SOS Steering Committee 2013 – 2015 Vision Statement5
I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate my birthday at the Jazz Standard on E. 27th Street the day it reopened after Hurricane Sandy hit NY. Steve Kuhn, Buster Williams, and Billy Drummond were wonderfully tuned to each other’s understanding of how the music needed to fit the evening’s mood of restrained enthusiasm. After the set, I happened to look down and read the coaster my wine glass had been sitting on all evening. It was a quote from Louis Armstrong. “There are some people that if they don’t know you can’t tell them.”
Mr. Armstrong’s message applies most to the world of education policy. The consequences will be disastrous unless we can tell them, and they listen.
Three weeks ago I listened to Linda Darling-Hammond speak at the first annual Thomas B. Sobol Lecture and conversation. Dr. Darling-Hammond is one who knows and listens. If not for campaign funding issues in 2008, perhaps she would have been Secretary of Education, not Arne Duncan. If she had been appointed we would not be in the fix we are in now. We would still be in the business of education, not making education a business.
Dr. Hammond spoke against what has rained down on us all from Albany, Washington D.C., and their business partners. At the same time they spoke of the many good things in Public schools, including the organization I work for, WISE. (http://www.wiseservices.org)
Dr. Hammond reminded us that the nations with the top PISA scores now use many of the techniques that made our education system #1 in the 60’s and 70’s. These “top” nations in the world focus on students’ abilities to: communicate, change, work collaboratively, analyze and synthesize, and reflect on their work to improve their performance and better manage themselves. She reminded us that true assessment allows “kids to demonstrate to themselves and others that they can do what grown ups do.”
Finally, Dr. Hammond and Judith Johnson, 2008 NYS Superintendent of the year, reminded us that we have to become more vocal and proactive to reverse this dangerous and deadly trend we face.
We must fight for quality public education and programs. What passes for reform has dumbed down education. Via standardization and testing expectation levels for all students have been lowered, not raised, regardless of income or background. We need to fix that.
Rather than encouraging creativity, better reading and writing through better reading and writing, experiential learning, and problem solving assignments across the curricula, we have bored and exasperated both students and teachers who strive for more than just bottom line data. We need to fix that.
Forty-five years in pubic education across economic strata have taught me that all students increase skills when given more interesting and challenging work, not test prep pabulum. Programs and methods that stretch students do far more to prepare them for their futures. Rather than return to Frederick Taylor’s “Scientific Management” of a century ago, it is time to go forward and meet the challenges our students face in the mid 21st century.