Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Texas schools short by 15,000 teachers this year, analysis shows

By TERRENCE STUTZ | Dallas Morning-NewsMay 28, 2012 AUSTIN — Texas’ public schools should have operated with 15,000 more teachers this year, the fallout from unprecedented legislative-imposed funding cuts. And many educators believe the situation will worsen in the coming school year. Official state figures show that schools lost 10,717 teaching positions after the state aid reductions. But to keep the student-teacher ratio the same as enrollment grew, the state would have needed 4,417 more teachers on top of the positions lost, for a total increase of 15,134 for the 2011-12 year, according to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News. Public school advocates say the losses have hurt students, especially in crowded urban districts. Conservative groups argue that the impact on schools has been exaggerated. In making the cuts last year, legislative leaders said they had no choice in trying to offset a $23 billion revenue shortfall caused by the sluggish economy and the failure of the state’s business tax to produce as much revenue as first projected. “We did the best we could with the revenue we had — that’s a fact,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said earlier this month. In Dallas County, school districts had nearly 1,250 fewer teachers for students and about 2,275 fewer employees based on staffing ratios for the 2010-11 school year. Those figures include the actual decreases from the previous year plus the new employees that would have been hired because of enrollment growth — nearly 7,400 pupils. Statewide, school districts employed more than 324,000 teachers in the 2011-12 school year, meaning the lost jobs represented nearly 5 percent of the total number of positions. Similarly, state figures show that 25,286 school jobs — including teachers, administrators and support workers — were eliminated this school year. But that also doesn’t take into account the staffing needs for the 65,000 additional students who were enrolled. And many districts are worried because after this year’s $2 billion reduction in state aid comes another $2 billion cut. Combined with a $1.4 billion slice in state education grants, the funding loss for schools in the current two-year budget will be $5.4 billion. Dallas hit hard While districts in North Texas and across the state saw similar reductions this year — averaging 3.3 percent — the cuts next year will more than double for Dallas. Several others districts in the area face decreases of up to 8.6 percent. “The second year is looking as bleak as the first,” said Amy Beneski of the Texas Association of School Administrators, citing her conversations with superintendents. She also said school administrators are frustrated by some of the election-year rhetoric, especially from officeholders who’ve told voters that funding actually increased. “It is absolutely false, and they know it’s not true,” she said. “I don’t think the public is buying it, especially those with kids in school.” But Peggy Venable of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that backed the cuts, said the dire predictions of education groups did not come true. “There was so much talk of teachers being laid off and school district budgets being decimated by the Legislature, but we have not seen the cutbacks they warned about. The Legislature worked hard to make sure that schools were not substantially cut,” she said. Venable also said education funding in Texas has grown at a much faster pace than student enrollment over the last 10 years, undermining claims that public schools have been hurt by diminishing financial resources. But lawmakers came under criticism for failing to account for increased enrollment in the current two-year budget. That required districts to handle the 65,000 additional students this year with a smaller pool of teachers and school employees. A similar enrollment increase is expected in the 2012-13 school year. Most districts increased class sizes to cope with the situation, particularly in upper grade levels. In elementary grades, where kindergarten through grade four are limited to 22 pupils, a record number of districts received state waivers to exceed the cap. Nearly 8,600 classes in 1,729 schools were authorized to have larger classes, said the Texas Education Agency. And next year? “We’re holding our breath about next year,” said Clay Robison of the Texas State Teachers Association. “We are expecting to see more layoffs and larger classes. Many of our teachers will have larger classes than they’ve ever had before, and others will be working without teacher aides.” Hundreds of school districts are expected to detail the impact of the funding cuts when they go to trial this fall in their suit against the state alleging inadequate and inequitable funding of schools. Wayne Pierce, director of the Equity Center and former superintendent of the Kaufman school district, said the educational effects of the cuts will be felt down the road. “The state seems to have forgotten about the 65,000 new children this year who didn’t get any new teachers,” he said. “Children don’t stand still waiting for those in charge to correct things. Whatever they are denied these two years will have an impact on their education.” The Equity Center represents 683 low and mid-wealth districts, a majority of which are part of the school finance case. In addition to larger classes, districts also have reduced expenses by scrapping field trips, scaling back remedial classes for low-achieving pupils and deferred maintenance and school improvement projects. Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20120528-texas-schools-short-by-15000-teachers-this-year-analysis-shows.ece

Friday, May 25, 2012



MEMORIAL DAY:
REMEMBERING OUR PAST AND THOSE WHO SHAPED IT
From La Prensa de San Antonio, May 26, 2008
By Felipe de Ortego y Gasca

Scholar in Residence, Western New Mexico University; Professor Emeritus, Texas State University System—Sul Ross

Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring not only those who have fallen in battle in military service to the country but remembering all those who have lived before us and made our present possible. The event urged Longfellow in 1867 to write the poem “Decoration Day” which ends with the words: “Your silent tents of green / We deck with fragrant flowers / Yours has the suffering been / The memory shall be ours.”

No one is sure about who exactly initiated Memorial Day. Here’s one story. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania (off Route 322 in the foothills of the Alleghenies of Centre County), boasts the origin of Memorial Day. The story (apocryphal or true) is that on a pleasant Sunday morning in October of 1864, Emma Hunter and Sophie Keller were placing flowers on the grave of Emma’s father, Dr. Reuben Hunter, a surgeon in the Union Army, when they met Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer who was placing flowers on the grave of her son Amos, a private in the Union Army who was killed on the last day of the battle at Gettysburg. They decorated the graves of each other’s kin and gave birth to Memorial Day originally called Decoration Day.

Gaining adherents, on May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30, 1868 as a day for decorating the graves of those who died in defense of their country. In 1882, the event was designated as Memorial Day and later broadened to include any American who had died in war or peace as soldiers or civilians, to which Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one nation evermore.” In May of 1966, President Lyndon Johnson recognized Waterloo, New York, as the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day.
(extracted from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pacentre/memory.htm).

What does Memorial Day mean for American Hispanics? Memorial Day should give us pause to remember that American Hispanics have been part of the United States since its founding and that American Hispanics have fallen in every American war in defense of the nation [see Hispanics in America’s Defense, Department of Defense].

American Hispanics fought in World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the American Revolution, and countless other skirmishes including the present day conflagrations in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many historians point out that without Spain’s help the American colonists could not have won their independence. Hispanics have been America’s strongest supporters and allies.

