Last week, Arizona, New Mexico and Delaware joined Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Utah in committing to implement recommendations of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. The report offers a dramatic reform process for education, by adopting the kinds of powerful instructional systems used by the most successful countries for many years. I quote the article by saying that these include
- Recruiting teachers from the top third of college graduates and increasing their pay to make that possible
- Revamping the high school-college transition
- Reallocating education funding to high priority strategies for improving system performance
- Pre-K for all
- Putting more of our education funding behind students from low-income families
- Changing the way schools are managed to give teachers more influence over the way schools are run, while holding them accountable for the results
I do not want to develop a reputation as being a naysayer or a pessimist, so let me say from the start that I applaud these states for taking a proactive approach and pledging to make a radical departure from the status quo. Our country needs a “model state” that gets it right, and then the rest will surely follow.
On the side of skepticism, let me state that change MUST start with the pedagogy. If I were to draw a series of concentric circles about the “circles of change” for education, the “bulls eye” would be the learning tools. Everything starts with the learning methods. All other tactics would come thereafter. For example, Delaware is touting, “more rigorous and more frequent testing,” but if the skills being tested and the learning tools being used are flawed, then all you are saying is that you are testing more of the wrong things.
I’m all about “walking the walk,” so now that these six states have stepped out front on what may be one of the most critical issues of our time, I’m anxious to see what they do, not what they say. Nonetheless, I wish them luck and hope they can be a shining example of how to successfully reinvent education in the 21st century.