The USA may be the home of the brave and the land of the free but its education system seems to be at crisis point. Last week, Rockefeller Centre was turned into a ‘Learning Plaza’ to draw attention to the challenges facing American (if not) all schools.
‘Education Nation’ is a community response (parents, teachers, students, corporations) to growing concern that America’s schools are in decline and in need of dramatic change. It’s certainly getting enough media attention (NBC happens to be a major sponsor) but will it be sustainable?
Even in NY where chancellor Joel Klein introduced his school reform agenda three years ago, criticism is deep and broad.
It appears that many people are not looking to governments to solve the problem – they’re caught up in the ‘naming and shaming’ improvement strategy. As Michael Fullan says ‘the drive to make progress in our schools can’t be a fad – accountability relies on incentives more than on punishment.’
This isn’t surprising when you see the Tea Party agenda but what surprises me is the lack of discussion about the nature of learning and teaching and how to support teacher learning. The focus of the debate, if you can call it that, is always on those things that are extrinsic to the instructional core and therefore ‘fads’.
If anything, summits like ‘Education Nation’ provide valuable opportunities and outlets for broad discussion on the future of schooling. The danger is that emergent policies/solutions tend to be rooted in what has been, not on what schools can become to nurture America’s most valuable natural resource – its youth.