When public actually means transparent

John, Thanks so much for re-igniting this conversation around public schools. Right now, I’m typing to you from sunny Orlando, FL, the site for the General Electric Developing Futures Conference. It’s a week-long conference, and this year’s theme surrounds the ramping up towards the Common Core Standards. Each of the districts represented here has a […]

John,

Thanks so much for re-igniting this conversation around public schools. Right now, I’m typing to you from sunny Orlando, FL, the site for the General Electric Developing Futures Conference. It’s a week-long conference, and this year’s theme surrounds the ramping up towards the Common Core Standards. Each of the districts represented here has a heavy stake in the success of the CCSS and the transition to this new set of standards may usher new types of summative, high-stakes assessments for all these schools. Speakers like David Coleman (from my state) and Katie Haycock of Education Trust have already spent a great deal speaking on the lay of the land in terms of what policymakers see as an effective framework for how school districts should run.

While this conversation floats around, there is still a tangible fear of what’s to come. In the interest of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, I’ll say that the math Common Core State Standards have serious potential to refocus us on core concepts that really matter. Teachers will inevitably have to fill in the gaps in terms of approach and implications for students’ real-life applications. Yet, standards only go as far as the policies and assessments let them. Hand-in-hand with this idea is the tangible end of No Child Left Behind, surely a policy that could signal the closure of hundreds of public schools if we allow that to happen.

2014 ends NCLB and ushers in CCSS, a symmetry I’m not comfortable with.

Will this mean that, by the end of NCLB, the schools that open up will become charter schools by default? All signs point to yes. If so, then the general public will not only have a right but also a necessity for transparency for both of these two movements, irrespective of whether business leaders privately fund these efforts or not. If we’re getting into this new movement of questioning, then the general public will not only need to know what it means for how teachers will teach concepts. We will have to create environments where doors are more open, scary as that sounds. I’m interested in making schools public institutions, and the farther we lean from that movement, the more we will perpetuate some of the problems that plague our schools now.

This also means that we’re going to have to re-discuss what an education means, a discussion we ought to have sooner than later. Personally, I believe that we should have schools that teach students to a level that they will succeed no matter where they end up, not simply for a career, but for life skills. I’d like to help students reach their highest human potential. But that can only happen after we’ve built the bridge from the rigid data-driven expectations of Thorndike acolytes to those of us who want the second coming of John Dewey. This is the best time possible.

I urge you and everyone to consider more transparency in the way we teach children, not just in how we operate as an organization, but also as change agents for the millions in front of us daily.