Everyone has a plan for education reform, except educators

Feb 5, 2013 by

tomwatkinsBy Tom Watkins –

The Center for Michigan has one.

So does the Governor and legislature.

Even the Oxford Foundation has one.

What is it? A plan for educational reform and it seems that everyone, with the exception of the educational community, has one. It seems the would rather simply to on the sidelines and carp about ideas being advanced.

Earlier this week there was yet another conference on educational reform hosted by The Center for Michigan. They are be commended for putting additional ideas on the table with a new education reform report and for hosting, The PUBLIC’S Agenda for Public Education. Yet, “education reform” is beginning to feel like peace process in the Middle East.

Educational Leadership Laryngitis

Certainly the educators’ voice is part of the mix in all these various reports, but where is the road map from the educational community showing us their way? Shouldn’t the education community, which includes teachers, principals, parents, superintendents and school board members be developing a shared vision and common agenda for insuring that our children receive the education they need and deserve?

At the end of the day, providing a quality educator with the right tools and support to do their jobs – educating our children for the hyper-competitive, technologically-driven, knowledge economy – is what really matters! Not rhetoric from the state capitol.

So, where are educators’ voices in Lansing for all this educational reform buzz? Shouldn’t they have a leading, productive role?

I am not talking about lobbying efforts against Governor Rick Snyder’s reform agenda or the legislation he introduced.

It is easy to be “against” something.

The more difficult task lies in creating a comprehensive agenda that addresses the issue. Quite simply, the educators’ plan is missing from the debate.

Complaints from the traditional education community center on the direction Snyder wants to take — with no comprehensive counter plan that addresses the shortcomings of our schools (traditional and charter). They have left a void that others are rushing to fill.

While the Center for Michigan’s latest report captures a segment of the public’s voice on education reform, we need more visionary leadership. One that does not tether change and progress to what the public wants or is ready to accept. We would simply be working on improving the horse and buggy if we adhere to that philosophy.

Real change requires vision, leadership, and change. The voices of those in the classroom, teachers and students, too, is too anemic in this vital debate.

We need to ask, “What if the impossible, isn’t?” We need pioneers, not settlers, who are willing to innovate to educate, and not be held back my public opinion about how our system of education should prepare our children for their future, not our past.

In 2005 I wrote The New Educational (R)evolution- e-learning for Michigan that spelled out a number of policy recommendations that would help facilitate the uses of technology to help personalize learning which have yet to be fully implemented.

I am not advocating reckless change without progress, but instead, change that puts TLC – Teaching, Learning and Children — above the political fray that far too often favors PCPA: Power, Control, Politics and Adults.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky, when asked what made him so great, often replied, ” I skate to where the puck will be, not to where the puck is!”

I am reminded of this quote as I watch the flocking of policy wonks, once again gathering at the state capitol education reform watering hole, even as our hard-working teachers and principals toil in schools and classrooms.

Snyder clearly spelled out his educational policy initiative in April 2011, laying out the problems he saw in our educational system with an agenda to address it.

So, educators, if not the governor’s or the Center for Michigan’s plan, then what? Doing nothing is not an option. There are far too many children not receiving the education they need and deserve.

There are a slew of Lansing-based educational organizations: The State Board of Education, The PTA, Michigan Association of School Administrators, The Michigan Association of School Boards, The Principals’Association, the Michigan Education Association, The Michigan Federation of Teachers — the list goes on and on even as they group themselves into an “Educational Alliance.”

But where is their plan?

I have heard from many of these groups that they dislike what the governor is “doing to public education.” I have yet to see their alternative solution.

The voice of the educator needs to become louder, productive and more forceful in the reform debate.

Opposition is not a plan.

Our schools remain a vital link to the future prosperity of Michigan and our country. The debate is critical but it must be larger than shooting the messenger, hands-out asking for more money, or complaining about what the other side proposes.

Sadly, great educators know we need change to encourage progress. Yet, their voices remain mostly silent. Isn’t it about time that Education Rip Van Winkle woke from their slumber?

Our students await your ideas and action.

via Guest column: Everyone has a plan for education reform, except educators | MLive.com.

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