The DeHavilland Blog

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Teachers are NOT the most important thing

These days, every eye in K-12 education is focused on the goal of creating better teachers. Arne Duncan says it’s the single biggest factor in improving student outcomes; the Gates Foundation, and many other charitable groups, are investing millions into figuring out what makes a teacher effective and how we can create more of that going forward.

At the risk of being labeled a blasphemer, I would argue that focusing on teacher effectiveness is not the best use of our efforts.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that good teachers are really, really important. I know it from reviewing macro data; I know it from micro data (seeing how some really great teachers work with my two sons).

But while it’s important, it is not the most important issue in education, and it’s also not the easiest issue to fix. Not by a long shot.

To explain why, let’s use the idea of a soldier as an example. There’s no question that a better soldier – better trained, better physical condition, more experience, etc. – will fare better than one who lacks those features.

But now take that great soldier and, instead of an M-16 rifle, give him a feather duster. And for good measure, let’s send him up the wrong hill.

No matter how good that soldier is, what are his chances of success without the right tools and the right mission?

That’s what we’re facing in K-12 education. No matter how good we make teachers, if we don’t give them the right tools, and if we don’t point them at the right outcomes, they will not produce the results we need as a society.

So let’s have that conversation about desired outcomes; right now, the outcomes we’re focused on aren’t relevant to the lives students are going to be living once they leave our doors, and that needs to change. And once we know what we’re trying to accomplish, let’s focus on the tools that can actually get us there.

Until we do those things, let’s not worry as much about maxing out teacher quality – it’s not the most important thing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On the other hand…

To their credit, the Obama administration has done more than any administration since Reagan’s to encourage community/school partnerships. Their latest program is called Together for Tomorrow; its goal is to highlight community/school success stories and encourage others to follow the lead of the schools being recognized. The public statement can be found here, while a news account of the announcement can be found here.

I applaud their ongoing concerted efforts to promote community engagement, but I’m also skeptical given the larger narrative in K-12 education. Specifically, I’m referring to the fact that for the past 100 years or more, the government – first state governments, and now increasingly (over the past 20 years) the federal government – have gradually but consistently removed the local voice from K-12 education and shifted it up the food chain.

It used to be that every community had sole responsibility for its schools; once states became more organized, they began removing local authority and responsibility, first by centralizing the funding model and then by directing how funds could be spent and what schools were supposed to do. As a result, communities today have almost no input into the business of schooling: everything is dictated from afar.

And this is why the public has become increasingly disengaged from K-12 education. Any employer knows what happens when an employee is given responsibility without any authority: they try their best for a while but, realizing that they are powerless to influence the goals, processes, or outcomes of a project, descend into apathy or quit entirely. That’s exactly what has happened between our communities and our schools.

What programs like Together for Tomorrow attempt to do is remind communities that they are responsible for education outcomes, but still without allowing them to say what those outcomes should be or how they are to be achieved. Telling them they have responsibility without ceding any authority. And while the publicity around this program may create a short-term boost in activity, the public will quickly return to apathy or total disengagement in short order unless the larger narrative is changed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to waste $5 billion: The RESPECT Project

As part of its 2013 budget, the Obama Administration has requested $5 billion for a new USDOE initiative called the RESPECT Project (the acronym stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching). According to Arne Duncan, "Our goal is to work with teachers and principals in rebuilding their profession and to elevate the teacher voice in federal, state and local education policy. Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America's most important profession, but also America's most respected profession."

They propose to elevate the status of educators through the following:

  • Reforming teacher colleges and making them more selective.

  • Creating new career ladders for teachers.

  • Linking earnings more closely to performance rather than simply longevity or credentials.

  • Compensating teachers for working in challenging learning environments.

  • Making teacher salaries more competitive with other professions.

  • Improving professional development and providing time for collaboration.

  • Providing teachers with greater autonomy in exchange for greater accountability.

  • Building evaluation systems based on multiple measures, not just test scores.

  • Reforming tenure to raise the bar, protect good teachers, and promote accountability.

They're destined to fail.

Here’s the problem. There are three basic elements in any formula for change: Input, Process, and Outcomes. Most of us recognize how these three elements are connected, but ultimately our focus in on results, and we’ll identify our desired outcomes before figuring out what we need to invest, and what actions to take, to achieve those desired outcomes.

