I admit it, Eduflack is a sucker for Christmas. As a kid, I used to stay up all night, just waiting for Christmas morning to come. Now, there is nothing I like more than giving gifts to the Edu-family. Each year, I tend to go a little overboard, receiving more than my share of reprimands from Eduwife for my “generosity.” This season is sure to be no different.
The good thing about the blogsphere is that words are (virtually) free. So I can’t help but offer up a few virtual gifts or best wishes for the holidays for those who were good little boys and girls this past year.
To EdSec in-waiting Arne Duncan and the incoming U.S. Department of Education, an Office of Communications and Outreach that is proactive and engaging. Now is the time to seize the bully pulpit, engage key stakeholders, and promote the need for school improvement and the avenues by which we achieve it. That doesn’t get done through press conferences and reports. Duncan and ED need to get innovative, using new communication vehicles, new communication channels, and new ideas to build an army of support for real, meaningful school improvement.
To the Institute of Education Sciences, a new director with a sharper mission about engaging practitioners and policymakers on research. IES is meant to be the R&D arm of the U.S. Department of Education. We don’t need more discussion between researchers, debating which ivory tower is more effective on which research issue. IES should build a national dialogue on education research, committing itself to providing data (and how to use it) to the practitioners in the field. Don’t settle for anything less than becoming the Consumer Reports or the Good Housekeeping seal for education research.
To DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, a velvet glove. I appreciate her take-no-prisoners approach to improving education in our nation’s capital, and I applaud her willingness to buck the status quo and do whatever she sees necessary. But she can’t neglect what she’ll be left with when the dust settles. It is fine to demand more from your teachers. But you need to treat them with general respect, rather than tagging them all as the lowest common denominator. Win over the teachers (and the teachers union), and you’ll have the hearts and minds of the schools and the city itself.
To Randi Weingarten and the AFT, an unprecedented opportunity. The Obama Administration has made clear that teachers — particularly their training, recruitment, and retention — is at the top of the education improvement wish list. If that’s to happen, teachers need a clear, powerful voice to break through the white noise and effectively advocate for good teachers and good teaching. AFT is nimble enough, reform-minded enough, and innovative enough to be that voice. The coming year provides a unique opportunity to remind all stakeholders that there is no more important investment than that of effective classroom instruction. And it all starts with the teacher. Someone needs to give those teachers a voice during such a debate, and that someone is the AFT. Seize the opportunity.
To the National Governors Association’s Dane Linn and his Education Division, the spotlight. In many ways, NGA is the workhorse of education improvement organizations. They are in the mix on most major issues. They give and receive grants. And they provide great intellectual leadership on key issues, including high school reform, STEM, literacy, national standards, and the like. But they often get the backseat when it comes to media attention and recognition beyond those in the know. Eduflack always favors the workhorse over the showhorse, but NGA has earned its ring of roses these days.
To the next education governor, a bold plan. Virtually every governor declares him or herself as the next education governor. Behind this rhetoric is often little follow through. By now, we should realize that the truly great education improvements are not going to happen at the federal level. They are going to occur at the state level, led by governors who see how improved P-20 education leads to improved economic opportunity. Those governors who effectively connect educational pathways to economic prosperity will be the ones who persevere the current economic situation and leave a lasting mark on their schools.
To Kati Haycock and Education Trust, a continued drumbeat. Many believe that EdTrust hitched its star onto No Child Left Behind, and that such a move would ultimately come with a price. As we prepare to move into NCLB 2.0, reauthorization, and a new Administration, EdTrust is in the catbird seat when it comes to advocating for student achievement and school improvement. Haycock and company have long focused on the end game of the students. NCLB was a means for that. It wasn’t an end to it. Continue to keep an eye on the end result, and EdTrust will continue to drive this debate.
To the U.S. Congress, a reauthorized NCLB. There is no need to put off what needs to be done now. NCLB needs improvement. Senator Kennedy, Congressman Miller, Congressman McKeon, and others have put forward ideas for improving the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. EdSec Designate Duncan wants a federal law of his own, one that reflects his goals and the priorities of the Obama Administration. Let’s reauthorize the law now, proudly proclaiming a national commitment to improved student achievement, improved teaching, improved data collection, and the supports needed to deliver all of the above.
To STEM advocates, a moment in the spotlight. Those who read Eduflack know I am a strong advocate for science-technology-engineering-math education efforts. STEM is a complex topic with the potential for real impact on our schools and our economy. It isn’t just for rocket scientists and brain surgeons. As more and more states ramp up STEM efforts and more non-profits support STEM initiatives, I wish them the headlines and communication channels to ensure their good work gets the good attention it deserves. Without the right advocacy and the right communications, the STEM star may soon burn out, before it has fulfilled its true potential.
To the education advocacy community, a better appreciation for effective communication. For far too many, effective communication is a one-way activity, where we share information with others and hope they put it to use. You’ve heard it hear before, but information-sharing is merely the first step to effective communication. Our goal should not be to simply inform. Our goal is to change thinking and change public behavior. That means communications efforts that focus on stakeholder engagement and real measures of success. A clip packet is not a measure of effective communication.
To the education blog community, some ideas to go along with our rocks. It is very easy to shout against the wind or to throw rocks against that which we don’t like. Eduflack has been blogging for almost two years now, and I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who look to the education blogs for information and how ideas quickly circulate through education’s online community. We need to use that power for good. Yes, it is important to be a watchdog and to keep those in power in check. But we also need to use these forums for good — for sharing information, offering up solutions, and spotlighting best practices and the good in school improvement. I can promise you it’ll be one of my New Year’s resolutions. I hope others will join me.
My scroll of gifts is curling over. I hope stockings are filled for the advocates of scientifically based reading and early childhood education and ELL and national standards and real school innovations. I hope the agitators and the improvers and t
he innovators receive the best of holiday tidings. And I hope the status quoers see a guiding light this holiday season, recognizing that our schools need real improvement, and that we should stop at nothing until every fourth grader is reading at grade level, every student is graduating high school and is graduating college ready, and every teacher has the training and ongoing support necessary to deliver the high-quality education every student needs and deserves. ‘Tis the season, after all.