Top ten education wishes 

My Top Ten education wishes for the future

What would it take to bring most American schools into the 21st century? Why aren’t we as a nation homing in on the kind of education students need in a world of uncertainty and rapid technological and social change?  Briefly, some 21st century changes and their implications to consider are the following:

·             Being awash in data and information

·             Information technologies, such as search engines

·             Cheap, worldwide electronic communications networks

·             Social networking

·             Genetic and other bio-engineering developments

·             Computers and robotics and their effects on work and        the workforce

·             The rise of other countries and the growth of the middle class in other countries

·             Global uncertainty

·             Career uncertainty (the need to change jobs and careers is much more likely in today’s and tomorrow’s world, outsourcing is increasing…)

·             General uncertainty

·             Unpredictable changes

·             Demand is for a more highly skilled, adaptable, creative work force that keeps up to date with changes in the workforce, technology, etc.

·             Political paralysis

 Given these changes, my wish is that all schools and districts, starting in 2012, commit to develop the following:

 1.     AN OUTCOMES BASED MISSION STATEMENT BASED ON THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS IN A 21ST CENTURY WORLD. The mission should focus on outcomes that will prepare students for lifelong learning, change, and citizenship; and promotes student self-development and understanding. The focus of the mission is on building core background knowledge, critical inquiry-communication-thinking skills, an understanding of US and global issues, support for service to others and character development, and the development of individual talents and interests. The nine other parts of this wish, below, are designed to develop programs and supports to implement this mission.

2.     A RICH, COHERENT, FOCUSED CURRICULUM. In a 21st century world, the school program should include a strong curriculum in all subject areas, including the arts. The curriculum in each area should be focused, coherent, and built around key understandings and essential questions. For example, the English/language arts program should be focused around reading, analyzing and enjoying literature at all levels. Multiple resources and materials in all content areas should be used to promote inquiry and information processing. The science program should engage students in “hands-on, minds-on” activities. Integrated, interdisciplinary programs increase coherence and interest in learning. The social studies program is key to the development of citizenship and should be a model of core learnings and skill development, K-12.

3.     A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT, CULTURE AND LEARNING COMMUNITYEvery member of the school community is entitled to reside in a safe learning environment, with a positive culture that promotes the mission, and high learning expectations.

4.     “INQUIRY BASED” TEACHING AND LEARNING.  Teachers primarily engage students through an inquiry based teaching and learning model that stresses five key skill areas: 

a.     Ask questions, formulate problems and challenges

b.    Search for and process information

c.     Think deeply and flexibly

d.    Draw conclusions, apply learning

e.     Communicate effectively.


5.     PERFORMANCE BASED MEASURES OF ACHIEVEMENT AND SUCCESS. Schools and teachers primarily develop and use three types of assessments – critical knowledge exams, authentic performance tasks, and self-assessments. Student work becomes the measure of success. A technology-based portfolio becomes a graduation requirement. 

6.     ACTIVITY CHOICES, ELECTIVES, ENRICHMENT OPTIONS, AND REAL LIFE FIELD EXPERIENCES AVAILABLE TO ALL STUDENTS. A full range of classroom activity choices, electives, enrichment options, and field experiences help students expand their horizons, both within school and after school. Apprenticeships, college course options, high school electives, special trips, outside speakers, music lessons, chess clubs, robotics, competitions – all offer students the opportunity to expand their horizons, discover their interests and talents, and learn the importance of practice, persistence and patience. 

7.     SUPPORT SERVICES AND PROGRAMS. Quality pre-school and early childhood programs, along with full-day kindergartens, should be available to all students. Also, let’s not skimp on the kind of support services that make a difference to so many students -- counselors, mentors, tutors, and others.

8.     FACILITIES, RESOURCES, AND SCHEDULES THAT ENABLE TEACHERS TO DO THEIR JOBS. Students should be able to learn in an environment that is comfortable and that has what it takes to educate students –libraries in each early childhood classroom, adequate library- media resources in each school, technology and technology support that enables students to use computers and other technologies on a regular basis. 

9.     CUSTOMIZED SPECIAL PROGRAMS.  All schools should have resources that enable them to adopt special, customized programs for their students. The International Baccalaureate program, language immersion programs, music and/or art options, technology specialties, culinary arts,  entrepreneurship courses – all are examples of programs that provide for a customized, quality education.

10. CURRICULUM RENEWAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Schools and districts should provide adequate time and resources for curriculum and professional development. Continual curriculum and professional development is a must throughout the year if the above programs, initiatives and outcomes are to be instituted. 


So there you have it – a simple list of my top ten wishes for education in 2012 and beyond. Some questions to ask yourself about these wishes:

1.     Do you agree with these ten? What would you modify? Add? Subtract? What are your education wishes for 2012 and beyond?

2.     If you agree (or have another list): Which ones are already instituted? Which need work? How can I move in this direction this year?

3.     What can I do short term? What is my long-term focus?

4.     Which of these wishes make sense for me to give priority to as an administrator? Teacher? Board member? Parent? Other?

5.     What additional resources are needed to institute these wishes? How can I (we) get these resources?

6.     Are current Federal and State initiatives supportive or harmful to instituting these wishes? Do the Common Core standards complement these ten wishes (I believe that they do – more about this in another blog)?

7.     Last, but not least -- if you are an educational leader, especially at the Federal or state level – how can the resources of the Federal and state governments be adapted to help implement these outcomes, programs and practices?

Remember – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…