The DeHavilland Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Teens as content producers

Just came across a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. A summary of their latest report reads:

American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the
internet as they create and share their own media creations. Fully half of all
teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered Content
Creators. They have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork,
photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own
new creations.

Teens are often much more enthusiastic authors and readers of blogs than
their adult counterparts. Teen bloggers, led by older girls, are a major part of
this tech-savvy cohort. Teen bloggers are more fervent internet users than
non-bloggers and have more experience with almost every online activity in the

Teens continue to actively download music and video from the internet and
have used multiple sources to get their files. Those who get music files online
believe it is unrealistic to expect people to self-regulate and avoid free
downloading and file-sharing altogether.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions about what this should tell us regarding the ways we can reach and teach our kids (versus what normally happens in the classroom.) Get the complete report

Fuel for schools

The Council, Idaho school district was experiencing rising energy prices while using outdated oil and electric heating systems; meanwhile, the Forest Service was burning tons of wood from the Payette National Forest just to thin out the forest to prevent fires. Solution: take advantage of the Forest Service's Fuel for Schools program, which provides biomass (forest debris) that can be burned for use in heating systems, a move which will save them one million dollars over the next fifteen years.

You can read more about this brilliant bit of community partnership work by reading this article.

Real action on the use of school time

I recently blogged about "Prisoners of Time," a report released on 1994 by the National Education Commission on Time and Learning and was rereleased a few months ago (with no action taken by schools in between. (See that blog entry here.)

It looks like there actually has been some progress made in this area, at least in Massachusetts. According to
this article, the MA legislature, acting in support of Governor Romney's call for a longer school day, has set aside $500,000 to fund the efforts of 16 school districts to extend their schedules. Specific plans are due from the districts in January. It really is common sense: if you want kinds to learn more, you should require more classroom time to do so. I look forward to seeing what comes out of this.

Requirement for financial literacy in TX

Texas has joined a handful of states that require financial literacy be taught to students. (Click here for an article.) This is great news: if we want our schools to prepare students for life outside school walls, financial literacy is one of the core life skills that needs to be conveyed.

Laura Levine (head of the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a great group) had a sharp quote:

Laura Levine, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Jump$tart
Coalition for Personal Finance Literacy, applauded Texas' new requirement —
shared by fewer than a dozen other states.

She called financial education the sex education of the 21st century,
saying that adults want kids to have the facts on the subject, but don't want to
be the ones to teach it.

"Everyone said: 'This is a good idea. It's something kids need to be
taught, but I don't want to be the one to do it. I'm not an expert,' " she

She's right that personal financial education is critical - few people disagree with that - but that it oftentimes doesn't happen in the home due to a lack of comfort or knowledge on the part of parents. To their credit (no pun intended), JumpStart also realized that applies to teachers, which is why their state coalitions focus so strongly on teacher training in this area.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Finally - a big vision for education

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Minority Leader, has outlined the Democratic Party's five-part "innovation agenda" which puts education front and center. (Good article here - free registration may be required.)

The five parts include:
  • Creating an educated, skilled workforce in the vital areas of science, math, engineering, and information technology - done through a combination of scholarship incentives, improved financial support (tuition payments, better salaries, etc.) for teachers in STEM areas, making tuition for students majoring in targeted disciplines tax-deductible, and making it easier (through visa rules) for overseas scholars to come here to teach.
  • Invest in a sustained federal research and development initiative that promotes public-private partnerships - driving innovation by doubling NSF funding (from $5.5 billion to $11 billion), establishing regional centers of excellence for basic research, and establishing an R&D tax credit.
  • Guarantee affordable access to broadband technology for all Americans within the next five years - the US is currently 16th in the world for broadband penetration; this plan would allow for an investment in broadband infrastructure through federal investments and tax credits.
  • Achieve energy independence in 10 years by developing emerging technologies for clean and sustainable alternatives that will strengthen national security and protect the environment - fund the Department of Energy to invest in high-risk, high-return research on energy alternatives involving biotech, nanotech, solar, and fuel cells. Interestingly, this "10 years to energy independence" was prominently mentioned in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman - I'm sure that's no coincidence.
  • Provide small businesses with the tools to encourage entrepreneurial innovation and job creation - this is a political catch-all, but it's nice to see a call for universal and affordable access to health insurance, small business financial support and technical assistance, and reduced regulation.

