2013 is a time to reflect on the learnings of the last 3 years. We continued the research started in 2010 into public education in the United States. At the time of the last blog entry we were waist high in data and data sets, reviewing results from state standardized tests across the country and other sources. Unfortunately the findings were shocking. The data told an obvious story of generations of children that would be left behind and relegated to a lower income existence of dependence and vulnerability. The most surprising finding from this deep dive into data was how obvious it was that many K- 12 public education systems were systematically failing the majority of lower income children. This silent and well known fact within education was unspoken in many circles, taken for granted as if silently stating “that’s just the way it is.”
Data, comes to the analyst in computer files filled with columns of numbers. The numbers have to be interpreted by the analyst or researchers. We review those numbers and with our experience and knowledge give some assessment and insight into what the numbers mean and often we recommend changes to make the numbers better. This process of analysis, can be done far from any school, without the face to face communication with any teacher or the insight one gets about a school’s capacity to teach from watching the lunch program or the the interaction of the children. But I realized that to really study public education you have to get beyond the numbers and into the schools, districts and organizations that are part of the public educational industrial complex.
To that end we have:
- worked as a Trustee with a charter school that was about to be closed for poor performance and that has turned around to become a top performing school
- submitted a charter school application that was reviewed but not approved
- launched a new and innovative tool for teachers, school adminsitrators and districts used by many states in 2012 that provides student feedback on their classroom experience
- become a member of an Advisory Board for the State Board of Education
- initiated talks with district leaders to help in the turn around of failing schools
- traversed the college application and acceptance process for my daughter
These efforts, in the day to day work of transforming education go well beyond the numbers to provide real insight into the massive challenges that confront the nation. Still an outsider to the field of education, I consider this exploration – research – with the objective to first understand the field as much as possible and then to find ways to bring about step wise change.
At many times during this journey, what was most discouraging is the realization that the current system is so broken, so massive, so entrenched, so resistant to change – that the US may be doomed to become a second rate power with a high price but low skill work force. To snap back from this gloomy outlook one must recognize that the resilience of the American People, if mobilized to action, is probably the greatest force for change. We will write more about findings in the coming months and discuss what we have found that seems to be working and provide recommendations for step wise change.