More importantly, though, Memorial Day gives us a moment to remember our antepasados and their struggles for our well-being. We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before  us.  It
is therefore fitting to honor their memory and their place in our lives and in our history.

In 1776 Hispanics (Sephards) were part of the founding of the United States, having become part of the American population when the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (of which they were a part) became New York.  When the United States acquired the Louisiana territory and New Orleans, the Hispanic citizens of that purchase became Americans (having been French briefly when Napolean acquired the territory from Spain). And again when the United States acquired Florida in 1819, the Hispanic settlements of that region became Americans. Hispanics are not newcomers in the United States. They have been part of the American fabric since the beginning.

The largest number of Hispanics who became Americans by fiat were the Mexicans who were part of the Mexican Cession—that territory of Mexico annexed by the United States as a prize of the U.S.—Mexico War of 1846-1848. The territory dismembered from Mexico was larger than Spain, Italy, and France combined. In part, we are the progeny of that “conquest generation” that endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Like other “territorial Americans” (Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Pacific Islanders), the United States came to Puerto Ricans, they did not come to the United States. Territorial Americans are Americans by fiat—they came with the territories acquired by the United States by force of arms and conquest.

Despite the travails of life in their own lands as strangers, Hispanics have answered the nation’s call in times of peril. During World War II, they served in numbers greater than their percentage in the American population. More than 700,000 Hispanics were in uniform during World War II, most of them Mexican Americans. As a group they won more Medals of Honor than any other group.

This is the history we must remember and honor; and why we ought to decorate the graves of those who shaped our present. More importantly, however, we ought to extract from that me-mory, the most important lesson of history as George Santayana, the eminent American Hispanic philosopher, put it: those who cannot learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.

Por eso nos recordamos de nuestros valientes militares y  nuestros antepasados en este dia de la memoria—Memorial Day!

No one is sure about who exactly initiated Memorial Day. Here’s one story. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania (off Route 322 in the foothills of the Alleghenies of Centre County), boasts the origin of Memorial Day. The story (apocryphal or true) is that on a pleasant Sunday morning in October of 1864, Emma Hunter and Sophie Keller were placing flowers on the grave of Emma’s father, Dr. Reuben Hunter, a surgeon in the Union Army, when they met Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer who was placing flowers on the grave of her son Amos, a private in the Union Army who was killed on the last day of the battle at Gettysburg. They decorated the graves of each other’s kin and gave birth to Memorial Day originally called Decoration Day.

Gaining adherents, on May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30, 1868 as a day for decorating the graves of those who died in defense of their country. In 1882, the event was designated as Memorial Day and later broadened to include any American who had died in war or peace as soldiers or civilians, to which Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one nation evermore.” In May of 1966, President Lyndon Johnson recognized Waterloo, New York, as the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day.
(extracted from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pacentre/memory.htm).

What does Memorial Day mean for American Hispanics? Memorial Day should give us pause to remember that American Hispanics have been part of the United States since its founding and that American Hispanics have fallen in every American war in defense of the nation [see Hispanics in America’s Defense, Department of Defense].

American Hispanics fought in World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the American Revolution, and countless other skirmishes including the present day conflagrations in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Many historians point out that without Spain’s help the American colonists could not have won their independence. Hispanics have been America’s strongest supporters and allies.

More importantly, though, Memorial Day gives us a moment to remember our antepasados and their struggles for our well-being. We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before  us.  It
is therefore fitting to honor their memory and their place in our lives and in our history.

In 1776 Hispanics (Sephards) were part of the founding of the United States, having become part of the American population when the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (of which they were a part) became New York.  When the United States acquired the Louisiana territory and New Orleans, the Hispanic citizens of that purchase became Americans (having been French briefly when Napolean acquired the territory from Spain). And again when the United States acquired Florida in 1819, the Hispanic settlements of that region became Americans. Hispanics are not newcomers in the United States. They have been part of the American fabric since the beginning.

The largest number of Hispanics who became Americans by fiat were the Mexicans who were part of the Mexican Cession—that territory of Mexico annexed by the United States as a prize of the U.S.—Mexico War of 1846-1848. The territory dismembered from Mexico was larger than Spain, Italy, and France combined. In part, we are the progeny of that “conquest generation” that endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Like other “territorial Americans” (Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Pacific Islanders), the United States came to Puerto Ricans, they did not come to the United States. Territorial Americans are Americans by fiat—they came with the territories acquired by the United States by force of arms and conquest.

Despite the travails of life in their own lands as strangers, Hispanics have answered the nation’s call in times of peril. During World War II, they served in numbers greater than their percentage in the American population. More than 700,000 Hispanics were in uniform during World War II, most of them Mexican Americans. As a group they won more Medals of Honor than any other group.

This is the history we must remember and honor; and why we ought to decorate the graves of those who shaped our present. More importantly, however, we ought to extract from that memory, the most important lesson of history as George Santayana, the eminent American Hispanic philosopher, put it: those who cannot learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it.

Por eso nos recordamos de nuestros valientes militares y  nuestros antepasados en este dia de la memoria—Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

State leaders unveil 2012 Texas Public Higher Education Almanac

Tuesday, May. 15, 2012
 
Want to know how many Texas college students are enrolled part time or how many are prepared for coursework when they start university or community college?
For those pondering these topics, the answers are now available in the second edition of the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac that was released Tuesday.

This year's almanac, which is available on Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board website, details a variety of data and aims to provide the public a snapshot of how the state is performing on the higher education front. State and national data about college tuition, access and completion is documented in the almanac.

"It's a living, breathing document," said Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the coordinating board.
The 2012 almanac was announced at a press conference held at Texas A&M University-San Antonio Tuesday. Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chairman Fred Heldenfels IV described the efforts as a way to promote transparency and accountability.

"Access to a college degree is more critical than ever, and we must maintain our dedication to transparency, which is essential to making higher education more affordable, accountable and accessible to Texas students," Perry said in a release detailing the event.

"This almanac is an important tool in those efforts, not only because it offers transparent data that is valuable to a student in the process of choosing a school, but also because it holds our colleges and universities accountable as they pursue efforts to improve their graduation rates, create more affordable degree options and achieve standards that will keep our state a leader in higher education."
Chavez added that the almanac is a work in progress as it is improved to include more data and changed to reflect current concerns.

For example, this year's almanac includes part-time student performance and how graduation rates have improved over time. The almanac also has several topical pages that reflect current higher education concerns, including developmental education, graduation success, transfer trends and finance.

