There is no shortage of opportunities to attend conferences, read blogs, review new research or just visit schools to see what is working in education and to also get reminded of what is not working well. At conferences, seminars and roundtables, educators gather somewhere weekly to share best practices, learn about new strategies and brainstorm solutions to major challenges. I thought I'd share my top ten list of issues I'm following this year.
College and Career Readiness: How do we stop graduating too many high school students who need remedial studies before they can start college courses? National college persistence and graduation rates are shockingly low. For every 10 college freshmen seeking an associate degree, half need remediation and only 10 percent of those freshmen will achieve the degree in three years. A Harvard Graduate School of Education report found that only 32 percent of students graduate high school prepared for college.
School Funding: Will state and federal politicians put aside partisan differences and will district leaders have the courage to rethink budgets? Together, can we take appropriate action so that investing in education innovation is not viewed as discretionary and balancing the budget is not placed on the backs of our children? California Governor Jerry Brown recently introduced a $97.7 billion general fund budget that spends more on K-12 schools and higher education in 2013-14, while holding the line on most other programs.
Guns in Schools: I wonder if we are asking the wrong questions in response to the tragedies of Newtown and Aurora. Spending money focused on the use of glass in a school building, or the need to turn our schools into fortresses of concrete and steel, seems to address only one aspect, granted the easiest one -- guaranteed to make us feel better and for politicians to claim they did something that is "visible" to parents everywhere. I don't think training our teachers and administrators to carry guns is nearly as crucial as having meaningful dialogue and funding to deal with everyday safety for thousands of schools. Students need to feel safe; we need to create safe environments and armed guards won't have that effect. It is about nurturing a culture of respect and responsibility in our schools, where every student feels safe and important.
Testing: One size does not fit all. Our current testing methods only demonstrate which students can memorize large amounts of often irrelevant and useless data.
Teacher Performance: We need to approach this as a professional collaboration and not develop a system to blame failure on an individual teacher. Let's look for ways to reward a job well done based on evidence that students have learned and transferred knowledge.
Student Assessment: Let's make explicit an aspiration to create a generation of "Innovative Learners" who can think critically, collaborate well, communicate with others and be creative. And then let's develop assessment systems that measure student growth and attainment.
Common Core: Let's turn the Common Core Standards into compelling instruction by mapping to the skills of "Deeper Learning."
Project-Based Learning: Students are most successful when what they are learning is real, relevant, engaging and prepares them for the life they are living now and will face after high school.
Tech and Education: Can we progress enough in the national discourse that it is no longer "if" we need to include tech in the classrooms, but "how" we will acknowledge this is an equity issue and needs to be solved?
Inequality of Education: We have a moral responsibility to ensure that each and every student, no matter where they live, has access to a meaningful education.