No budget figures were attached to this, but clearly it would require a monumental investment. The question is, is that an investment we should be making? What are the trajectories if we follow this new path, versus sticking with the current path?

Answering only for myself, I think this is an extremely exciting vision - congratulations to the Democrats for putting it out there. (For the record, it doesn't matter to me which party puts stuff like this on the table - good ideas are good ideas.) And based on the article, it sounds as if it gets a good response from innovation businesses; the CEO of Cisco and the head of government affairs for Microsoft, are both quoted as being warm to it.

Of course, it's just a floater - and a floater from a party without control of the house, senate, or white house. But if these ideas get some traction, they'll have to become part of the debate - and by making these types of things the center of the conversation, both parties will have to factor them into their campaigning and legislative agendas. So again - hooray for good thinking - let's see these things move forward!

A personal thought on blogging

(Heads up: this post is off-target from business/education work, but it’s a thought I wanted to share.)

I think I’m finally starting to get this whole Internet thing.

It’s commonly held that the Internet democratizes information, allowing access to great hordes of information to anyone with a computer and a hookup. We’ve already seen how this has changed many aspects of our society, and I imagine that change will be ongoing.

It also democratizes speech – allows us to get around the gatekeepers and publish our own content. We don’t have to have credentials, the authority granted by mainstream media, or big budgets for printing a newspaper or running a TV station – we can just write and post. And blogging democratizes speech further by eliminating the need for web hosting and fancy web site development software. All you need is a blogging account and the ability to write – that’s it.

But here’s what I’m finally “getting”: that you can speak all you want, but you won’t be heard unless you engage in conversation. This is true in life, and the web reflects it.

I have lots of opinions, and I can sit here and pontificate all day. If I do that in real life, it’s nearly impossible to gain an audience of any size – no one wants to be talked at by a blowhard who speaks but doesn’t listen. But if I find a group of people who share my interests, and we have an honest-to-goodness conversation – sharing ideas, pushing back, respecting one another’s points of view but prodding them and exploring them – now you’re getting somewhere. By listening and conversing with others, we build an audience for ourselves as part of a larger forum.

The Internet operates in exactly the same way. I have my blog, and I can write as much as I want. And I can try to make people aware of my blog by regularly submitting posts to blog search engines (Technorati and the like). But that sort of one-directional approach – traditional marketing, really – has limited value at best.

The real way to build audience is to go out and find other people interested in the same things I’m interested in (in my case, education reform and corporate social engagement) and join the conversation. Read what they’re saying and comment on it. By contributing to their conversation, you make a name for yourself – and since most blogging comment areas can display your home page as well as your name, you make it possible for people to visit your site (assuming what you’ve written intrigues them) and hear what you’re saying there.

The beauty of this is that you can’t do it cynically – you have to join the conversation. If you want to be heard, you must listen and contribute – there’s really no other way. What’s more, if you’re listening and contributing, what you think and believe will be based on broader input and more voices, and will be honed by the challenges and differing opinions you face. Your own thinking improves as a result – and you’re able to provide greater value to the audience you found while in the process of honing your thoughts. It’s a cycle that moves ever upwards towards better thinking and a greater audience.

I still have much more to do in terms of joining the conversation - but understanding things, or at least understanding things a little better, feels like a great start.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Singapore luring US biomed researchers

NASSMC highlighted two recent articles that draw a stark contrast. The first was an all-too-common story of US educational shortcomings: according to Julie Rankin, who runs science education for the New York City Department of Education, science education in NYC deserves a failing grade, and cannot even provide data on progress at this point (article in the New York Times here).

From the article:

Council members said that the school system suffered from a lack of
qualified science teachers, laboratory space and classroom time to spend on
science, and that the results were lackluster test scores in the low grades and
high failure rates for high school students on the science Regents exams.

In addition, they said, the science curriculum is uneven and the
department has very little knowledge of what actually happens in individual
schools regarding science, a claim that education officials at the hearing did
not dispute.

Contrast that with an article that came out in the Chronicle for Higher Education, synopsized here under the title "Singapore luring US biomed researchers" by NASSMC:

News Brief #3342 Category: Role of Education in Business
TITLE: "Singapore's Regeneration"

Singapore's government is using top-notch research facilities and
blank-check budgets to lure leading biomedical researchers to their
universities. Last year, the country opened a $300-million science complex, an
investment the government hopes will eventually pay off by making Singapore a
biomedical powerhouse.

