Additional Thoughts for Rethink Learning Now

Yesterday, Eduflack opined on the launch of the Rethinking Learning Now initiative, a new campaign from the Forum for Education and Democracy (among others) that focuses on the need change the direction of education reform from a focus on testing toward a focus on learning.  My post can be found here.  I’ll say again for the record that the campaign is off to a great start, with strong messaging and strong visuals.  And I am proud that Eduflack’s learning story is one of the many stories that are included as part of the effort.

But some have thought I was a little too harsh on Rethink Learning Now, particularly on its first day.  I wanted to know the intended final destination before the first step was actually taken.  Fortunately, the Forum’s national director, Sam Chaltain, is not one of those voices.  For those who haven’t heard of Sam, don’t worry, you soon will.  In my repeated calls for a unifying voice for the loyal opposition, Chaltain is the real deal, one of the few I can see stepping up and leading a movement that doesn’t accept the current path as the only path.
So with no further ado, I am turning over the rest of this post to Sam Chaltain himself.  Rather than place his views as a comment on the side of the Eduflack blog, I though the following deserves its own entry.  The following is direct from the pen of Sam Chaltain, the National Director of the Forum for Education and Democracy. 

“Thanks for your thoughtful coverage of our campaign. Your question is the right one – and if our ultimate plan was simply to gather stories and assume that by their sheer weight and beauty mountains would move, we’d be doing everyone a disservice.

In fact, the Rethink Learning Now campaign is following two strategic paths simultaneously – one grassroots, one grasstops – and intending for them to converge as Congress turns its attention to ESEA.

For the next several months, while people around the country reflect on their personal learning experiences and describe their most effective teachers, we’ll be meeting with key offices on the Hill, gathering information, testing policy proposals, and establishing the campaign as a resource. We’ll also sponsor three Hill briefings this fall – one for each of the campaign’s core pillars – at which we’ll apply the growing clarity from the grassroots side of the campaign towards the creation of some specific policy proposals. Under “learning”, for example, it’s clear that someone needs to do more than say standardized tests are insufficient; they need to offer a better, more nuanced alternative that is innovative and actionable. Our grassroots campaign’s aggregate list of core attributes for powerful learning will be one piece of the puzzle in coming up with a balanced scorecard for student assessment. Under “teaching,” we’ll provide recommendations to Congress, based on the input we receive from people across the country, and outline a strategy for identifying, recruiting, supporting and retaining a true profession (instead of a ‘force’) of highly effective teachers. And for ‘fairness’, we’ll explore ways for the feds and state governments to work more closely to monitor, and ensure, an equitable distribution of resources so all kids have the same opportunity to learn.

Additionally, our partners at the Advancement Project are organizing 14 different regional meetings across the country, at which education advocates and civil rights leaders can spend time together examining their local strengths and weaknesses, connecting to the grassroots components of the national campaign, and providing input to shape any future federal policy recommendations. We’ll also explore a national convening of all of the campaign’s participants sometime next year.

In that sense, the Rethink Learning Now campaign is best understood as a coordinated one-two punch: first, establish clarity around the core objectives: powerful learning, highly-effective teaching, and a system that is committed to ensuring fairness; and second, take that coordinated energy and apply it toward specific proposals that result in a better, more attuned ESEA that empowers educators to create healthy, high-functioning learning environments.

I hope you will continue to cover the campaign, hold us accountable to offering thoughtful solutions, and join us in thinking aloud about how best to rethink learning, NOW.”
Mr. Chaltain, we appreciate the comments.  And we’ll gladly turn over the rostrum to you in the future when you want to expound further as these paths start coming together.

265 thoughts on “Additional Thoughts for Rethink Learning Now

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