The DeHavilland Blog

Friday, October 28, 2005

We're not so different...

Just came across something interesting - apparently, at the same time that business and government leaders were meeting in Washington at the Business Education Network Summit, a group of education professionals - superintendents, mayors, governors, CIOs, curriculum directors and the like - were in Cape Cod to discuss education reform as well. This meeting, hosted by CCSSO, ECS, and the CELT Corporation was called the National Education Summit on "Leadership, Learning, and Technology for the 21st Century." An article in District Administration can be found here; a link to the conference home, where (hopefully) papers, press releases and the like will soon be posted, can be found here.

What strikes me is how similar the themes of these two conferences were (based on the DA article and my experience at BEN). Budgets, policies, and control issues are all hindering progress; communities need to get involved and help steer and support education; we need to take advantage of technology (distance learning, school information systems, ubiquitous computing, etc.); and so on. Both groups of course issued the same warnings about global education; they even based part of their concerns on the same book (The World Is Flat, by Thomas Friedman).

Once again, communication seems to me to be the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity. First, this group (as with BEN) repeatedly called for community engagement, which is 80% a communications issue (the other 20%, btw, is a willingness to have a conversation, and not dictate to the community what you're doing and what you need from them. Ask them what they want from public education and try to give it to them.) Second, why were these events held at the same time? I'm not saying it should have been a single event - perspectives and starting points are probably too different to have a productive session right off the bat - but there was tremendous opportunity for cross-pollination, with a delegation from each community joining the other to take part in the conversation. An opportunity lost.

In the big picture, of course, it is certainly encouraging that everyone is saying the same thing - it does seem like everyone agrees in principle to the need for change, and even on some of the major issues that need to be addressed. Implementation is the tough part - establishing common definitions of success, for one, and getting everyone to agree on the path(s) to get there. There are ways to do it - let's hope we can make it happen with all parties at the table.

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