"They have decided to make biomedical science work," said Alan Coleman, a
researcher who worked on the team that cloned Dolly the sheep, "and they'll do
what is necessary to make it happen."

The government recently committed to spending $7 billion on biotechnology
over the next five years, on top of the $4 billion they spent between 2000 and

The drawbacks are Singapore's lack of political freedom and its stiff
penalties for questioning official authority, abuses which were recently cited
in a U.S. State Department report on human rights. But some scientists are
willing to make that tradeoff in return for financial stability. Many worry that
stem-cell research in particular has become too much of a political football in
the United States.

"Unlike in the United States, 'embryonic stem cells' are not dirty words
here," says Ariff Bongso, director of in vitro fertilization and andrology at
the National University of Singapore.

SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 November 2005 (p. A42)
The NASSMC Briefing Service (NBS) is supported in part by the International
Technology Education Association and Triangle Coalition for Science and
Technology Education. Briefs reflect only the opinions, findings, conclusions,
or recommendations expressed in the source articles. Click
to SUBSCRIBE, COMMENT, or FIND archived NBS briefs. Click
for information about NASSMC. Permission is granted to re-distribute NBS briefs
in unmodified form, including header and footer.

I understand that this isn't apples to apples, but there's clearly something to be said for a horrendous (Julie Rankin's word, not mine) failure in science education in the country's largest school district versus an investment in science that is great enough to start luring US scientists overseas.

Why has our government abandoned science? Do politicians and their constituents (which is really the root cause in a representative government) not see the writing on the wall?

Friday, November 11, 2005

A cavalcade of great outreach initiatives

I’ve been catching up on my reading and research and wanted to share some of the intriguing education outreach program models I’ve come across:
  • JETS (Junior Engineering Technical Society) and NISH (a national nonprofit that creates employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities) are partnering on the National Engineering Design Challenge (NEDC). This contest challenges high school students who are interested in various engineering or related disciplines to design technologies that help people with disabilities enter or advance in the workplace. A fantastic idea: building a program that gives students an opportunity to shine in engineering while at the same time creating some practical social good. More info
  • The Lemelson-MIT program gives student teams a chance to identify problems and propose a STEM-based solution. After reviewing all entries, the program then funds selected teams with $10,000 per team so that they can actually build their proposed invention. “At its core, InvenTeams is about invention, but there is so much more to the experience,” said a program manager. “Not everyone who participates needs to be a science or math whiz. Students also learn leadership, teamwork, project management, communication, budgeting and marketing skills. These are universal and transferable to any type of career.” More info here.
  • Cisco Systems has announced “Connected Learning for Schools,” a four-step blueprint that guides educators in the intelligent and effective use of technology to help transform schools. This type of free support for schools at the administrator level is invaluable and not considered nearly enough in business-education partnerships. More info here.
  • AOL has a grant-based program called AOL Aspires which is remarkable on a number of fronts. First, their giving is targeted in areas (social supports, intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy) that have proven to be correlated positively with high achievement – in other words, they’ve built their program from a solid research base. Next, these are not one-time grants – they can extend funding on a partial basis based on evidence of success. And finally, what’s most remarkable is the level of followup review they’ve instituted: there are regular surveys of participating students which demonstrate impact of the program. More info here.
  • Girls Inc. and SRI International, working with NSF funding, are building a program to capitalize on middle school age girls’ interest in design and communication technologies to motivate them to use technology, build their technology fluency, and foster their interest in pursuing IT careers. The program concentrates on girls from under-served communities. More info here.

  • If you know of any interesting business/education partnership models, send them on for inclusion in the next cavalcade!

    Who controls the gift?

    Interesting question, especially for those who wish to make targeted gifts to schools or districts. Once you give your donation, who controls how it's used? The district? A teacher or program director? An independent party? Better think carefully about that, otherwise it may not be used as you intended, as illustrated in this article from the 10/05 Teacher Magazine.

    Analyzing our basic assumptions

    The Education Commission on the States recently reissued "Prisoners of Time," a 1994 report from the National Education Commission on Time and Learning, a federal body which was legislated into existence in 1991. Why is it being rereleased? Because, despite the undeniable logic and clear solutions presented in this report, nothing has happened with its recommendations in the 11 years since its original publication.

