Friday, November 07, 2008

Let's cut to the chase with National Standards...

National standards can reduce our tendency to reinvent the wheel in every state and increase competition among content publishers to do things that really help in the classroom. It won't limit teacher freedom and creativity, any more than using the "food pyramid" affects the meals I prepare. It will give us a common language and structure around which to share best practices.

4 approaches to doing this were laid out two years ago in a report by Fordham ( Standards Final PDF.pdf). Whatever you think of Fordham's "politics" around standards, they're right about the direction we need to take and, in truth, most state standards documents are evolving in a common direction anyway. Let's speed it up, and free those state education department curriculum experts up to spend less time rehashing the same debates and more time helping schools enact good curriculum and assessment.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Education Week's coverage of Obama's victory, "Obama Elected 44th President", emphasizes the difficulties in making Education a priority during the first Obama administration.

Making education a priority in this environment will be challenging, but it is essential - Education is THE economic development AND civil rights issue of the 21st century. Short-term economic stimulus is needed, but education investment is the most important long-term stimulus, and a an advanced society must spend an ever-larger share of its income on education, as other things become relatively less expensive. A few ways we can begin to save or at least rationalize to get more out of the money we spend: National standards, and national assessments; shift policy and spending to focus on outcomes instead of process (e.g., high school completion defined by achievement instead of seat time), research spending focused on technology-based innovations in teaching and learning, where economies of scale can have some effect.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Obama's Education Agenda

His agenda is much broader and deeper than my thinking, and includes much of this. But here's my two cents anyway:

Education remains the civil rights AND economic development issue of the 21st century. Addressing it means addressing simultaneous challenges:
• Shift the focus of our educational institutions from what is taught to what is learned
• Ensure ALL students are prepared to succeed in a global knowledge economy
• Expand resources available, and use available resources as efficiently as possible

Addressing these challenges requires many things. A few about which I know something include:
• National standards, including 21st century skills
• High-quality assessments of those national standards
• Technology to deliver curriculum and instruction, support intervention, and reduce costs

Some of the other things I know are important, but about which I know less, include:
• Funding and policy built around outcomes instead of processes (e.g., high school diplomas based on competency, not seat time)
• Investment in pre-K education, and changes in child care policies and institutions to accommodate that
• Resources and policy and institutional reforms to improve the “talent pipeline” into the teaching profession
• Professional development to support teachers in shifting role from instructor to learning coach