The idea is to make the information accessible to policy makers, educators, parents and students, Chavez said. This year, the effort goes more grassroots as the coordinating board works to get the almanac in the hands of school district superintendents.
Among some of the findings documented this year:
  • Texas ranks 35 nationwide in the percentage (49.6 percent) of students who graduate in four years from an institution.
  • Texas ranks 28th nationally in the attainment of Bachelor's degrees.
  • Texas ranks 27th nationally in average tuition at public, four-year institutions ($6,350).
  • Fifty-seven out of every 100 Texas public university students earns a degree within six years.
  • Forty out of every 100 students, who are college ready when they start at a two-year institution, graduate or are still enrolled after three years.
  • Seventy percent of students enrolled at public community colleges were enrolled part time.

Daniel Formanowicz, former chair of the UT System faculty advisory council and a biology professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, said the more information about higher education available to the public, the better. He said providing information about part-time students gives people a fuller picture.

"I see that as a positive thing," Formanowicz said.

The almanac's release coincided with a directive from Perry to the coordinating board to follow up with state colleges and universities to see how they are progressing in implementing previously recommended cost efficiencies.

Among recommendations are that higher education institutions improve credit hours produced per full-time faculty member by 10 percent. That move would save an estimated $255.3 million over four years. The report also suggests institutions should evaluate e-textbooks to se if they are more affordable to students and institutions and how they impact learning.
Formanowicz said every Texas institution is dealing with cost savings as they see less state dollars and more students.

"We don't really have a choice. We have got to get more efficient," he said.
The cost savings issue, along with creation of undergraduate programs that cost no more than $10,000, was highlighted Tuesday.

Texas A&M University-San Antonio has created a $10,000 Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree program that focuses on information technology and includes dual credit coursework at the high school level, said Jillian Reddish, a spokeswoman with the campus.
To find the almanac, go online: www.thecb.state.tx.us

Source: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/15/3962270/state-leaders-unveil-2012-texas.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/15/3962270/state-leaders-unveil-2012-texas.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

Perry touts higher ed accountability, responds to rumors: Political attack on universities denied.

Gov. Rick Perry told Texas educators Tuesday, May 15, 2012, that he agrees with the University of Texas regents’ decision to impose a two-year freeze on undergraduate tuition for state residents, saying education costs need to be kept down. Photo: JOHN DAVENPORT, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS / SA


By Jennifer R. Lloyd | San Antonio Express-News
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gov. Rick Perry, in town Tuesday to talk about accountability in higher education, found himself addressing questions about his influence and direction of higher education policy.

In prepared remarks before other education leaders at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, the governor touted the second edition of the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac, a compilation of statistics — tuition and fees, enrollment, graduation rates and other details — that was released Tuesday.

Perry said the almanac will send a message to employers that Texas has a skilled workforce and will give young people the data they need to choose the right school and maximize their potential. The almanac is available online at www.thecb.state.tx.us/almanac.

But Perry had to veer off the topic when asked about recent controversies involving the University of Texas System Board of Regents and a comment made Monday by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who opined that higher education in Texas is under political attack.

A recent blog post from Paul Burka, senior executive editor at Texas Monthly, stated that University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers could lose his job after opposing the regents' decision to impose a two-year freeze on undergraduate tuition for state residents there.

On Tuesday, Perry said he agreed with the regents' decision.

“I don't think it's any big secret that I'm for keeping the cost of education down, so my suspicion is that no one in Texas thinks that I'm for tuition growth,” Perry said. “It's a good message to send to the citizens of the state that we're not going to just have tuition ... increasing with no regard for what's happening economically for the citizens of the state.”

In the blog, Burka wrote that an unnamed source said UT Regents Chairman Gene Powell asked UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to recommend firing Powers, but that Cigarroa refused. The chancellor later responded with a statement saying Powell “has never directed me to fire anyone.”

Asked if he was satisfied with Powers' job performance at UT Austin, Perry responded, “That's for the Board of Regents to decide.” “I've got a state to oversee,” Perry continued. “I don't spend all my time focused on one institution of higher learning.”

Support for Powers has flowed in recent days from UT students and faculty. Michael Morton, a student and president of UT Austin's Senate of College Councils, said he believes the threat to Powers' job is real and continues.

“This is not the first time we've heard this rumor,” said Morton, who sent a letter supporting the president to regents Monday. “I don't think it's any coincidence that this happens at the end of the school year when students are either leaving the university or are consumed with finals.”

During Perry's visit to San Antonio, he also disagreed with Wolff's statement that there has been a coordinated attack on higher education in recent years.

Wolff's comment came during a San Antonio Express-News editorial board meeting in which he supported the University of Texas at San Antonio's campaign to become a major research university despite cuts in state funding.

Perry countered by saying, “There's been a coordinated focus on higher education” in a positive way. He said he couldn't recall a legislative session that left everyone satisfied with their funding and added, “I'm pretty sure that won't happen in 2013.”

Source: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/article/Perry-defends-school-policies-3560897.php#ixzz1v5tzsY95

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Interactive: How Much Does Your Superintendent Make?


by Ryan Murphyand Morgan Smith| Texas Tribune
May 2, 2012

During the 2011 legislative session, amid a heated conversation among state lawmakers about whether Texas public schools spent too much on administration, the Texas Tribune published a salary database of the state’s highest-paid school administrators: superintendents.

After a year and a $5.4 billion reduction in state funding for public education, schools are under scrutiny for how they have — or haven’t — trimmed their budgets to absorb the cuts. So we’ve added an interactive with the 2012 figures released by the Texas Education Agency in March. (Compare with the 2011 database here.)

Here’s a rundown of some highlights:

The average salary for the ten highest-paid school chiefs is down from $312,993 to $297,039 — just over $15,000 from last year. There has been some movement in the ten highest-paid superintendents since then, too. Beaumont ISD’s Carrol Thomas still tops the list at a base salary of $347,834. Katy ISD, Garland ISD and Coppell ISD have pushed the Fort Worth, Northside and Alief districts off the list. (If you break the list down by per-student pay, Jeffrey Turner of Coppell ISD makes the most per student in that category at $27.60 to Thomas’ $17.49.)

With a new person in the top post at Alief, that district, whose superintendent used to be the second-highest paid in the state, has dropped to 22nd on the list.

The former third and fourth top-paying districts, Dallas and Fort Worth, have both installed new chiefs at lower salaries than their predecessors, leaving Spring Branch’s Duncan Klussmann in the second spot at $309,400.

