Friday, April 11, 2014

Reforming Education

United Nations Development Program
     What does learning look like?  Somewhere along the way to improve education, it has been damaged. The awesomeness of "eureka" transformed into normative bubbles.  The wonderful experience of falling down repeatedly until finally a first glorious step is taken replaced with a paralyzing fear of failure.    Inspirational feats of high performance  have been standardized.

    In reading Andy Hargreaves' article, describing the ways that the educational system has changed, I found myself reflecting on the reason that I choose to be an educator.  It was a long time ago, but I know that it was not to subject students to endless barrages of tests that arbitrarily label them as "partially-proficient" or "advanced."  I do see the value of knowing where my students and my skills fall in relation to others.  The series of reforms that the educational system has undergone in the past thirty years has helped move education forward; however, the road to improving education is far from complete.

Hargreaves (2009) classified the ways in which school reform has been implemented.  The first way of reform involved teachers' independent efforts to increase pedagogical efficiency (Hargreaves, 2009).  According to Hargreaves, the independent nature of teacher initiated reform resulted in an effort to standardized the educational system.  The standardized system then resulted in Hargreaves' third way which involved top-down efforts to force reform on schools through a system of threats and intimidation.

Through an extensive study of educational reform and educational systems, Hargreaves (2009) derived a “Forth Way” to reform education, consisting of purposeful partnerships, principles of professionalism, and catalysts for coherence.

     Five pillars of purposeful partnerships:

1.    An inspiring inclusive vision:  We need to develop a shared vision for education that addresses essential needs of society that extends beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.  The educational system needs to prepare students for their future.

2.    Public engagement: Re-energize the public's passion for education

3.    No achievement without investment:  Educating children requires investments beyond money; society has to put forth the effort and time to educate their children.  Replace technology time with time for tikes.

4.    Corporate educational responsibility:  Self-serving corporate support for educating children to learn skills that serve their industry needs to be changed to supporting the needs of society.

5.    Students as partners in change:  Empower students through establishing their responsibility for their training, and monitoring their success.

Three principles of professionalism

1.    High-quality teachers: If we want high-quality people to teach then we must provide a competitive salary.  Teachers also bear the responsibility of earning prestige and persevering the integrity of their profession.

2.    Powerful professionalism:  Teachers collaborate and challenge each other to increase the performance of the educational system.

3.    Lively learning communities:  Teachers involved in collaborative, data based, ongoing improvement to refine instruction.

Four catalysts of coherence:

1.    Sustainable Leadership: The job of leading and managing a school involves an extensive number of factors resulting in leaders burning out.  Utilize distributed leadership to increase stakeholder buy-in and share the responsibilities.

2.    Net with no nanny: Professional network driven by a shared vision but without a "nanny" to intervene allowing teachers to deepen their practices free from the whims of trendy innovation.

3.    Responsibility before accountability: Teachers are responsible for the performance of all children.  Multiple sources of data continuously collected to monitor the performance of teachers.

4.    Build from the bottom, steer from the top: Teachers set high standards objectives to improve learning through a system of collective responsibility.

The top-down reform measure of No Child Left Behind has resulted in increasing the number of schools classified as unacceptable and deemed “broken," by the US Secretary of Education.  The idea that teachers have a monopoly on education is not viable.  Educators and politicians must share the responsibility for education with parents, community members, corporations, and students.  Somewhere the vision for education became meeting standards and not preparing students for their future.

By Rob Koch
Hargreaves, A. (2009), The fourth way of change: Towards an Age of inspiration and sustainability. in Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (Eds.). (2009). Change wars. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.