    The report, which can be downloaded from
    this page, lays out a clear case that we are constrained in our ability to teach by the hard limits we put on time. We are being governed by the clock, and not by inputs or outcomes. A few facts pulled verbatim from the report:
    • With few exceptions, schools open and close their doors at fixed times in the morning and early afternoon - a school in one district might open at 7:30am and clse at 2:15pm; in another, the school day might run from 8:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon.
    • With few exceptions, the school year lasts nine months, beginning in late summer and ending in late sprint.
    • According to NCES, schools typically offer a six-period day, with about 5.6 hours of classroom time a day.
    • No matter how complex or simple the subject - literature, shop, physics, gym, or algebra - the schedule assigns each an impartial national average of 51 minutes per class period, no matter how well or poorly students comprehend the material.
    • The norm for required school attendance, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers, is 180 days. Eleven states permit school terms of 175 days or less; only one state requires more than 180.
    • Secondary school graduation requirements are universally based on seat time - "Carnegie Units," a standard of measurement representing one credit for completion of a one-year course meeting daily.
    • Staff salary increases are typically tied to time - to seniority and the number of hours of graduate work completed.
    • Despite the obsession with time, little attention is paid to how it is used: in 42 states examined by the Commission, only 41 percent of secondary school time must be spent on core academic subjects.
    The report goes on to state:

    Unyielding and relentless, the time available in a uniform six-hour day and
    a 180-day year is the unacknowledged design flaw in American education. By
    relying on time as the metric for school organization and curriuclum, we have
    built a learning enterprise on a foundation of sand, on five premises educators
    know to be false.

    The first is the assumption that students arrive to school ready to
    learn in the same way, on the same schedule, all in rhythm with each

    The second is the notion that academic time can be used for nonacademic
    purposes with no effect on learning.

    Next is the pretense that because yesterday's calendar was good enough
    for us, it should be good enough for our children - despite major changes in the
    larger society.

    Fourth is the myth that schools can be transformed without giving
    teachers the time they need to retool themselves and reorganize their

    Finally, we find a new fiction: it is reasonable to expect "world-class
    academic performance" from our students within the time-bound system that is
    already failing them.

    These five assumptions are a recipe for a kind of slow-motion social

    Much more information in the report; IMHO, an essential read, and an essential reminder to question our underlying assumptions of what we're trying to accomplish and how we can/should go about it.

    What does it mean to be educated?

    There's an inspiring definition here from Charles Slater at Texas State University - San Marcos.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    The cost of education failings

    I am such a huge fan of the National Alliance of State Science and Math Coalitions (NASSMC) - they provide an invaluable service in gathering and distributing important information on the state of education in general, and science and math in particular. If you haven't signed up for their daily emails, I would highly recommend it - go here (it's free, by the way).

    Rather than editorialize, I'm just going to reproduce on of today's posts here in its entirety - it's a concise piece, and there are links in the post for those who want more information.

    News Brief #3326 Category: Education Study Report
    TITLE: "Researchers Tally Costs of Education Failings"

    Researchers at a Columbia University symposium on the social costs of inadequate education warned that the U.S. cannot afford to ignore high dropout rates if it is to compete internationally.

    The low incomes of high school dropouts relative to college graduates cost the nation about $158 billion in lost earnings and $36 billion in lost state and federal income taxes for each class of 18-year-olds, according to Cecilia Rouse, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University. In addition, she said, nearly 80 percent of dropouts depend on the government for health-care assistance.

    Jane Waldfogel, a professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia, argued that educating single mothers who are dropouts could wipe 125,000 families off the public-assistance rolls annually, for a savings of $1.5 billion.

    A one-percent increase in graduation rates would reduce the number of crimes nationally by about 100,000, translating into a $1.4 billion annual savings in law enforcement and incarceration costs, said Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

    More information about the symposium is available at
    SOURCE: Education Week, 02 November 2005 (p. 06)

    The NASSMC Briefing Service (NBS) is supported in part by the International Technology Education Association and Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education. Briefs reflect only the opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the source articles. Click to SUBSCRIBE, COMMENT, or FIND archived NBS briefs. Click for information about NASSMC. Permission is granted to re-distribute NBS briefs in unmodified form, including header and footer.

