I've been tagged by teacherninja to respond to a meme that started with Teacher in a Strange Land. It's called Five Things [Educational] Policymakers Ought to Know. It's been a long day but I'm willing to give this a shot...
Education is all about making safe mistakes. A spelling error made, caught and corrected on a term paper is not career threatening; a spelling error on a job application might be. Internet use ought to allow for some errors in judgment – when the lesson learned is not permanent. CIPA, DOPA and other heavy-handed legislation is not in children’s best interest.
2. Accountability can be demonstrated by better means than tests.
The kinds of skills needed for success in a global economy – creativity, problem-solving, effective communication, etc. – can only be measured using performance-based assessments. These formative assessments, those that not only accurately measure student abilities but help grow skills, need to be counted when judging a student’s and school’s skills.
3. Schools are excellent stewards of public funds.
In the schools I’ve worked for, every penny is accounted for, every discretionary nickel spent on services or products fiercely judged to be of value, and every dime viewed as precious, given all the competing, unmet needs in the schools. This may not be the case everywhere, but it is where I work. Money spent on education is not just well spent philosophically, but “well-spent” fiduciarily.
4. You skimp on art, music, sports, drama, world languages, tech ed, and libraries the U.S. economy will tank - sooner probably than later.
The easy budget cuts are in the extracurricular and elective offerings by schools. Ironically, as manufacturing moves to cheap labor markets or is automated, as service sector jobs continue to pay less than living wages, and as an immigrant workforce provides manual labor, the jobs that provide a middle class lifestyle will be “value-added” – those involving design, creative problem-solving, empathy, powerful communication, teamwork and cultural understandings. Guess what best emphasizes those qualities in our schools? - those programs that are first to be axed. As David Warlick among others reminds us, schooling that may have worked for our generation won't work for this one.
5. Keep politics out of education.
If your definition of politics, like mine, is “values in practice,” this may well be impossible. But the divisive politics and politicking of the past decade or so has had a detrimental effect on education. Long-term planning, serious implementation of new programs, and longitudinal research are all impossible when educational philosophies change each time a new party moves into the governor’s mansion, the White House or a department of education. Students’ futures should not be markers in games of party one-upmanship. The end result of shifting political winds is kids getting buffeted.
OK, great minds. This meme is passed to...