Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dumb and Dumber Club

One of my worst learning nightmares at Pleasant Valley Elementary School in 1961 was being assigned to the "pewter" reading level due to some of my delayed learning issues, while everyone else was assigned to aqua, gold, platinum. For the rest of that year, I was pewter! So much for the SRA Reading Development Series in those years. When a student is assigned a number or a color, it predestines their life.

Day 3 at ISTE had a wonderful treat, Stephen Covey. How wonderful it was to hear him speak on the 7 habits and how they apply to our schools. Of particular note was his reference that test scores are the worst form of identity theft that exists. Reducing someone to a number that will determine their ability to get ahead in life without taking into consideration their humanity, creativity, and innovative skill sets is something out of a science fiction episode, such as the Twilight Zone.

But, tell that to our elected officials that have created this boondoggle entitled NCLB. They are so sure that testing students will encourage low performing individuals to get ahead, have no idea of the human spirit, and the capabilities of people to learn differently. US  Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at a conference saying :“I think one of the most insidious things that’s happened in this country over the past couple of decades has been the dumbing down of standards for children. In far too many states, including the state I come from, Illinois, we have been lying to children and lying to families in telling them they are prepared for college and careers when, in fact, they are nowhere near ready.”

I caught this quote from an article by Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Constitution Journal. I had to read it four times and I laughed that it came from none other than our US Secretary of Education, the purveryor of Race to the Top (or as I refer to it, Slip to the Bottom). In one statement he suggests that the standards are dumbed down. Then he proposes to fix that by making every student across the country take more tests, and forcing teachers to teach to the test in order to pass some "standard" determined by the likes of politicos at various levels of society.

So, refer back to Stephen Covey's comment. We dehumanize potential when we assign a number, a score, or an achievement descriptor that does not allow some people to be creative or to get ahead, or as Secretary Duncan describes, "dumb and dumber".

Time to have an alumni meeting with the other "pewter heads" at ISTE!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

ISTE Day 2: How Do We Release the Potential?

21st Century School Leadership is an involved and challenging process, and so many of us realize that who are active in the profession. One initiative leads to another challenge, that leads to another failed attempt to break the structural impediments of 19th Century learning. To summarize today's sessions at ISTE2011 I can say the theme of relevance, sustainability, and replicability are necessary considerations for those of us that seek to build these systems.

A reminder, 21st Century best practices includes dynamic leadership, vision, culture of collaboration, an adapted reform process, new approaches to teaching and learning, high quality infrastructure and technology. Systems that instill in students the critical thinking skills that prepare them for college, and the world of work will achieve these rare feats of success. But, in the lyrics of the old children's song they are "petunias in onion patches".

The component structural model of 21st Century learning follows a model such as the following set of components, evidenced in model school districts in Louisiana and New York State:

1.  Setting the stage for innovation; creating a dynamic vision with appropriate stakeholders.
2.  Leadership; that uses the dynamic vision to to guide decision-making, hiring the right leaders and teachers to fulfill the vision.          
3.  Teaching and learning; aligning pedagogy with the vision, and reorganizing the physical structure of an older model of learning.
4.  Technology implementation; develop a plan for the implementation of technology
5.  Professional development; to reinforce training and support for employees
6.  Culture; establishing a true environment for collaboration, facilitation, and mentoring
7.  Partnerships; external and internal partnerships
8.  Replicability; using a within-the-budget mentality to control budget.
9.  Sustainability; creating induction programs to ensure the vision continues.

In one interesting session by Kipp Rogers, a MS Principal in Virginia, a wonderful presentation on the world of Web 2.0 activities and tools for school leaders. He is also the author of two books that focus on the use of cell phones, smart phones and other devices in the classroom. 

21st Century schools are possible and are very much needed and sought after. Here's hoping that the right people get the message.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unlocking Our Students Potential

We had an excellent first day of the ISTE 2011 Conference in Philadelphia. The theme of the conference is "Unlocking the Potential", and we heard that echoed in so many ways by the various speakers at the general session. Beginning with host Mario Armstrong who echoed the idea that teachers are actually "secret agents" on a desperate mission to unlock the potential of children against the challenges of the economy, the APPR, NCLB, and our elected leaders!

The current educational system kills the dreams of children. We need to work within the system but to challenge it. The unconventional, can become the conventional. Creativity, innovation  and being incredible. Igniting the passion of children and turning on their learning. Education needs an overhaul.

And with that challenge I believe we need to encourage each teacher to accept one new initiative this year and challenge the system.

We need to become fearless as educators,  and reclaim our dream. Renew your dream and renew your promise as an inspiring teacher.

Professional Development for a Superintendent

Superintendents need professional development. As a 21st Century school leader, that is exactly how I am beginning the summer, right after graduation. I am sinking my proverbial professional development molars into the ISTE conference in Philadelphia, PA. It's amazing that more people do not take advantage of going to such a stimulating conference. I hear that only 12,000 people from around the world are here. Well, 12,000 people will be enlightened to learn the newest and greatest ideas on technology, data driven decision making, 1:1 learning system, a keynote by Steven Covey, and another by Johm Medina.

I will be covering the conference for all of my blog fans, so stay in touch and keep the faith.