In government, and therefore in education, the focus is primarily on input and process, and unfortunately that focus tends to be divorced from outcomes. We have talked for decades about inputs – how much we spend, how much we pay teachers, what kind of degrees teachers should have, and so on. And we talk a great deal about process, debating pedagogical philosophy, class size, standard/block scheduling, and much more.

But what we don’t do is set goals (specifically, desired student outcomes) and figure out what inputs and processes are appropriate to meet them. Technically, I suppose, I should say that we didn’t do this before NCLB; but even there, we didn’t have the conversation about how to connect inputs and processes to the desire for universal basic proficiency, and when it was clear that it wasn’t happening, they just started rolling out the waivers rather than admit the disconnect.

I say this to highlight the fact that this $5 billion project, focused (again) on inputs and processes, will do exactly nothing to change the public’s perception of the teaching profession. If you can’t move the needle on outcomes, the public could care less how you shift around the inputs and processes. If you really want to change the way the public looks at public education – and (gasp) even draw them into the process – set concrete goals and show that you’re open to doing whatever it takes to achieve them.

And if anyone wants to reward me for saving the government $5 billion (a 15% gratuity would be nice), just email me – I’ll be happy to come pick it up, no need to mail it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Which way forward?

Back in 2008, we held our first event – the Effective Education Partnerships Conference (EEPC). We only had a couple of hundred people there, but I still feel that it’s the most important thing we ever did in the partnership space. Why? Because the vast majority of discussions about partnerships seem to be single-voiced, with educators talking amongst themselves about how the business community needs to step up, or business people talking amongst themselves about how schools need to bring them to the table. But at EEPC, we had an even split of education and business voices, and they were talking with each other, not past each other. The conversations were amazing, and I like to think that everyone walked away with a better understanding that carried forward into their work in communities across the country.

Sadly, while we’ve seen that same spark on a few other occasions (like at last year’s TAPE/EEPC event), it hasn’t taken hold in a sustained, national conversation. Yes, there are pockets of real partnership success, like in career and technical education and the career academy movement. But beyond that, in terms of full-on community engagement, it’s just not happening – and as more and more partnership specialists lose their jobs due to budget cutbacks, we’re losing an experienced voice within the schools for collaboration.

Realistically, career academies and CTE may be the best place to focus our attentions: it’s easy to identify shared interests and substantive ways for partners and educators to join forces. But I still hold out hope for a broader movement. Academies and CTE are primarily high-school programs, after all, and students need help much earlier in their academic careers: more than half of fourth graders read below grade level (NAEP), a challenge from which many may never recover.

So what’s the answer? Are CTE and career academies the doorway to community/school collaboration, giving us an opening that we can expand on later? Or is there a different way forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts – email me if you have an idea or a plan to put on the table.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The hidden danger to the K-12 system (funding)

Yesterday, an article in the Chicago Tribune highlighted problems with Illinois’ college tuition investment plan, specifically a 30% funding deficit that resulted from a poor return on the fund’s investments. This works out to a $560 million shortfall in meeting the program’s projected obligations.

While not related to the K-12 system directly, it illustrates perfectly one of the biggest – and most ignored – dangers in school funding today.

The issue is that many funds related to education – including teacher retirement funds – rely on a high annual rate of return, typically 8% or thereabouts, in order to be able to grow sufficiently to cover future obligations. Unfortunately, as seen in this chart from MSN, over the last ten years the Dow Jones Industrial Average has only grown around 2% annually, from 9811 on December 14, 2001 to 11954 on December 13, 2011:

So what happens if these funds can’t get the investment return they need to cover the promises made to teachers and administrators? In most cases, districts then have to step up their contributions, which will result in a dramatic outflow from district budgets. That means that all other spending, including salaries, buildings, buses, textbooks and everything else, will have to be reduced, quickly and significantly.

Barring some investment bonanza (unlikely, unless we invent a second internet), funds will not make the returns they need; if that’s the case, expect to see them requiring much more from districts in very short order.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It’s worse than you think (career/college readiness) reported today on a 2010 study that looked at whether high school students were being prepared for career or college. The results were shocking – and they were actually worse under the surface.

According to the report, produced by researchers at the University of Arizona and Johns Hopkins University, 40% of high school students graduate without being prepared for college or for a career. These students, researchers contend, are “’a virtual underclass of students’ who finish high school with a transcript filled with watered-down general education courses and few prospects for success either in traditional college or in professional training.”