    Is the US hostile to science?

    It certainly appears that way from an article published a few days ago in the New York Times (click here; free registration required). While this is not a new phenomenon - it's been in the works for quite a while - top representatives of Cornell and Stanford highlight how the ever-larger debate on teaching intelligent design in schools is representative of a growing bias against science. Acting Cornell president Hunter Rawlings:

    Rawlings said the (intelligent design) dispute was widening political, social,
    religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. "When ideological division
    replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers,'' he

    Also from the article:

    Polls for many years have shown that a majority of Americans are at odds
    with key scientific theory. For example, as CBS poll this month found that 51
    percent of respondents believed humans were created in their present form by
    God. A further 30 percent said their creation was guided by God. Only 15 percent
    thought humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of

    Other polls show that only around a third of American adults accept the
    Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, even though the concept is
    virtually uncontested by scientists worldwide.

    "When we ask people what they know about science, just under 20 percent
    turn out to be scientifically literate,'' said Jon Miller, director of the
    center for biomedical communication at Northwestern University.

    He said science and especially mathematics were poorly taught in most
    U.S. schools, leading both to a shortage of good scientists and general
    scientific ignorance.

    Only 20% are scientifically literate. And isn't that the sort of thing that replicates itself across generations? If I'm not scientifically literate, how supportive am I going to be of schools or others orienting my kid in that direction? Probably not very, especially if you're contradicting my belief systems in the process. And in the meantime, other countries are passionate about science, recognizing that it represents their future.

    So what's the solution? How can you get parents to "give up their kids to science" so to speak? All I can see is a concerted effort at all levels to drive home the simple message that "science equals success." If you want our country to prosper - if you want your kid to have a good job when he/she grows up - man, you better let them loose. Otherwise we are doomed to fail, and I do not believe that to be an understatement.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    The value of corporate social engagement

    Just came across a press release that I'll reproduce here in its entirety - it's just that good. I love the thought of corporate social engagement, whether it's philanthropy, volunteer programs, or other forms of community outreach, as "business insurance". It makes all kinds of sense, and it's nice to see some research being done that backs that up.


    Press release from: Brigham Young University

    Corporate Philanthropy Adds to Shareholder Wealth, Says BYU Study

    Good deeds act as 'insurance policy' against misfortune, scandal and negative headlines

    CSRwire) PROVO, Utah – Google's recent announcement that it has earmarked $265 million of the money raised in its public stock offering for charity resurrects a long-standing debate over whether or not companies should be involved in philanthropic efforts.

    And although detractors contend that money spent on charity should go back into shareholders’ pockets, a new study in the "Academy of Management Review" by a Brigham Young University business professor argues that a track record of corporate giving protects a company much like an insurance policy, adding to overall value and shielding shareholders’ investment in the event of misfortune.

    "Bad things happen to every company, even the best companies," says Paul Godfrey, an associate professor of strategy in BYU’s Marriott School of Management. "And just like a business with fire insurance is more valuable than one without it, businesses that have earned a reputation for being generous through acts of philanthropy are given the benefit of the doubt when negative events occur."

    When accidents happen, lawsuits are filed or harmful news coverage creeps out, shareholders, customers and industry regulators often question if managers are looking out for anyone but themselves, says Godfrey. If a company has demonstrated its character through philanthropic giving and community outreach efforts, such criticism may be tempered.

    "The stock price will rebound more quickly, management won’t be viewed as harshly, fines will be less, boycotts may be shorter," says Godfrey. "And to a shareholder, that's valuable."

    Intangible relationship-based assets, which can be worth millions to a company and its shareholders, are often the very assets that receive the most benefit from philanthropic efforts in the event of misfortune, he says.

    "Part of the reason that people have had such a hard time seeing the justification for corporate giving is that they don't see any extra revenue being generated from the expense," says Godfrey. "What I argue in my paper is that they should look at it more like reputation insurance."

    Jeffrey S. Harrison, the W. David Robbins chair in strategic management at the University of Richmond, said Godfrey's article provides compelling economic justification for corporate giving.

    "In this regard, it is truly groundbreaking research," said Harrison. "For many years scholars have debated whether there is any sound economic justification for corporate philanthropy. Godfrey's well-grounded explanation that 'doing good' provides insurance-like protection for companies because of the goodwill it creates is very significant. I am sure it will promote a lot of additional inquiry."