Unsurprisingly, the superintendents of districts with the smallest enrollments tended to have the highest per-student pay. There are 15 superintendents in the state that make more than $1,000 per student — and the largest of them has 113 students.

But Eric Stoddard of West Texas’ San Vincente ISD took home that superlative with a $1,500 lead over the next in line. As chief of a district with 16 students, he makes $91,670 a year — that’s $5,729.38 per student.



Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott Stepping Down



by Morgan Smith| Texas Tribune
May 1, 2012

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott is leaving the post Gov. Rick Perryappointed him to in 2007. 

When Scott steps down on July 2 from the agency that oversees the public education of Texas' nearly 5 million students, he will be the longest-serving education commissioner of the past two decades. 
Scott said in a statement that it had been a "privilege" to serve at the agency and noted that he began his career there in 1994 — when his son was one and his daughter was 3 months old — and they have both now gone on to graduate from Texas public schools. 
"It's time," he said.

Texas was often at the center of national conversations on education matters during his tenure — skirmishing with the Obama administration over Race to the Top and other federal policy and making deep reductions to public education funding. More recently, Scott drew fire over his remarks suggesting Texas needed to reform how it uses standardized testing to hold schools accountable.

During the past legislative session when the state cut public schools by more than $5 billion, Scott often found himself having to both reassure educators that they would be able to make do with fewer resources and ask lawmakers for more funding. Asking what parts of the education budget should be funded, he once told senators during a hearing, was akin to asking "a guy on the operating table whether wants his heart or his lungs back." Texas schools have lost more than 25,000 employees in the year since lawmakers slashed the education budget — and to absorb its own state budget cuts the TEA has dropped a third of its staff. 

In January, Scott made waves with a forceful speech at an annual gathering of school administrators in Austin that added fuel to a national conversation on standardized testing — and to speculation that he might soon be leaving his post. He said student testing in the state had become a “perversion of its original intent” and that he looked forward to “reeling it back” in the future. While he said that testing has its place in keeping schools accountable, he called for an accountability system that measured “every other day of a school’s life besides testing day.” (Here is a full version of his remarks.)
Though the speech marked his strongest comments on the subject to date, it was not the first time Scott found himself navigating a controversy on how standardized exam scores factor into state accountability ratings. Last May, the agency discontinuedthe use of a mechanism in the ratings called the "Texas Projection Measure," which critics said artificially inflated students' test scores by inaccurately taking into account their future performance. The move came after a year of outcry from lawmakers and a unanimous vote against the measure on the House floor.

Under Scott's watch, Texas also became one of the first states to refuse federal Race to the Top funding, which he said at the time would have imposed too many burdens on schools, including forcing them to adhere to national common core curriculum standards. 

Before his appointment, Scott served as TEA's acting commissioner twice and served four years as chief deputy commissioner, managing daily TEA operations. He previously served as senior policy adviser to Perry and is credited with helping pass and implement the Texas High School Initiative in 2003.

In a press release, Perry praised Scott's performance at the agency. 

"Robert’s experience and dedication have left a lasting imprint on our state’s education system and countless Texas children, ensuring a top-notch education for our students and their preparation for success in and out of school," he said. "I’m thankful for his service and wish him all the best in the future.”

Source: http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/texas-education-agency/texas-education-commissioner-robert-scott-step-dow/

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Do We Measure and Why? Questions About The Uses of Measurement

Margaret J. Wheatly wrote this piece awhile back that's germane to discussions on measurement today. -Angela

http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/whymeasure.html



Writings Books by Margaret Wheatley DVDs, Podcasts, and More Biography Calendar Videos Worth Watching Contact Home Page



What Do We Measure and Why? Questions About The Uses of Measurement
Journal for Strategic Performance Measurement, June 1999
Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers

And still they come, new from those
nations to which the study of that
which can be weighed and measured
is a consuming love.     
   W.H. Auden

We live in a culture that is crazy about numbers. We seek standardization, we revere precision, and we aspire for control. The very ancient and dominant belief of Western culture is that numbers are what is real. If you can number it, you make it real. Once made real, it's yours to manage and control. We increasingly depend on numbers to know how we are doing for virtually everything. We ascertain our health with numbers. How many calories or grams should I eat? What's my cholesterol reading? We assess one another with numbers. What's your I.Q.? What's your GPA? Your Emotional Intelligence? And of course we judge organizational viability only with numbers. What's the customer satisfaction rating? Inventory turns? ROI? P/E ratio?

It is numbers and only numbers that define and make visible what is real. This is the "hard stuff," the real world of management- graphs, charts, indices, ratios. Everyone knows that "you can only manage what you can measure." The work of modern managers is to interpret and manipulate these numeric views of reality. The desire to be good managers has compelled many people to become earnest students of measurement. But are measures and numbers the right pursuit? Do the right measures make for better managers? Do they make for stellar organizations?

As we look into the future of measurement, we want to pause for a moment and question this number mania. We'd like you to consider this question. What are the problems in organizations for which we assume measures are the solution?

Assumedly, most managers want reliable, high quality work. They want commitment, focus, teamwork, learning, and quality. They want people to pay attention to those things that contribute to performance.

If you agree that these are the general attributes and behaviors you're seeking, we'd like to ask whether, in your experience, you have been able to find measures that sustain these strong and important behaviors over time. Or if you haven't succeeded at finding them yet, are you still hopeful that you will find the right measures? Do you still believe in the power of measures to elicit these performance qualities?

We believe that these behaviors are never produced by measurement. They are performance capabilities that emerge as people feel connected to their work and to each other. They are capacities that emerge as colleagues develop a shared sense of what they hope to create together, and as they operate in an environment where everyone feels welcome to contribute to that shared hope. Each of these qualities and behaviors-commitment, focus, teamwork, learning, quality--is a choice that people make. Depending on how connected they feel to the organization or team, they choose to pay attention, to take responsibility, to innovate, to learn and share their learnings. People can't be punished or paid into these behaviors. Either they are contributed or withheld by individuals as they choose whether and how they will work with us.

But to look at prevailing organizational practice, most managers seem consistently to choose measurement as the route to these capacities. They agonize to find the right reward that can be tied to the right measure. How long has been the search for the rewards that will lead to better teamwork or to more innovation? And haven't we yet learned that any measure or reward only works as an incentive in the short term, if at all. Ironically, the longer we try to garner these behaviors through measurement and reward, the more damage we do to the quality of our relationships, and the more we trivialize the meaning of work. Far too many organizations have lost the path to quality because they have burdened themselves with unending measures. How many employees have become experts at playing "the numbers game" to satisfy bosses rather than becoming experts at their jobs? The path of measurement can lead us dangerously far from the organizational qualities and behaviors that we require.