The authors note that 33% of high school students graduate on a ‘college prep’ track, with an additional quarter of students on a career prep pathway. But there are a few basic facts that make these numbers worse than they initially appear:

  • The report specifically speaks to high school graduates, which ignores the 30% of students who drop out before graduating. Add those students back in to the calculations (specifically, to the ‘generally unprepared’ category) and the numbers change to 55% of all students leaving school unprepared (diploma in hand or not), 26% graduate on a college track, and 19.5% on a career pathway.

  • The authors note the truly alarming facts about students who go on to two-year or four-year postsecondary education: Namely, that right now, just two states award more than 20 degrees per 100 students in community college, and only eight states award more than 20 degrees per 100 students in four-year colleges.

  • The definition of career pathway, though commonly accepted, is particularly weak: Taking at least two CTE courses. That’s it. Certainly some students are taking a full array of CTE courses and becoming prepared for work – but how many are taking no more than two courses, and of those, how many are really career-ready?
These facts are daunting, and the authors’ suggested solutions – namely integrating instruction both within the school walls and with outside parties – are good ones. But they ignore the reality of how we got here in the first place – unless you address the problems that led us to where we are, you’ll never be able to change the system going forward.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Normalcy bias

Normalcy bias is one of the greatest challenges facing education today – but recognizing its existence opens up tremendous opportunities for those who can step outside the box and react accordingly.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, it basically means this: If you’ve been traveling on a straight road for a long period of time, you tend to think that road will continue to be straight well into the future. We look at the progression of our lives and assume that the status quo will continue rolling forward on a linear path. And it is something we are all naturally very susceptible to.

Nassim Taleb, author of “The Black Swan” (the business book, not the movie!), writes about it from the perspective of the Happy Turkey. Every day for a couple of years, a farmer comes out and gives the turkey water and tasty food; the turkey has a covered place to sleep and is kept safe from predators. Based on these past two years, this is how he expects to live out his life; however, those who celebrate Thanksgiving know that a very different fate awaits him.

I’m not suggesting that anyone in education is going to lose their head, of course. I share the story as an example of how our views of the future are built from our experiences up to this point. In education, we had a long period – 60 years or more – of relative prosperity, every year seeing growth in spending and an increase in services. That prosperity went on for so long that today, even after a few years of belt-tightening, many expect us to end the current financial detour and get back on that road.

But what if our road is no longer straight? What if we’re in the middle of a turn, and we haven’t even realized it?

If that’s the case – and I believe it is, based on some of the reasons I’ve laid out elsewhere – then K-12 education is going to start looking very different from what we see today. I can’t say that I know where we’re headed, but I do believe that enlisting local communities as full and equal partners is the single best strategy available to us to counter the challenges we face and revitalize our entire approach to educating our children.

For that to happen, we must all recognize our own tendencies toward normalcy bias – and realize that while the future will very likely not look like the past, we can make it look better if we engage our communities and make it happen.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The big, ugly picture in K-12 education

When I started this blog in 2005, my focus was primarily on partnership practices: who was working with whom to do what, what research had come out to highlight effective approaches, or who was saying something editorially that was relevant to the field. It was a targeted focus, worthwhile if one’s assumptions about the world in which we worked were somewhat stable.

But in the fall of 2007, while doing my annual business planning, I stepped back to look at that larger environment, and saw that things were changing. (You can see the five-part blog series by scrolling through
here.) And, while I continued writing about practices (at the blog and, later, through the short-lived K-12 Partnership Report), I also began thinking and writing more about the economic background to all of this.

Now, three years after the economic crash of 2008, I’m drawing the inexorable conclusion that this has not been the temporary dip we all hoped it would be, but rather a major turning point. I don’t believe there is any chance that we’ll recover in the traditional sense and hit good times again with renewed growth and blue skies. Our expectations, and the resources we have to reach them, have fundamentally diverged – and it’s going to be an uncomfortable journey as we realize this and take the steps needed to realign the two.

This is true for the country in general and for K-12 education in particular. We add more and more expectations (college for all, more standards, more STEM education, more equity) but we’re able to put less into the system. We can handle this divergence for a little while, but as the gap increases, the stresses are going to grow.

