Monday, August 03, 2009

Race to the Top

Clearly Arne's stimulus money is getting lots of attention. Everyone is thinking about how to get a piece of the action, and forgetting what the money is supposed to be doing.
1.) improve education for lots of kids,
2.) help stimulate the economy.
But in this case, it's; "educate the kids stupid," not: "it's the economy stupid"

I know that's not the widely held opinion. There's not a good history of education money being spent in the service of kids. One thing is, we don't know how to improve education on a large scale. I was just at a meeting where education was described as having "victory gardens rather than amber waves of grain."

So, are we going to be about developing more victory gardens? We know many people capable of creating a victory garden. But, can we build our victory gardens in such a way that they'll help us get those amber waves of grain?

And if you've been reading this blog, you know that, simultaneously, I want to find ways to seriously restructure the way we educate our population -- not just our youth. I won't belabor the point, but we're looking at a high school curriculum structure from the 1890s and a high school schedule that was designed in the mid-1900s. Isn't it time to push education into the 21st Century?

BTW, Arne's billions won't get us there. There's no vision for that. I was pleased and disappointed to see that the 21st Century Skills project had included science finally. It's taken them 5 years at least to get science in there, but is their vision of science really 21st Century? (pop quiz time -- what's the logic behind the traditional Bio/Chem/Physics sequence in high school science -- answer later).

What about math? Why Algebra then Geometry, then Algebra 2? Does learning Geometry exercise the brain to prepare students for learning more advanced math? We've known the brain isn't a muscle for a long time -- yet the sequence of Algebra/Geometry/Algebra 2 persists. Will the billions in Race to the Top have any impact on that?

Back to the main themes -- appropriate use of technology in the learning process and looking at topics like computational thinking as a real and recognized 21st Century skill. Maybe we need some victory gardens for those two (potentially large) topics. But we should only build victory gardens if they can be copied, enlarged, or put together to start building those really big fields of change.

Back to the billions... looks like all that money will be filtered through the SEAs -- and don't they have a wonderful record of creating innovation in their states? Which state do you think of when I say "innovation in education"? What's the innovation? Is it defined locally or nationally?

I want to encourage you to think about how anything you do can fit into a larger effort to not just revitalize what goes on in today's classrooms, but to change the education so we don't have to immediately think about classrooms as the only place where education takes place.

Oh, Bio/Chem/Physics -- alphabetical order. Honest, that's the rationale. Educational justifications were made later.