Education Week - October 23, 2013 - (Page 18)

COMMENTARY By T. Elijah Hawkes U niversal free public schooling, a cornerstone of our modern democracy, is facing a quiet crisis. One that I call the ownership gap. Medical advances, dual-earner households, urbanization, and many other social changes mean that Americans are living longer and having fewer children. Our nation has realized that demographic shifts like these have a big impact on The Public School Ownership Gap " our workforce, tax base, long-term health care, and Social Security. But what about on our public schools? During the baby-boom era, a school-age child lived in nearly every other house on the block. Now, it's different. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, children between the ages of 6 and 17 reside in less than 26 percent of households. Translation: The vast majority of American homes have an absence of school-age kids, which means that most folks paying for public schools have little, if any, direct contact with them. This is bad news. It's bad news for any enterprise, public or private, when the owners, funders, or majority stakeholders-taxpayers, in this case-are not properly informed and connected to the work. You'll find no better recipe for accountability dysfunction, inefficient operations, and irrelevance. Think of the major challenges we often hear associated with public schools, including: Accountability. We often hear that we need better accountability in schools. This is true. Because of the ownership gap, most taxpayers have limited personal contact with our schools, and so they can't gather the information they need for a proper evaluation. To judge teaching and learning, one must observe and experience it. When we force our citizenry to judge schooling from a distance, what we get is what we've got-an accountability system that relies too much on simplistic test scores to assess student, teacher, and school performance. Budgets. We often hear communities questioning whether the money we spend on schools is really worth it. This is because most households are paying for the education of other people's children. Yes, there are strong, rational arguments for why we should provide schooling for our neighbor's child-just compare the public cost of putting a boy through school with the cost of keeping a man in prison. Educating other people's children makes good sense and good social policy. But without personal connections to an institution, people are more likely to question its worth. This is as true of public schools as it is of a public library, a public park, or the military. If you are personally connected, you tend to value something more deeply. Relevance. We often hear that we need more relevant curricula and better career preparation for our young people. This also is true. Because of the ownership gap, we have a society in which teachers rarely interact professionally with people in other careers. Science and math teachers, for instance, typically don't collaborate with engineers. This is bizarre. And this de facto segregation of the teaching profession naturally leads to schooling that's divorced from contemporary life. Change.We also often hear that schools are resistant to change. I don't think that educators are any more reluctant to adapt to a changing society than other people. But I know that when work in any profession stays sheltered from public view, as is the case with a lot of classroom teaching, there is little chance the practitioner will be exposed to the information, incentives, or pressures that compel innovation. It is clear that the ownership gap is connected to many of the challenges schools are facing. Thankfully, as simple as it is to name a source of our problems-the shifting demographics of the American family-it is almost as easy to name a remedy: teaching and learning that deeply connect school with the people and world outside. I've been fortunate to encounter several powerful models of this kind of schooling in recent years. And these are not new initiatives, grantfunded fads, pilot programs, or mini-schools. These are long-standing, extensive efforts brought to scale with lots of hard work in traditional public schools. * King Middle School in Portland, Maine. This public school is part of the Expeditionary Learning, or EL, network, an organization of educators who work hard to develop curricula that have contemporary realworld relevance. At King, students do fieldwork rather than just take field trips, and local experts are a part of the program. Students present their work in public exhibitions of learning, and the curriculum requires them to become hands-on citizen problem-solvers, approaching topics in ways that have an authentic connection to their surrounding community. Because the work is public and often engages the public, the taxpayers in this New England city better understand where their dollars are going; students better understand their local resources as well as their challenges; and teachers are compelled to innovate and change with the world outside their school. * The New York Performance Standards Consortium in New York The vast majority of American homes have an absence of school-age kids, which means that most folks paying for public schools have little, if any, direct contact with them." We Need a National Monument to Teachers By Anthony J. Mullen "O " ut of the public schools grows the greatness of a nation."-Mark Twain "Upon the subject of education ... I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in."