    Along with the economic incentive his model gives to managers to allocate a firm's resources toward philanthropy, Godfrey suggests that companies can still think of ways giving can be directed to further business interests.

    "For example, it would make sense for an outdoor outfitter like REI to make donations to organizations that promote nature or trail conservation," says Godfrey. "Or, in the case of Qwest, a telecommunications company with a broad range of customers, the strategy might be to give to promote education or literacy, interests that are somewhat related to communication and that would appeal to the company’s diverse customer base."

    That way, consumers see that the companies they frequent are concerned with the same issues that are important to them, says Godfrey, adding that consistency in giving is important to building the reputation that help companies weather storms. "

    Just like an insurance policy has premiums that must be paid to keep them current, a company can’t expect to give one time and receive any coverage. This is something a company has to work at, but it works because philanthropic activity is morally discretionary rather than obligatory."

    Surprising thoughts from a union leader

    EduWonk highlighted a recent statement from Morty Rosenfeld, head of a local teachers' union in New York, and a sitting member of the NEA's New York Board of Directors. Pulled from his essay:

    If the United States is to preserve our system of free public schools, teacher
    unions are going to have to stop accepting the status quo and making excuses for
    the poor performance of our students. Most of us know that contrary to all the
    talk about how we are raising our standards, in most of our schools they
    continue to decline......We must face the fact that some of the right-wing
    critique of public education, particularly their criticism of the ever inflating
    costs of public education, resonates with the American people because it is
    true, or at least truer than some of the blather put out by the people who run
    the schools and the unions who represent the people who work in them.

    Wow. More


    Article on applying business principles to schools

    Good commentary in Education Week last week from John Simmons, President of Strategic Learning Initiatives. The article (link here) is titled "High-Performance Schools: How urban districts can transform themselves using business models." An excerpt:

    Business leaders around the world have
    deepened our understanding about how to improve large, complex systems. Inspired
    by seminal works like Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
    and W. Edwards Deming’s Out of the Crisis, they have focused on principles that
    promote more effective leadership models, ranging from union-management
    collaboration and stronger teamwork to faster problem-solving and fewer levels
    of management.

    These ideas are not new. Kuhn introduced the concept of “paradigm
    shift” in 1962 to describe the dramatic improvement in results when
    organizations change basic assumptions. Deming and his Japanese colleagues
    pioneered the development and application of continuous quality improvement in
    the 1950s. Contributions from Richard Beckhard, Eric Trist, and others have also
    guided the redesign of large organizations to improve results.

    And several well-known corporate CEOs, such as Robert Galvin at
    Motorola, Donald Petersen at Ford, and Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines, have
    taken these ideas and transformed their companies.

    The connection between these transformations and what needs to happen in our
    schools is obvious: High-performance business models can turn schools around.

    Well worth reading for anyone interested in applying business principles to improving education.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Google page rankings and education

    There's a fascinating post at the think:lab site (here) about how people try to increase their page rankings in Google, and what that means to education. Worth checking out as a thought-provoker on the intersection between business and education.

    Focus on parents in the UK

    The UK came out with a new plan for its schools last week, and I’ve finally had some time to read over it. On the surface, it’s exciting stuff – what really caught my eye was the way in which they’ve put parents practically at the center of the reform process. (You can access the report here.)

    Titled “Higher Standards, Better Schools for All – More Choice for Parents and Pupils,” this report proposes a number of things, including:
    • Putting parents at the center of school reform, increasing the information they receive, instituting a formal complaint/concern system, and allowing them to take a lead role in setting up Foundation schools (like a charter school in the US)
    • Leaving high-performing schools alone, more or less
    • Stricter rules for discipline, giving teachers more authority and parents more responsibility
    There is a very high priority throughout this report on the involvement of parents, with the government very focused on providing them with both information and a voice in local schooling. This is very exciting stuff: I’ve often thought that there’s a similar need in the US for increased parental engagement, including more information, more authority, and more responsibility.

    We'll see how this plays out: already there are people criticizing this plan, focusing on the idea that lower-income parents will not get involved, and that the plan effectively reduces the power of local authorities. We'll see how things shake out, but the fact remains that increasing the role of parents in education cannot help but be a good thing.