You can see it happening in the UK – it hasn’t been covered here very well, but right now, more than 70% of their schools are partially or completely closed while the unions strike against pension reform (see “
Generation’s Largest Strike Closes UK Schools”). Less resources there mean teachers’ pay packages are being adjusted, and it’s disrupting public education.

I don’t know how it’s going to play out here, but I believe that we’re in for big changes in the near future. It could turn out to be a positive thing (as in a cleansing of some dysfunctional aspects of the system) or a bad thing, but I’m sure it will be disruptive. I’ll post more soon on the evidence that leads me to these conclusions and additional thoughts on what to expect next.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

If you’re gonna go, go big

We’re getting very close to an inflection point in K-12 education.

Federal stimulus money ($100 billion over two years, close to 10% of ALL spending on education) was supposed to buffer schools from the economic downturn, providing a bridge to a time when tax revenues recovered. But we hit a snag: the money ran out and the economy hasn’t bounced back. In fact, there’s
active debate as to whether we’re about to enter a second recession. And even if we manage to avoid the technical definition of a recession, it’s easy to see strong economic headwinds in the future that will prevent future growth in education spending. (For more on this point, start here.)

We’re now in the middle of a conflict between a desire for new revenue (from the schools) and a reluctance to provide it (from the public). This
EdWeek article sums it up nicely. It was completely predictable - and utterly avoidable.

I say predictable for two reasons. First, because the economic tea leaves were easy to read. The Boomers are a major economic force, and as they rolled through history they produced great gains along with some bubbles, including the housing bubble. It was great for schools going up, as property tax revenues exploded; those revenues have only now started to decline, and as the Boomers retire they’ll have an ongoing negative impact on K-12 spending. And second, because the gap between communities and their schools has widened over time. In ‘boom’ times, people don’t mind that more funds are flowing to schools; they’re doing well, and that funding – as a proportion of their own income – isn’t changing. But in ‘bust’ times, people watch every dime, and if they don’t feel attached to something (like their schools), and if they don’t see a benefit or ROI for that spending, they want to minimize it.

So yes, it was predictable – and it was avoidable with a little foresight. The good news is that it’s also fixable.

The fix will not come through the traditional partnership or foundation work we’ve seen in the past. That work, though positive and appreciated, has not operated on a scale or at a scope needed to counter economic forces, nor can it. We’ve never seen public support flow into the general district budget – any direct financial support typically goes into “wraparound” activities (scholarships, after-school and curricular programs). Other types of support (donations, volunteers, etc.) have had a “supplemental” or “enhancement” focus as well.

Instead, the fix – the way to counter current economic challenges – is to re-engage the community as full and equal supporters. Invite your community in as true collaborators, with the authority needed to co-direct the setting of goals and the means of achieving them. Move them from the periphery to the core of K-12 education and take a true
zero-based budgeting approach to schooling. You’ll see community support skyrocket, and levels of support will increasing accordingly. You’ll also see lots of expenses fall away as you collectively decide what’s not important in your education mission.

Radical? Yes. But given the intractable financial challenges we face now, and will begin facing at an increasing scale in the future, there is no other solution.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Aligning K-12 ed and public interests

I occasionally contribute to the National Journal's education page. I recently responded to a new question on encouraging both college and the teaching of financial literacy (response will soon appear here), but thought it worthwhile to repost my comment since it relates to the importance of collaboration and communication between the public and public education.

Here's what I wrote:

There is certainly a link between gauging the ROI of college and promoting financial literacy. But these issues also point to a larger problem: namely, the disconnect between our schools and the communities they were created to serve.

When it comes to postsecondary education, our schools are not preparing students for the opportunities they’ll be presented with upon graduating. We advocate college for everyone, but those going to college are not being prepared for, or directed to, the areas of greatest professional opportunity: the percentage of college students graduating with a degree in a STEM-related area has dropped from 11.1% in 1980 to 8.9% in 2009. And the reality is that many students don’t need to go to college at all: some of the greatest opportunities today for secure jobs with good incomes are found in the middle-skill positions, which more often than not don’t require a college degree. Why not let some students prepare for that path instead, rather than saddle them unnecessarily with an average $24,000 in student loan debt like their college-going peers? It’s past time that we align our K-12 efforts, and the message we send our kids, with the world they’ll encounter once they leave our halls.

