to design the education experience to engage students. We have lost the hearts-and-minds of the core audience for education, for the student as the customer. I use those terms purposefully to disrupt the dogma of learning. We need to consider how education competes in this society, against the other choices students can make. Making education the winning experience that engages students is the strategic answer we need to seek, not the treatment of symptoms of disengagement in isolation.
Define the economics of education. We face a huge challenge because we have few markers that describe the value an education provides. Most indicators focus on college level education and wealth creation, but those analyzes no not inform lower-level levers that would improve the inputs to college achievement. We need an economic framework that allows local districts, individual schools and individual educators to make informed decisions in real-time based on evidence that their choices will improve learning outcomes. Pedagogy is insufficient in a capitalistic society as an argument for the rightness of approach.
I will be coming out with a more extensive set of recommendations over the next several weeks. I look forward to your ideas.