--Abraham Lincoln I'm remembering a visit a few months ago to Washington, where I strolled with tourists along the National Mall and past the museums and monuments so many of us came to see. At one point, I joined a mass of pilgrims and walked with them to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. A young boy posed with his grandfather next to one of the 19 larger-than-life-size stainless-steel soldier statues. I watched as the old man reached out to touch a metallic soldier's face. To me, it seemed he needed to see and feel something tangible to appreciate the legacy of comrades gone, but not forgotten. The venerated objects scattered across our nation's capital tell a story, and this elderly visitor was a part of it. There is something in the human psyche that draws us to monuments and memorials, a yearning to visit physical tributes to the people, places, and ideas that have profoundly affected our lives and helped shape our national identity and cultural legacy. We are seemingly compelled to visit these stone and metal works lest what they stand for be diminished or forgotten by future generations. This city of monuments, memorials, and museums is consecrated not by the politicians and bureaucrats who dominate its public image, but by the more than 200 monuments and memo- rials that form a beautiful collage embodying the greatest democracy the world has ever known. No other city can boast of so many eclectic artistic reminders of the story of a nascent nation struggling to assure freedom and liberty for so many diverse people. But recalling my summer visit to Washington, I remember feeling something was amiss as I strolled past a statue dedicated to Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathic medicine, and later arrived at Maine Avenue, where I noticed a statue honor- where I found a work of art called "Full Count," a series of bronze pieces paying homage to the game of baseball. Its placement made me realize what was missing: There is not one monument in Washington dedicated to all of our nation's teachers or public education. Not a single block of sculptured stone or metal to commemorate and honor the one profession that has had the greatest formative and lasting effect on all the people, places, and ideas enshrined throughout our nation's capital city. Why are there no monuments to America's educator ranks Teachers deserve a monument of remembrance and thanks for sowing the seeds and cultivating the intellectual landscape of our nation." ing Maine lobstermen. And, I remember, I also walked toward Dupont Circle and stopped in front of an imposing bronze and granite monument dedicated to the Ukrainian poet and patriot Taras Shevchenko. I am not familiar with his work or how he contributed to our nation's heritage, but President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill that authorized the creation of the artwork. Next, I rested at a small triangular park at Dupont Circle and learned that it was dedicated to deceased entertainer-and congressman-Sonny Bono. I finished my walk in front of the Federal Reserve Annex, 18 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 23, 2013 | when, as President Barack Obama correctly proclaimed in his 2011 State of the Union address, "If you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher"? Why is there no tribute to public education, the greatest institution for positive social change the world has ever known? And why is there no monument to the teacher, the single greatest instrument of social change? It is a bewildering question and a wrong that must be made right lest we diminish the fact that teachers and public education have provided the catalyst for ensuring democracy in our enduring nation. "I think Teacher Appreciation Week needs an update," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a speech and blog post last May. "Don't get me wrong - teachers have earned every bagel breakfast, celebratory bulletin board, gift card, and thankyou note. ... But we need to do something a bit more substantive and lasting than the bagel breakfast, too." The secretary of education is correct: Teachers do deserve something more substantive and lasting than a bagel or a gift card. Teachers deserve a monument of remembrance and thanks for sowing the seeds and cultivating the intellectual landscape of our nation by promoting learning, knowledge, and the academic and technical skills necessary to develop and sustain a great nation. The work of good teachers provided the priceless gifts of wis

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 23, 2013

Education Week - October 23, 2013
Colorado Tax Boosting K-12 Up to Voters
Paddling Persists in U.S. Schools
Health-Care Law Raises Questions For Districts
K12 Inc. Learning Difficult Lessons This School Year
News in Brief
Report Roundup
New Student Majority in South and West: Poor Children
School Poverty Said to Hurt College Access
Media Group Calls on Companies To Protect Students’ Personal Data
D.C. Teachers Improved After Overhaul Of Evaluations, Pay
Blogs of the Week
K-12 Advocates Remain Braced For Fiscal Fight
Illinois Among Outliers With No NCLB Waiver
Appeal Argued on Affirmative-Action Ban
The Public School Ownership Gap
We Need a National Monument to Teachers
Changing the World, One Student at a Time
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Common Core’s Power for Disadvantaged Students

Education Week - October 23, 2013