But measurement is critical. It can provide something that is essential to sustenance and growth: feedback. All life thrives on feedback and dies without it. We have to know what is going on around us, how our actions impact others, how the environment is changing, how we're changing. If we don't have access to this kind of information, we can't adapt or grow. Without feedback, we shrivel into routines and develop hard shells that keep newness out. We don't survive for long.

In any living system, feedback differs from measurement in several significant ways:

1. Feedback is self-generated. An individual or system notices whatever they determine is important for them. They ignore everything else.

2. Feedback depends on context. The critical information is being generated right now. Failing to notice the "now," or staying stuck in past assumptions, is very dangerous.

3. Feedback changes. What an individual or system chooses to notice will change depending on the past, the present, and the future. Looking for information only within rigid categories leads to blindness, which is also dangerous.

4. New and surprising information can get in. The boundaries are permeable.

5. Feedback is life-sustaining. It provides essential information about how to maintain one's existence. It also indicates when adaptation and growth are necessary.

6. Feedback supports movement toward fitness. Through the constant exchange of feedback, the individual and its environment coevolve towards mutual sustainability.

As we reflect on the capacities that feedback can provide, it seems we are seeking many similar attributes in our organizations. But we haven't replicated the same processes, and therefore we can't achieve the same outcomes. There are some critical distinctions between feedback and measurement, as evident in the following contrasts.

Some Important Distinctions


Feedback Measurement
Context dependent One size fits all
Self-determined; the system choose what to notice Imposed. Criteria are established externally.
Information accepted from anywhere Information in fixed categories only
System creates own meaning Meaning is pre-determined
Newness, surprise are essential Prediction, routine are valued
Focus on adaptability and growth Focus on stability and control
Meaning evolves Meaning remains static
System co-adapts System adapts to the measures

If we understand the critical role played by feedback in living systems, and contemplate these distinctions, we could develop measurement processes that support the behaviors and capacities we require, those that enhance the vitality and adaptability of the organization. To create measures that more resemble feedback, we suggest the following questions. We use them as design criteria for any measure or measurement process:

Who gets to create the measures? Measures are meaningful and important only when generated by those doing the work. Any group can benefit from others' experience and from experts, but the final measures need to be their creation. People only support what they create, and those closest to the work know a great deal about what is significant to measure.

How will we measure our measures? How can we keep measures useful and current? What will indicate that they are now obsolete? How will we keep abreast of changes in context that warrant new measures? Who will look for the unintended consequences that accompany any process and feed that information back to us?

Are we designing measures that are permeable rather than rigid?
Are they open enough? Do they invite in newness and surprise? Do they encourage people to look in new places, or to see with new eyes?

Will these measures create information that increases our capacity to develop, to grow into the purpose of this organization? Will this particular information help individuals, teams, and the entire organization grow in the right direction? Will this information help us to deepen and expand the meaning of our work?

What measures will inform us about critical capacities: commitment, learning, teamwork, quality and innovation? How will we measure these essential behaviors without destroying them through the assessment process? Do these measures honor and support the relationships and meaning-rich environments that give rise to these behaviors?

If these questions seem daunting, we assure you they are not difficult to implement. But they do require extraordinary levels of participation-defining and using measures becomes everyone's responsibility. We've known teams, manufacturing plants, and service organizations where everyone knew that measurement was critical to their success, and went at the task of measuring with great enthusiasm and creativity. They were aggressive about seeking information from anywhere that might contribute to those purposes they had defined as most important to their organization, such things as safety, team-based organization, or social responsibility. Their process was creative, experimental, and the measures they developed were often non-traditional. People stretched and struggled to find ways to measure qualitative aspects of work. They developed unique and complex multivariate formulas that would work for a while and then be replaced by new ones. They understood that the right measurements gave them access to the information they needed to prosper and grow. But what was "right" kept changing. And in contrast to most organizations, measurement felt alive and vital in these work environments. It wasn't a constraint or deadening weight; rather it helped people accomplish what they wanted to accomplish. It provided feedback, the information necessary for them to adapt and thrive.

Being in these workplaces, we also learned that measurement needs to serve the deepest purposes of work. It is only when we connect at the level of purpose that we willingly offer ourselves to the organization. When we have connected to the possibilities of what we might create together, then we want to gather information that will help us be better contributors.

But in too many organizations, just the reverse happens. The measures define what is meaningful rather than letting the greater meaning of the work define the measures. As the focus narrows, people disconnect from any larger purpose, and only do what is required of them. They become focused on meeting the petty requirements of measurement, and eventually, they die on the job. They have been cut off from the deep well-springs of purpose which are the source of the motivation to do good work.

If we look closely at our experience of the past few years, it is clear that as a management culture, we have succeeded at developing finer and more sophisticated measures. But has this sophistication at managing by the numbers led to the levels of performance or commitment we've been seeking? And if we have achieved good results in these areas, was it because we discovered the right measures, or was something else going on in the life of the organization?

We would like to dethrone measurement from its godly position, to reveal the false god it has been. We want instead to offer measurement a new job--that of helpful servant. We want to use measurement to give us the kind and quality of feedback that supports and welcomes people to step forward with their desire to contribute, to learn, and to achieve. We want measurement to be used from a deeper place of understanding, the understanding that the real capacity of an organization arises when colleagues willingly struggle together in a common work that they love.
______________________________________________

Bio

Margaret Wheatley is a well-respected writer, speaker, and teacher for how we can accomplish our work, sustain our relationships, and willingly step forward to serve in this troubling time. She has written six books: Walk Out Walk On (with Deborah Frieze, 2011); Perseverance (2010); Leadership and the New Science; Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future; A Simpler Way (with Myron Rogers); and Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. Each of her books has been translated into several languages; Leadership and the New Science appears in 18 languages. She is co-founder and President emerita of The Berkana Institute, which works in partnership with a rich diversity of people and communities around the world, especially in the Global South. These communities find their health and resilience by discovering the wisdom and wealth already present in their people, traditions and environment (www.berkana.org). Wheatley received her doctorate in Organizational Behavior and Change from Harvard University, and a Masters in Media Ecology from New York University. She's been an organizational consultant since 1973, a global citizen since her youth, a professor in two graduate business programs, a prolific writer, and a happy mother and grandmother. She has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. You may read her complete bio at http://margaretwheatley.com/bio.html, and may download any of her many articles (free) at http://margaretwheatley.com/writing.html.



