Typically in federal education policy, we hear a great deal about inputs, but not much about outcomes. We talk about how many dollars are going to go into a program, how many students or teachers might be affected, and how many stakeholders were involved in the process. It is almost as if we are secure in the notion that how a decision was made is far more important than the impact of the decision itself.
Without doubt, the hot buzzword in the current era of education improvement is “innovation.” We hear it on almost a daily basis for the EdSec and from every state, school district, advocacy organization, and corporation looking to take full advantage of the opportunities made available through new economic stimulus funding.
Over at the Washington Post this AM, Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt asks the multi-billion-dollar question, How would Bill Gates repair our schools? Reflecting on a recent interview Gates had with WaPo, Hiatt opines that Gates is an advocate for the sort of reforms that EdSec Arne Duncan and DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee evangelize. He points to the status quo — collective bargaining agreements, tenure, resistance to charter schools, and opposition to pay for performance — as some of the great roadblocks that Duncan, Rhee, and even Gates face in their quest to improve public education.
They supplement, they don’t compete. Yes, that may have been the way we have traditionally worked, but does it need to be that way? Do philanthropies need to simply serve as advisors, consultants, and checkbooks, or can they get more active?
By now, Eduflack readers know two evident truths about successful communications. The first is we must raise awareness about the problem and what people know about it. The second is we must drive audiences to action, getting them to change their behaviors to fix said problem. It is modern-day advocacy. Being informed is no longer enough. If we aren’t taking the action steps to improve student achievement, then any “PR effort” isn’t worth its salt.
It may surprise you, but on more than one occasion, Eduflack has been asked where he gets off opining and advising on education policy and reform efforts. After all, I started my career in politics, not academia. And while I have been in education consulting for well over a decade now — helping government agencies, not-for-profits, advocacy groups, and corporations develop the strategic plans, messages, organizational positioning, and policies they need to improve public education — I’ve been trained on the proverbial ed policy streets.
It seems like we have talked about technology in the classroom since the dawn of time. We’ve waded our way through the era of one-to-one computing, down the path of virtual K-12 education, and now into the stream of 21st century skills. We have focused on ensuring kids had access to computers in the classroom, in the community, and at home. We’ve watched as the cost of technology plummeted, school district access to bandwidth dramatically increased, and students gained a tech savviness that one never quite expected. But these seem to be spurts of discussion, not the sort of sustained dialogue that lead real change and real improvement.
fter the school years are completed?
We all know how the system is supposed to work. You start your school year right after Labor Day. You attend school Monday through Friday, usually from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., for the next 10 months or so, with breaks for Christmas and the spring and most of the major holidays. You wrap up in early June, with students planning three months of fun and working parents looking for three months of childcare coverage. Despite popular belief, many teachers use their summer months to take seasonal jobs to supplement their incomes. Rinse and repeat.
demonstrating your own strength, certainty, and ability.
In my post this AM on communicating in a new education paradigm, I laid out the belief that the launch of Inside Higher Education was a real game changer for education, particularly higher education, reporting. Why? It captured news from campuses across the nation. It spotlighted local higher ed coverage. It delivered them to a wide range of email inboxes across the nation. And it did so for free.
It wasn’t that long ago that professionals in the education space thought communications efforts were fairly easy. Talk with the education reporters at some of the big dailies. Engage a little with NPR. Sit down with Education Week and Education Daily. Maybe a quick call over to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Get someone to publish an oped or commentary. Then the job was done. Success was a piece in a daily like USA Today, WSJ, or New York Times, with support coverage coming from EdWeek or a specialized trade (like e-School News).
We can’t simply shoot out a press release and assume that it will be read and it will be acted on. We must continually provide fresh content on the issues important to us, demonstrating relevance to the larger discussion and real impact on real people. We must use our communications to demonstrate our unique value proposition, our unique contributions, and how we fit into the solutions-driven world we now live in. We must show how we are making a difference, and not merely contributing to the white noise or shoring up the walls of the status quo.
Perhaps it is the old Capitol Hill rat in me, but Eduflack finds it fascinating to watch some Republican governors perform these painful Kabuki dances to refuse portions of the economic stimulus package. I sort of understand Louisiana’s concerns regarding unemployment funds and the required changes ARRA money would demand of state unemployment laws. After all, no one want to make legal changes that will require state fiscal obligations well after the federal dollars are gone.
ne up to ask for Alaska’s share of the economic stimulus fund.