We Need Consensus in the Design For Change
Recently we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Charlotte Frank* about her views on education for today and for the future. She has spent much of her career as an educational leader. Even in her work in business she brings her educational perspective forward. Her work on the National Business Roundtable's Education Taskforce is evidence of her unique abilities. Here are her thoughts.
The Current State of Education
My sense is that everybody is really looking for change and everybody would like to have the dream of No Child Left Behind become a reality. Some don't think it's possible. Some think it's possible but they know we have still not gotten there. We still have not gotten away from A Nation at Risk which was written in 1983!. Long ago we were told that we have a problem, and we know it's an economic imperative and that we really address it. Lots of people are doing good things, but not enough. Lots of people care, but not enough. And there is a real drive to make change.
The Imperative Has Not Really Changed. What We Want For Children Has Not Changed. But We, As An Industry Haven't Changed.
I would like to believe that we can change. There is this desire. What we have to do is somehow come out with consensus. There continues to be reports that talk about the Common Core Standards and the difficulty with the tests, especially in New York where we're dealing with it. But its not just New York State, it's everybody. What we have to understand is that whatever we did before is not working. We are just not coming up with results we need and we have to be able to sit down and intelligently think about it. We must leave our biases behind us and establish an open discussion and truly recognize that this is a serious issue for too many of our young people.
I see all the age ranges, all ethnicities, all socio-economic differences included in the discussion. It's the diversity that has to be sitting around the table, and with a commitment that in many cases change will have to take place. So, it's what we do that has to change, how we do it will also require consensus. You need to have a wealth of people at the table, you need to have all those ethnic diversities, the religious diversities, the economic diversities, all of it. Just think you need to have all the diverse groups, diverse interests, sitting around, with a commitment that they're open to hearing, to listening to one another. Not only that, but they also have a commitment to spread the message out. That's what has to happen. We have wonderful meetings, and we come up with wonderful ideas and it sits there. It must start to move out. We have to figure out how we take our results, or our recommendations and then start to network that out, and continue to look at it to make certain that the network is continuing. Ongoing assessment of our progress is essential. And, will it be done overnight? No.
Yes, change takes time. There is recognition now we want all of our students to be college and career ready. But, it's got to start early on. And, as someone who plants tomatoes (and I live in New York City), and I want my tomatoes to grow and to be picked, (I want to be able to pick my tomatoes, and eat them) - that's in August sometimes the end of July. But in the beginning of September - I know that now I have to fertilize the soil. It's not going to happen at the end unless I do something in the beginning, and continue it all the way through. And that's why the Pre-K is essential and the extended learning day is essential because the day isn't long enough. So much going on in the home, some student's vocabulary is being enhanced because of the language they hear at the table, or the language that their parents are listening to on television, but in other homes that's not happening. Then we also know that sometimes in some homes, they are tied in with something on the computer that is not designed as forceful an activity for vocabulary development. We need to level the playing field.
We also have to see that the introduction of technology is designed in a deliberate way. You can also look at Sesame Street and see what they are doing. There are models all over. .. and the impact they have had. Early on our young people will decide to develop a vocabulary, to develop the understanding of how to connect in this really international world, from relatives who live someplace else, whom they haven't met and now can meet through technology makes geography come alive. That is just one example. We have to be looking at blended learning - the brick and mortar institute is good for a while but we have to have other connections. I call these opportunities. The opportunities provide the wonderful pathway for connections that will be essential to close this achievement gap.
We've Not Yet Succeeded
There's always somebody else who thinks there's a good idea and a passion. And sometimes the passion is so overwhelming that it's difficult for them to hear the other side. And sometimes - often you have to think about how you get these strong passionate people to start to really think about what should happen, and level the playing field. I think it can begin with a couple of us, not just one person. It's you with connections to other you's. And we come together with an understanding that this is not PLAY that they're doing, it's WORK. It is important to do that and they have to keep remembering that and when you come up with something that has been thoughtfully designed, there has to be a real thoughtful measure about how you move this forward and make sure it keeps going. Some sort of formative assessment has to be there to inform next steps.
We Can Succeed
Like everything else, I believe that we can do whatever we want to. It depends upon how much we care. And I want enough people around who care. I found this little thing, at a flea shop, or the Salvation Army, or some kind of a place. It is a framed saying, "Those Who Care Teach." Essentially, we are talking about teaching one another because when we teach we are really learning from one another not just telling. We're learning from one another and, of course, we have to care about it. I'm a firm believer that we can do whatever we want to, it depends upon how much we care. And I want to have enough caring people, truly caring people, and we will make that difference.
*Dr. Charlotte K. Frank is a leader in the field of education. She served as Executive Director of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction for the New York City Board of Education where she had also been a teacher and supervisor. She served as a member of the NYS Board of Regents and is now a Regent Emerita. For the past 25 years has served as Sr. Vice President, Research and Development for McGraw-Hill Education of The McGraw-Hill Companies. One of her responsibilities is to research and develop educational activities with the two other segments of the corporation: The Financial Services Sector, including Standard and Poor's, and the Information Services Group that includes BusinessWeek, Aviation Week, Engineering News-Record and Architectural Record. She also represents McGraw-Hill at the National Business Roundtable's Education Taskforce Initiative and coordinates the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize In Education for those who have made a difference in Education.