Regarding personal finance, just about everyone thinks teaching financial literacy is a no-brainer. So why is it that today, only half the states even touch on it? (Specifically: four states require at least a one-semester length course to be taught in the subject, while 20 require a lesser treatment.) It’s because adding one more course requirement in K-12 education is like trying to put five pounds of flour in a three-pound sack: to get something new in, something else is going to have to come out. We have had no public discussion, let alone consensus, on our priorities, so there’s no way to decide what’s to be removed so this important topic can be introduced.

Both of these examples point to a great need to incorporate public input and circumstance into our K-12 decisions. Our students – and the schools that serve them – would be much better off as a result.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The cost of college

There is a great debate as to whether everyone should go to college. I'm not writing to weigh in on that debate (though I am squarely against it), but rather to note one of the implications that must be considered: The rise in student loan debt.

According to this post at ZeroHedge, the total amount of student loan debt outstanding has, for the first time, exceeded total outstanding credit card debt; at $830 billion, it is the single largest category of unsecured debt in the country today. And remember that it cannot be discharged via bankruptcy; once you take the money, you're going to pay it back or face penalties, garnishments, and the like until it is resolved.

So as we talk about sending more and more kids to college, which has increased in cost much faster than inflation (or even medicine), consider the debt we're saddling them with along the way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Partnerships/foundations as school board platform?

I sift through a lot of news reports on partnerships and foundations, and over the past few years I've noticed something new: accounts of school board candidates talking about partnerships and school foundations as part of their platform.

The most recent example is found here, which highlights a candidate in California proposing a community-based mentoring program and leaning more heavily on the education foundation as a fundraising tool for the district.

It's encouraging to see community engagement brought up at this level - again, it's not something I saw prior to the 2008 economic crisis. However, while I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, I wish they were talking about more than tapping into the community as a new source of revenue; ultimately that's not going to pay off the way they think it will. It would be far more productive to bring the community to the table as real partners (not just benefactors) to identify desired outcomes and share in the hard work of determining how to reach their shared objectives.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Real partnerships include having a voice

I was unfortunately not able to attend the recent education summit hosted by The News-Press in Southwest Florida, but I'm finding the materials they've published from the event to be fascinating. I have not found newspapers generally interested in promoting outside-the-system solutions, but these folks have clearly identified the need for the community to play a significant role in turning things around.

My concern with this, as with improvement efforts elsewhere, is the way in which the community is asked to help. All too often, the community becomes one more "pocket" for schools to dip into; they get no say in setting the goals or identifying how to reach them, they're just asked to support what the schools have decided they'll do. That's fine to an extent, but if you look at education as the News-Press has framed it, our schools are designed to produce outcomes that are important to the community; the community should therefore have a say in what those outcomes are and how they are achieved.

If we say that workforce preparedness is important, then we cannot limit the community's role to supplemental activities like scholarships and internships; they must have a say in what workforce preparedness looks like and in building the path for students to get there. That means building real (not tangential) partnerships, including getting involved in designing and delivering instruction. It works in career and technical education, where industry helps define success and informs instruction; why can't it work outside of the CTE silo with the entire student population?

The bottom line: if K-12 education is going to remain relevant and ultimately succeed, it's only going to happen through real, hands-on community engagement, and not solely through gifting disguised as partnerships.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Comparing apples to apples

Walt Gardner, a retired teacher who blogs at Education Week, has a new post titled It's Hypocritical to Demand Merit Pay for Teachers that exemplifies the flawed thinking of many who argue against applying the principles of business (or logic) to the teaching profession.

He counters the argument that teacher pay should be based on performance by pointing to the CEOs who undeservedly get golden parachutes when leaving a company. He asserts, “[Fran] Tarkenton insists there is accountability in the private sector, but he is mute about these golden parachutes. The truth is that those at or near the top in corporate America can make more money in a year in spite of their performance than teachers can make in a lifetime in the classroom.”

The comparison, of course, is ridiculous, and unworthy of the (virtual) pages of EdWeek. Using Gardner’s line of reasoning, I’m outraged that Saudi princes have harems filled with beautiful women and teachers don’t. Where is the justice?

Perhaps we could do more a more intellectually honest comparison by looking at teachers, who are rank-and-fine employees, with the rank-and-file employees of the business world, who do in fact work on a merit pay system. Or, if we wanted to pursue Gardner’s fascination with CEOS, would co go apples-to-apples by looking at CEO golden parachutes and the many superintendents who are booted before their terms with scads of “go away” money.