All photos by Margaret Wheatley.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

THE UNAPPRECIATED ROLE OF THE WOMAN IN FRONTIER HISTORY

And the end of the frontier didn't end this. -Angela

THE UNAPPRECIATED ROLE OF THE WOMAN IN FRONTIER HISTORY

By

Richard G. Santos
richardgsantos@yahoo.com

            I recently wrote what I taught for years, that is that U. S. history textbooks are written in black and white perspectives from the East Coast point of view.  The multi-cultural, multi-lingual essence of Texas and the U. S. Southwest is at best overlooked if not belittled.  Moreover, the textbooks are male oriented and the role of the woman and ethnic minorities are ignored.  In a patronizing manner, women who excelled in politics, business, arts and entertainment are given short biographical sketches ignoring the fact they are the exception and not the norm.
            I first faced this contradiction in 1971 – 76 when serving as the first Ethnic Studies Director and instructor at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. As Department Head I informed the administration I wanted to hire a woman to teach a course on The Woman.  The Sisters of Divine Providence told me I could not do that as “the woman is not a minority”.  I was terribly upset (to say the least and being politically correct) as I did not expect that from nuns.  Much to their chagrin, I got around the issue by posting a class on The Woman to be taught by me under “Special Topics”.  On the side, I hired Ms. Lupe Anguiano to teach the class.  Hence, I opened each session, took roll, attended class and paid her salary from my paycheck.  Times have changed and the role of the woman in history, culture and the family has gotten academic acceptance but still excluded in the textbooks.
            I also used to tell my students that the teaching and writing of history was not limited to memorizing names, dates and events.  To study and write history one must look at the totality of human-social-scientific, linguistic and cultural evolution. Ideally, a historian is nothing more than a reporter of past events.   Unfortunately, the role of the woman in history, anthropology and sociology is lacking. This is even more evident in the lack of studies and writings regarding the woman on the Frontier (meaning West of the Mississippi River). Yet, then and now the woman is a child’s first doctor, teacher, provider, peace-keeper, financial manager and keeper of the Faith and culture. Take the nomadic hunter-gather Native American culture of South Texas.  The men were the hunters, priests, warriors and frequently, but not always, the “medicine men”. The women were the gatherers, weavers, seamstresses, nurses, and misleading, all-encompassing “keepers of the home” a phrase that minimizes their role as organizers and preservers of the home and family.
            The woman in the Spanish Colonial, Mexican and early U. S. historical periods of South Texas and New Mexico were all of the above plus, gardeners of fruits, vegetables and herbs (i.e. medicinal and spices),  took care of a family’s domestic live stock (milk cows, goats, chicken, etc), doctor-nurse-midwife-curandera (herb healer), and the unpaid, unappreciated laborer.  The frontier woman had to ride a horse, fire a weapon and defend the home-ranch-farm with or without a husband or mate around. If a widow, she had to do all the

above plus raise a family. The frontier woman and many today are still the keepers of the Faith and culture as many men step aside when it comes to religious instruction and participation as husbands silently delegate that responsibility to the wife and mother of their children.  The woman then and now
was and remains the key element in regard to the culture of the home. Today, however, a woman’s education, and socio-economic status of the family unit, has a great impact on what she bequeaths and passes on to her children.  Not to be ignored or over-looked, the religious affiliation of the family unit today also impacts on the role of the woman.
            As to the social role and expectation of the woman, it is interesting to note that up to the 19th Century, women usually married by 12 years of age.  Empress Carlota of Mexico (wife of Emperor Maximillian) introduced the quinceanera through which young ladies were presented to society ready to marry at 15 years of age. The U.S. followed the 19th century European tradition of introducing young ladies at 16 years of age. The coming of age debutant balls introducing young ladies to society varied thereafter but never exceeding 21 years of age.
Today the quinceanera, “sweet sixteen ball” and debutant ball are no longer seen as presenting daughters for marriage but rather merely a coming of age
party-social gathering-celebration. Yet the role of the wife-mother has remained practically unchanged and unappreciated.
            As a sidebar, I personally am fed-up with hearing and reading the same old articles and seeing the Casasola photographs of the women soldiers (soldaderas) and “Adelitas” of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Tell me about General Carmen Reyes. What was her background, family life, battles won and lost and accomplishments before, during and after the revolution?  How does she compare to Joan of Arc?  Also, how does the generala compare to her contemporary rebel leaders?  Why is she still an unknown a century after the fact?  The Mexican Revolution is not my area of expertise but if it was I would not hesitate digging into the Archivo de la Defensa in Mexico City as well as the history and archives of the revolution in Michoacan and Jalisco.
            The same applies to Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.  Yes she was a great writer-poetess and I have enjoyed and still enjoy her literary output. However, she was a num leading a shelter, cloistered life exposed only to the elite upper socio-economic circles of Mexico City during her life. She never married, never had or raised children, never had a husband or had to deal with neighbors (other than her fellow sheltered nuns).  She does not represent or present the woman of her lifetime. So how did her worldview compare to that of Maria del Carmen Calvillo ranch owner-manager-cattle baroness of Bexar in the early 1800’s? Nuf zed as I hope I got some of you angry enough to do something about the unappreciated role of women in history.

Zavala County Sentinel …………….. 21-22 September 2011

Ed Dept seeks to bring test-based assessment to teacher prep programs

Okay, isn't there something wrong with this picture?  TFA's Wendy Kopp and James G. Cibulka, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) were on the panel advising with Cibulka trying to get the group to consensus.  

Check this out (from within): 
 
It should also be noted that Cibulka had several institutional negotiators at the table who will be coming before his organization for re-accreditation within the next several months.
The negotiations frustrated some of the people involved — and some who weren’t invited.
“The Department of Education’s attempt to make sweeping higher education policy changes in 7 ½ days of negotiations, and ultimately, to make regulations via conference call makes a train wreck look well-planned,” said Becky Timmons, assistant vice president for government relations of the American Council on Education."
This is an important read for higher education, too:
 
And now, the Education Department has higher ed in its sights.

Department officials put together a group of several dozen people to “negotiate” on proposed regulations on colleges of education, which have come under scrutiny as the issue of “teacher quality” has become front and center in the school reform movement.
  I hear the train and the train wreck coming 'round the bend.

