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America’s schools are at a turning point. Our children are being over-tested, our teachers are physically exhausted and emotionally demoralized, and our tax dollars are being diverted to replace our public schools with a privately managed, free-market system of education.
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According to one nationally recognized sleep expert, the research is clear. Schools should start later for teens. At first glance, the solution to the negative consequences of teen sleep deprivation is clear. Just move start times up. Unfortunately, it is not that simple or easy. Changing school start times impacts families and the community in many ways, and without public discussion and support, the push back to later start times can be severe. The degree of push back may now be tested in California where the Governor signed into law on October 13 a bill requiring many California middle and high schools to start classes later in the morning.
Acknowledged as a world leader in education excellence, Singapore has taken a major step in enabling its students to focus on learning rather than on how they compare with one another. A year ago, it abolished school exam rankings.
Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Philip Jackson, Robert Boostrom and David Hanson wrote a book called The Moral Life of Schools. In it they made the following observation: “To anyone who takes a close look at what goes on in classrooms it becomes quickly evident that our schools do much more than pass along requisite knowledge to the students attending them (or fail to do so, as the case may be). They also influence the way those students look upon themselves and others. They affect the way learning is valued and sought after and lay the foundations of lifelong habits of thought and action. They shape opinion and develop taste, helping to form liking and aversions. They contribute to the growth of character and, in some instances, they may even be a factor in its corruption.”
In his book, Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality, Jack Schneider reports that, by the time he or she finishes high school, the average American student will have sat through 10 standardized tests a year for at least seven years.
In Hawaii, educators are shifting their focus from producing good schools to finding ways for schools and communities to share ownership of public education. For example, local environmental groups are working as full partners with Hawaii’s schools to jointly design curricula and teach students. Working as full partners is a major paradigm shift in the traditional relationship between our public schools and their communities.
Citizens in the LaBrae Local School District recently had an opportunity to learn about the Ohio Fair School Funding Plan (House Bill 305). The community meeting was hosted by the district’s leadership team for the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network.
On Tuesday, New York Times columnist and best-selling author David Brooks spoke to 3,000 students at Brigham Young University. His observation that people are hungry for authentic human connection gets to the heart and soul of the work of the Ohio Public School Advocacy Network.
I had the good fortune of meeting Rich Harwood 25 years ago during my initial work with the Kettering Foundation. Rich, who has a remarkable life story, has had a huge influence on my understanding of the healing power of public engagement, and he continues to inspire me to bring citizens together to make a difference for their communities. Rich’s new book, Stepping Forward: A Positive, Practical Path to Transform Our Communities and Our Lives, is must reading for anyone who loves our country.
Sir Ken Robinson is a gifted public speaker who has been featured in a series of provocative Ted Talks about education. In “How To Escape Education’s Death Valley,” he utilizes his dry wit and unassuming demeanor to highlight what common sense tells us about teaching and learning.
As a public school superintendent, Charlie Irish spent much of his career challenging the conventional thinking of his profession. This past year, he and I co-authored Cleaning Up the Mess from Sacred Cows: A Strategy to Take Back Our Public Schools. In it, we identify “sacred cow” conventional beliefs that are severely weakening the relationship between the public and our public schools. He recently wrote about how the Brexit saga in the United Kingdom exposes some of the sacred cow thinking that is putting that relationship in jeopardy.