How about Arlene Ackerman, leaving Philly with $905,000 in her pocket? Or how about other superintendents noted in EdWeek’s article, Hefty Superintendent Buyouts Irk Lawmakers, Taxpayers, which notes:

Arlene Ackerman’s $905,000 settlement with the Philadelphia district grabbed headlines, but she isn’t the only Pennsylvania superintendent who has been shown the door in recent months with a generous settlement in hand.

According to media reports, William Hall, who led the 3,050-student Gettysburg district, left in February with $542,000. That included two years of salary and forgiving the mortgage on his house, which he had bought from the district’s vocational education program. In August, Gerald Zahorchak, Pennsylvania’s former secretary of education, was bought out a year into his five-year contract to lead the 17,700-student Allentown district. He will be paid a year’s salary of $195,000 and a $55,000 lump sum.

To be clear, I’m not arguing in favor of golden parachutes for CEOs or for superintendents. It actually brings up another similarity between K-12 education and the business world: namely, that the boards and shareholders of both are asleep at the wheel if they’re allowing this kind of excessive and undeserved compensation.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hopes dashed, again (Vision for Public Education)

I just caught wind of a new project in Georgia called A Vision for Public Education and got excited: According to the chair of the Georgia School Boards Association, they have spent a great deal of time, with a great deal of community input, to create “a vision that looks at the entire system of public education in our state and how to move it forward.” So I dove in to learn more about their vision.

At first it seemed that they were hitting all the right marks. Community-based? Yes: the project was lead by the school boards association in partnership with the superintendents group, and solicited community input to fuel the project. Fiddling around the edges? No, at least at first glance. They make the following claim in the introduction to the full report:

We recognize the difference between optimizing the current system (i.e., improving its operations without drastically altering any of its basic structures) and transforming it (i.e., rethinking the delivery of curriculum and instruction, allocation of resources, and perhaps, many long-held assumptions about when and where education is delivered and who delivers it). Christensen, Horn, and Johnson (2008) distinguish between sustaining innovations that make incremental improvements to goods and services and disruptive innovations that completely transform an industry, sometimes in a relatively short period of time. A commonly cited example of a disruptive innovation is the personal computer, which in a period of years, transformed workplaces and led to the rise of new web-based businesses. Christensen et al. argue that existing organizations have great difficulty in undertaking disruptive innovations.

The purpose of this document is to offer a series of recommendations that, taken in total, implemented effectively over our state, and supported by the citizens of the state and policymakers, will transform public education in Georgia.

Wow – that’s inspiring. So it’s frustrating that the report failed to live up to its potential.

While the second chapter pays lip service to the question of why we educate, and offers a handful of vague bullet points to that end, the report fails to get specific as to what “the preparation of high school graduates for college, career, and life” actually means in specific terms. It is also the last time that student or community-based outcomes are referenced. The rest of the report focuses on improving processes in areas such as early childhood education, teaching and learning, the structure of public education, management, and (of course) financial resources.

This is a perfect example of the primary problem with public education: We continue to focus on process (ie, how we teach), and adamantly refuse to have a real conversation about outcomes (ie, why we teach). It’s like if we were to talk about revolutionizing archery, and after making a brief nod to the fact that yes, there is a target somewhere and we should aim in that direction, we then spent all our time focusing on the archer’s clothes, the bow, and the fletching on the arrows. If we don’t know what the target looks like, or where it is, then what point is there in talking about how we shoot?

In the Georgia report, they highlight the importance of early childhood education, but to what end? There are no goals listed; we cannot know what a successful early childhood education looks like. Should they be able to read, or do any math? Why?

They also don’t expound on any of their very-roughly-laid-out objectives at the beginning. Sure, we want students with civic awareness. But what does that mean? Tell me what a civically-aware graduate looks like, in concrete terms, so I can tell whether you’ve produced one.

The same goes for workforce preparedness. Yes, we want all kids prepared to enter the world of work. But what does that mean? Give me specifics. Do you expect every child to go to college, and if not are you proposing a tracking system? What does it mean, in concrete terms, to be prepared in this area?

I appreciate the impulse to re-vision public education; it’s something that desperately needs to happen. But please, can someone start a conversation on why we educate, and leave the “how” until after we figure out that primary subject?