-Angela
 
The Obama administration wants to expand the use of standardized test scores as an accountability tool from K-12 into higher education.

The Education Department just tried — and failed — to persuade a group of negotiators to agree to regulations that would rate colleges of education in large part on how K-12 students being taught by their graduates perform on standardized tests. As part of this scheme, financial aid to students in these programs would not be based entirely on need but, rather, would also be linked to test scores.

The department’s plans assume that standardized test scores can reliably and validly be usedfor such accountability purposes. Most researchers in this field say they can’t — for a number of reasons, including the limitations of the tests themselves — and therefore shouldn’t be used for any high stakes decision in education anywhere. They say that making test scores so important is one of the negative consequences of the last decade of No Child Left Behind, and shouldn’t be continued.

But the Education Department thinks otherwise and has been pushing this kind of evaluation as a centerpiece of its school reform initiatives. In order to win federal funds, a number of states have approved new K-12 educator assessment systems that rely heavily on these “value added” formulas — which purport to be able to ascertain the amount of “value” a teacher adds to a student achievement based on test scores.

And now, the Education Department has higher ed in its sights.

Department officials put together a group of several dozen people to “negotiate” on proposed regulations on colleges of education, which have come under scrutiny as the issue of “teacher quality” has become front and center in the school reform movement.

Teacher quality, of course, is important. There are teachers in classrooms today who shouldn’t be, and there are teacher preparation programs that should be closed. The question is how to go about improving the situation.


Specifically department officials are proposing regulations that would rate teacher prep programs into four tiers through a number of measures — though heavily weighted — on standardized test scores. Only programs in the top two tiers would be allowed to offer federally funded teaching grants for students who agree to teach in high-poverty schools.

Some of the negotiators turned out not to be as infatuated with the highly controversial “value-added” assessment methods as are department officials. They believe there are better, fairer ways to determine quality of teachers and colleges of education.

When it became clear that some of the negotiators weren’t going to go along with the basic outlines of the department’s plan, department officials ended the negotiations over a conference call.
But don’t think that is the end of the effort.

Now we can expect Obama administration officials to issue regulations doing what they want — without congressional approval, or, for that matter, without having persuaded a group of negotiators they had selected themselves that what they want to do makes educational sense.

It should be noted that administration officials say that there is evidence to show that “value added” formulas can work for assessment. Justin Hamilton, press secretary for Education Arne Duncan, said in an email that some of the negotiators pointed to this evidence: “Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee have already implemented it and their work has been closely studied and documented.... And all the RTTT [Race to the Top] states are in process.”

Most researchers on the subject, however, have warned strongly against using value-added formulas for high stakes decisions of any kind in part because there is too much variability in the results. Good teachers can be evaluated poorly; and poor teachers can be evaluated as effective, they say, hardly a way to go about improving the teaching corps.

Let’s look at how this would work in another field. Take doctors. What if they were measured by the number of patients they save — and then the medical school where they trained gets graded on those numbers? And to top it off, student financial aid at medical schools become dependent on those numbers, too.

How do you think medical schools which seek to serve high need, high risk populations would fare in comparison to medical schools that produce doctors for the healthy and wealthy?

This point was not lost on minority-serving institutions, including the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, who called foul loud and clear in letters sent to the department. Other educational organizations, including groups of deans from well-respected colleges of education, all sent in concerns about the proposed regulations, including:

* They are a big expansion of the federal role in assessing teacher training programs. According to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, it is the states that have been given the authority by statute to evaluate and penalize teacher prep programs.

* They would require states and teacher preparation programs to report to the federal government on data that most do not currently have the ability to collect.

* They would require states to implement assessment programs that are costly, without providing any federal funds to help.

For the negotiations, the Education Department picked the negotiating team — and some of the selections, as well as the omissions, are interesting.

One might assume that one organization that would be selected to negotiate on the issue of colleges of teacher education would be the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. It wasn’t. Neither was the American Council of Education, the nonprofit organization that represents presidents and chancellors of colleges and universities.

Who was? Among the groups selected were Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that places new college graduates into needy classrooms with only five weeks of training. It has been a favorite of the Education Department, winning millions of dollars in federal grant month. And its founder Wendy Kopp, has been lavishly praised by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Also on the negotiating team was James G. Cibulka, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). He took on the role of trying to reach consensus on the panel, holding informal meetings with the dissenters to try to win them over.


It should be noted that he heads the only remaining accreditor of teacher preparation/teacher education programs (a result of a merger between NCATE and the other specialized teacher accreditor, TEAC), and that he will thus be coming before the Department of Education’s panel – the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity — in the near future. This committee confers recognition to accreditors, and it’s rigorous scrutiny is something accreditors tend to dread because recognition equals legitimacy, rigor, and value.

It should also be noted that Cibulka had several institutional negotiators at the table who will be coming before his organization for re-accreditation within the next several months.

The negotiations frustrated some of the people involved — and some who weren’t invited.
“The Department of Education’s attempt to make sweeping higher education policy changes in 7 ½ days of negotiations, and ultimately, to make regulations via conference call makes a train wreck look well-planned,” said Becky Timmons, assistant vice president for government relations of the American Council on Education.

Apart from how the negotiations were conducted, the insistence of the department to pursue initiatives involving highly controversial assessment methods continues to astound people who had expected President Obama to make a sharp break from the No Child Left Behind mentality rather than to exacerbate some of its worst effects.
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‘Mr. President, public education in the U.S. is on the wrong track’


Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 04/24/2012

‘Mr. President, public education in the U.S. is on the wrong track’

This is the text of an open letter written to President Obama by Mary Broderick, president of the Arlington, Va.,-based National School Boards Association, a not-for-profit organization representing state associations of school boards and their member districts. The letter, sent earlier this month to the president, asks for a national dialogue about the direction of public education reform.
Here’s the text of the letter:

April 17, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
 
Dear President Obama:

The night of your election, in Grant Park, you said, “I will listen to you especially when we disagree.” We are all committed to the best educational future for the children of America. Yet, as the nation prepares for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), school board members and top educational thinkers overwhelming urge abandoning the current “command-and-control” federal educational oversight. America’s treasure lies in unleashing the creativity of our youth. Though well-intentioned, the current federal direction is ignoring and working against much of what we know about student motivation and achievement. Instead, the federal government should support local efforts to ignite curiosity, creative potential, and a drive for excellence among students and staff.

