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Inquiry-Based Learning for the President

Sarah Henchey
"Education is not a problem. Education is an opportunity." — Lyndon B. Johnson

Essential Question: What role does education serve in our society?

Learning Task: Learners will utilize their understanding of the federal government's role in education in order to propose policy recommendations that support the role of education in our society and learning of the American people.

Imagine you've been challenged to explore the above essential question through the described learning task. How would you approach this charge? What core understandings would support your success? What resources would you turn to for guidance?

Learning opportunities such as this are precisely the authentic experiences encouraged by the Common Core State Standards. These standards call for students to analyze primary and secondary sources, assess claims made by authors, and evaluate understandings based on textual evidence. Under these circumstances, students are immersed in learning and encouraged to pose questions, draw conclusions, and push their thinking (a stark contrast to the passive learning famously portrayed in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off").

Yet this type of learning and discourse should not be confined to the brick-and-mortar walls of our high schools. Nor should we retire this question, presuming it has been answered once and shall remain a static truth.

To craft intentional reforms and transform our schools, we must all return to this core question and engage in the dialogue and learning modeled by our teachers and their students. We must draw upon historical documents, bipartisan expertise, and the strengths within our system. And, most importantly, we must use the information gleaned from our inquiry to inform the policy and laws enacted.

So, Mr. President, as a starting point, what role do you believe education serves in our society? How have the policies of your administration furthered this ideal? What steps need to be taken to move toward this vision and what lessons can you learn from your predecessors? Please remember to cite specific textual evidence to support your analysis.

And, for you teachers, how might you scaffold the president's learning? What anticipated outcomes would you expect?

Sarah Henchey is a National Board-certified teacher and has taught middle school for seven years in North Carolina's Orange County School district.

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