How to achieve true educational transformation

By Daniel A. Domenech
October 9th, 2012

“True transformation would be providing each child with a personalized education plan … and recognizing that, thanks to technology, learning can occur anywhere,” Domenech writes.

“Learning Leadership” column, October 2012 edition of eSchool News—With the country approaching national elections, those involved in education wonder how the results might affect the educational landscape. The last four years have deeply affected schools systems, as the economic downturn has caused significant reductions in spending and the Obama administration has used stimulus dollars as the carrot to implement its policy initiatives. Here are some key points that we should bear in mind as we move forward.

In response to the education critics, there is substantial evidence that America’s public schools are the best they have ever been. Our graduation rates are at the highest levels, our dropout rates are at their lowest, NAEP achievement in reading and math is at its highest level, the achievement of minority students is at its highest levels. According to the latest Gallup Poll, parent satisfaction with the school their oldest child attends is at its highest level. The problem is that we are not satisfied with our performance, and we want it to be better.

There is a significant gap in achievement between children of color, children on free or reduced lunch, children who speak English as a second language, and white middle-class children. We have two educational systems: one in wealthy suburban communities that can compete with the rest of the world, and one in the impoverished urban and rural systems that has defined the American public school system as a failure. We want all of our public schools to be the best in the world.

Unfortunately, education is not our No. 1 national priority as it is for many of the countries that outperform us on international tests. Education accounts for barely 4 percent of the federal budget. To be the best, we’ll need transformation—and a much greater federal commitment to level the playing field between the haves and have-nots.

For more news and opinion about school reform, see:

Review: Anti-union movie ‘Won’t Back Down’ is a step backward

Bill Gates: The keys to effective teacher evaluation

Beyond ‘Superman’: Leading Responsible School Reform

To date, reform efforts have merely tweaked the system. They are not transformational. Many reformers are in love with charter schools, but think about it: Charter schools are merely traditional schools that get exemptions from the rules and regulations everybody else has to abide by. If it’s such a good idea, than why not waive the rules and regulations for all schools?

The popular notion to weed out the bad teachers has led to the implementation of evaluation systems that use the same old standardized tests that have been labeled as unreliable and not valid as major criteria in the process. This is an unfortunate development that is proving to be time-consuming and costly and diverts attention from more productive approaches to teacher development. More rules and regulations are being heaped upon the very rules and regulations that stand in the way of transformational change.

True transformation would be providing each child with a personalized education plan; teaching to the standards, not the test; abandoning seat time in favor of performance; doing away with grade levels and the old agrarian calendar; and recognizing that, thanks to today’s technology, learning can occur anywhere.

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2 Responses to “How to achieve true educational transformation”

October 9, 2012

This article gives the best, broadest summary of the issues in education and what we should do about it. I’d like to see this article spread to other news outlets.

October 9, 2012

Many excellent points, especially individual success plans. No mention of parent involvement. Perhaps, the athletic teams and coaching model needs to be encuraged in Academic Areas also integrating same model for mastery learning in “Career” fields. Many teachers are doing the best they can regards to involvement and engagement (based upon class size), where is the “exciting” instructional design integration in class to motivate learning. If learning is lifelong (and it is) why do we have grades and time. Many students whom have had divorce, death and other disasters are not ready for importing learning. Why has our nation not embraced Multiple Intelligences and Social-Emotional they can transform education? CASEL is not new, neither is Howard Gardner perhaps state level leadership needs to wake up. Interesting the military can give an inventory (AFQT), provide training and transform average to a special member of the Armed Forces.

Show me the budget allocation (at the local level) and I’ll show you transformation. We need to increase (and allow) volunteers in our schools. You can be a “world class” expert in anything and not even be allowed to teach? To transform you need educational evangelists that are reaching, teaching and preaching. In all of this we have not even started to address Civility and Multi-Culture needs. How many schools actively use Rosetta Stone? What other creative “great” technology is denied? If you want to change the results change the paradigm. Alignment, great teachers..involved parents and common goals. Our academic educational system should be the center of our communities we have defaulted to the Friday night fever. Yes we can have “multiple tracks” there is an opportunity for everyone this is America.