Throughout my presidency of the National School Boards Association, I have travelled to many states and written for our national journal and asked for input to this letter. School board members and educators across the country have contributed their thinking here. We share your sense of urgency: We must give every child, no matter their circumstances, the opportunity to excel. We must ensure high quality experiences so each child develops fully. Our major disagreement comes from how we go about this task.

We want for each American child the same things that you and Michelle want for Sasha and Malia — inspiration, aspiration, creativity. I know you don’t want an overemphasis on testing. I have heard you say it. Experience in schools and communities, supported by research, tells us that relentlessly focusing on standardized tests erodes our national competitiveness and deadens curiosity and drive. Clearly, we need some testing to gauge student learning, and we have no problem with appropriate accountability. But we have swung to a far extreme that is significantly hurting children. “Students are numbing over testing for testing’s sake…. We can’t test this country into excellence.” (Sonny Savoie, LA)

Other countries that traditionally focus on testing recognize the shortcomings of their systems and come to our shores to learn how we inspire a spirit of innovation. And decades of work by motivation theorists, such as Daniel Pink, help us understand why a focus on testing and standards may not cultivate the learners we want. Others have found that such narrow focus restricts our views of what is possible, and even causes unethical behavior, such as the rash of testing scandals here and abroad.
By contrast, Finnish schools are now “exemplars of many of the success indicators we … want to see in American schools. Achievement is consistently high. Students are self-motivated and engaged in their learning. Schools have wide latitude to decide on their own programs, and there are no intrusive sanctions.” (Jill Wynns, CA)

The focus on strict quantitative accountability has never worked for any organization, and it has not worked with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Teachers are trying to meet the mandates of those programs and consequently “our children suffer and are not getting educated to their individual potential.” (Carolyne Brooks, IL) Teachers’ focus on tests is undermining their potential and initiative, making it more difficult to share a love of learning with their students.

Our students will never be first in the world on standardized tests. We never have come close. Nor is that something toward which we should aspire! We simply are not a compliant people willing to absorb facts without challenge. But we have had the most innovative workforce in the world (and now vie with Finland for that top position). Though intended to encourage equity, our current policy is, in fact, driving us toward mediocrity. Our students may be becoming better regurgitators, but what we need is excellent thinkers.

We have significant challenges in many of our communities, especially those that are underserved, yet we continue to boast some of the best schools in the world. We have models of excellence from which we should all be learning. Our vision should be to empower excellence — to draw out the best in each and every individual in our schools. We should recognize that our children’s brains are our most important resource. We should aspire to having children take responsibility for their own learning. We can have a common curriculum as a guide, but leave it to our local “civic labs,” as Thomas Jefferson envisioned them, to find optimal ways to inspire learning.

That said, we won’t achieve any vision without significant teamwork. Finland’s process may offer a model: They spent years developing national consensus about the essentials for successful education and, hence, the nation. Collaboration can promote independent thinking and action.

As a nation, rather than inspiring people toward a vision of excellence, we have been blaming some for blocking student achievement. It is time to inspire all toward a pursuit of excellence for each of our children.

The work world our children inherit will be significantly different from the one we have known. Jobs in the 20th century were mostly algorithmic or routine. According to McKinsey & Co., most such jobs have already evaporated because of automation and outsourcing. Future work will be more complex, so we had better prepare students differently than through standardized tests.

As the nature of work changes, so too must motivators. Carrots and sticks, which worked with routine jobs, actually impede efforts when the work is more complex, Daniel Pink says. Instead, the rewards of learning and challenges of the work itself must now be the primary motivators. Adults learn best, experts say, if they feel competent, autonomous, and a sense of belonging.

Much in our current school systems works against these, and our new national focus on teacher evaluation will continue that trend. As a result of ignoring innate needs, our schools too often are not innovative hubs. Yet to meet the challenges of our future, we must cultivate a spirit of innovation and inspiration. We will only succeed in preparing for our future if we empower all in our schools to think through complex problems and processes and generate solutions. Rather than laboring over bureaucratic compliance problems, let’s engage students and teachers (even board members!) in solving problems of teaching and learning.

Our schools will never become great through threat or intimidation. Schools must be safe places to take risks, where staff members and students feel valued for their ideas and talents and empowered to fail so that they can grow. Students will learn what they see, experience, and enjoy.

We have the knowledge and experience to do this at the national, state, and local levels. However, the present narrow focus on accountability and trend of demonizing those in public education, arrogantly focusing on “failing schools,” is diametrically opposed to fostering excellence.

Again, we can learn from Finland: It holds teachers in high regard (appealing to competence). Teacher training includes a strong feedback loop; professional development is embedded in the work, through coaching and ongoing support (appealing to belonging). People are willing to try new approaches and ideas (appealing to autonomy).

Innovation requires investment. Retired school superintendent Jack Reynolds noted that under the original ESEA we had a national system for identifying, supporting, and sharing excellent, vetted educational ideas. We should return to such a system of research, development, and diffusion, using technology to share teaching and learning approaches. Further, Ohio school board member Charlie Wilson suggested we encourage and fund our universities to conduct empirical research on the considerable experimentation that does occur in our schools.

Some board members suggested that we benefit from broad, guiding curriculum principles. Wyoming’s David Fall encouraged you to continue your work with the National Governors’ Association to refine core standards. However, our children would be best served if the standards were guides, but decision-making remained local.

Across the nation, I have heard growing support for an emphasis on the early years. To close achievement gaps, we need to provide rich early learning environments for children born with the least. We need to teach their parents how to encourage their learning. Please continue to support states’ early childhood efforts.

Mr. President, public education in the U.S. is on the wrong track. As we have moved decision-making farther from teachers and children, we have jeopardized our competitive edge and keys to our national success: our ingenuity, our openness to innovation, and our creativity.

I urge you to convene a national dialogue, not made up of politicians, but including the breadth of educational opinion, to reconsider our educational direction. I would love to help you do this. Let’s ensure that each child has the tools to be successful. Let’s marshal the nation’s brain power and tap into the research, proven practice, and demonstrated evidence of excellence.

Please bring your parent hat to determining our new direction for public education. Your daughters, like all of our children and all of our teachers, don’t need more tests designed to identify weaknesses. They need excited, motivated, passionate teachers who feel challenged, supported, and encouraged to try new approaches, who share with their students a learning environment that is limitless. If we work collaboratively on a shared vision of excellence, if we foster team development, encourage innovation, and care for the growth of our teachers, our children will lead us into the future with confidence. And public education will remain the cornerstone of our vibrant democracy.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Sincerely,

Mary Broderick
NSBA President