As you, no doubt, already know, I saw a presentation on Wednesday from Tim Magner, ed tech guy from the U.S. Department of Education. I’ve already written a good bit about that presentation and the even better showcase from classrooms across North Carolina. I’ve even commented on some comments that I received, including one expressing disappointment that Tim was not offering some “grand idea” for bringing classrooms and school into the current century.

I wasn’t disappointed, because I think that’d be asking too much, especially with our current administration’s blah blah blah!

But since then, I’ve been asking myself what sort of grand idea might actually come from a U.S. Department of Education that was devoted to bringing schools into the 21st century with the patriotic will and courage to say, “We’re going to do it, and here’s how, and we’re going to commit this nation’s resources to making it happen!”

So here’s what I came up with!

A royal charter to schools for planting their flag into the ground of the 21st century: granting rights, privileges, and responsibilities, and holding the school accountable to its community. To apply for a charter, schools must devise and write a constitution, defining and describing various aspects of how they will do the business of preparing their community’s children for their future — both from a local and a global perspective.

There would be a set of aspects of the schools functions to be addressed in the constitution, including, but not limited to, 21c learning standards, 21c curriculum, 21c infrastructure, 21c assessment, 21c teacher practices, 21c learner practices, 21c implementation structures, etc. The constitution would also require an implementation plan including plant and staff development.

After being signed by the entire staff of the school, a designated representation of the community, and signed off by local and state governments, the school would receive the funding and support necessary to achieve their constitution and earn their charter.

I’ve thrown a lot into this, much of it I’ve not entirely thought through. It’s just a worm on a hook.

But nothing new is going to be happening five years from now, unless we are talking about it today.

Views: 36

Comment by Steve Hargadon on May 5, 2007 at 10:30am
What I hear David asking is: what can a large, top-down, bureaucratic organization do to voluntarily change itself?

One answer is that it can't, and so fringe elements make changes that are so compelling that they ultimately force the large organization to change, or the large organization falls to uprising competitors.

Another answer is that it can, but there has to be a visionary with enough power and authority to call for sweeping change. And this has a lot of risk, since the vision can be wrong.

What I like about your idea is involving the schools in helping understand and create change. Just as the read/write web is about transparency and collaboration, maybe this is the larger path also. If there were a broad, collaborative effort to find, identify, and discuss successful models for education, this could be a very exciting time for our country. Wouldn't it be great to ignite the passions of those who care so much about our children?

Now, my two cents: Part of the difficulty will be remembering that there are different answers, and being supportive of that. We have to understand that there is value in diversity of opinion. Just as I am wearied by political debate that is unwilling to understand that we need different perspectives and healthy dialog, I worry that discussions of education to often try to find "one size fits all" models. I believe that there will be successful strategies in education that don't look like each other.

Great topic, David. I'd like to consider moving it to a forum discussion, instead of the blog, because of the ability for threaded follow-up...
Comment by Lee Ann Spillane on September 6, 2007 at 8:23pm
This is a great topic and I agree with you, Steve. There is value and organizational health in diversity.

I enjoy learning in the diverse culture--organizationally diverse, pedagogically diverse, technologically diverse-- that is my school. Yet even as I was ruminating on diversity and how it both can add to and take aways from the momentum of institutional change, I couldn't help but think of past projects or programs we've experienced at my school and in my district. Why do we abandon so many things? Why must that pendulum hit us in the back of the head if we stay in education long enough?

What happened to site based management--sort of the essence of that flag planting it seems. Or what about initiatives seemingly flashes of future in the fabric of the educational tapestry. Initiatives like the EFG Curriculum Collaborative or World Class schools--both swept through my county years ago claiming to be 21st C initiatives. I can't count the initiatives, the mandates, the models, the edu-speak for change.

I can't help but feel some frustration as a classroom teacher. Change comes slowly to the trenches. Unless of course, you're the agent. How many teachers live Ghandi's words? How many teachers truly are "the change they wish to see in this world?" This world of education, of school--of course. How many principals walk the talk? How many associate superintendents? How many superintendents? How many are willing to ask the tough questions and then to sit down and listen thoughtfully to the answers. I wonder.

When I attended your presentation for Orange County Schools in August, I asked you a question that I'd been living with as I learn and explore technologies new to me. I asked you how teachers could reconcile district electronics policies as they attempt to integrate Web 2.0 tools into their classrooms. I enjoyed your answer. You said that in 5 years the question would be irrelevant. People would expect 24/7 access to their digital tools or personal technology (iPods, cell phones, PDAs, etc.). So, I agreed that yes, eventually, schools will change their zero tolerance for personal electronics policies. We would then, I think, certainly need to teach digital citizenship or digital civility perhaps.

Perhaps I didn't ask the right question, to myself or to my admininstrators. We do need to begin with the planting of a flag. With the writing of and defining of a charter for 21st century learning. But perhaps even before we plant flag or raise the right to rhetoric, we need to send scouts ahead.

We need people in the field and on the ground that do, that know, that can, that will--change things. Thank you for starting the conversation and showing me how to join it. You raise an incredible issue.

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