Dr. Martin Luther King gave the "I have a dream" speech, not the "I have a plan" speech. - Simon Sinek
I recently heard this quote and it immediately resonated with me as I continue to work through, in my own mind, the direction public education in this country is headed and the concept of educational reform. In 1837 when Horace Mann was appointed as Secretary of the newly formed Board of Education in Massachusetts I am confident that he had a plan to reform public education in the Commonwealth. However, more important than that, he had a vision of a public education system that both satisfied the needs of a new society, marked by a transition from agricultural to industrial economy, as well as the needs of those children that system would serve. If Horace Mann had only had a plan, it is unlikely our educational system would have undergone major change at that time. It was his vision, relentless drive, dedication and dream of a new educational system that prompted systemic change and ushered in a new era of public education in America.
The United States, and the world, finds itself in a situation similar to that confronting Horace Mann in 1837. We are in the midst of a cultural shift the likes of which we haven’t seen since the world transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy. As we seek to navigate this transition from the industrial to the information age our educational system is lagging behind. Sadly current educational reform initiatives have forsaken this idea of visionary change as they merely continue to impose additional outdated industrial model standardization and accountability provisions on our already overburdened system. It is time to recognize the folly of our path which has failed to demonstrate the results intended. It is time to work together to develop a truly new and transformational approach to how we educate our children, rather than remain stuck in the industrial world of the 19th and 20th century. It is time for Massachusetts to once again assume a leadership role in the development of that system, rather than continue to follow the crowd.
I am not Horace Mann or Dr. Martin Luther King, but I HAVE A DREAM:
I HAVE A DREAM that rather than a focus on standardizing education for all students we will develop a system that personalizes the educational experience for each student. Our students are not standardized and the education they receive should not be either.
I HAVE A DREAM that policy makers will begin to listen to the educational experts at all levels rather than lobbyists and special interest groups. We have the experience, training, and passion for our profession that is necessary to create a vision for change. It is time that we are seen as equals in this process rather than obstacles.
I HAVE A DREAM that educators in k-12 and Higher Ed will work together to dramatically change the way we train our teachers in order to create an educational system that honors the individuality of our children and the information age in which we live. We need to train teachers in student centered methods of instruction providing them with the skills and training necessary so that they are more comfortable giving up control in their classrooms. This will allow us to break out of the “Sage on the Stage” mentality to one where teachers guide rather than direct student learning.
I HAVE A DREAM of an educational system that reduces the reliance on standardized testing as the primary metric whereby we judge student achievement and teacher/school performance. It is time to reallocate the billions of dollars spent on testing to develop and sustain alternate authentic forms of assessment as a means to judge student achievement/growth and school performance.
I HAVE A DREAM of an educational system that values creativity and innovation more than accountability and compliance. Policy makers give lip service to the need for innovative practices without the time, money and resources to make those practices a reality. Rather than come up with the next best test, let’s come up with the next best way to teach our students using authentic assessment to judge progress.
I HAVE A DREAM of a country that appreciates and supports its teachers rather than one which blames, devalues them and tries to tear them down. We are experiencing a time where fewer people want to enter into the teaching profession and where those that do often leave within the first five years because they do not feel valued and supported in what is a very difficult job. It is time to reverse that trend and afford teachers the respect they deserve more often than once a year during teacher appreciation week.
I HAVE A DREAM of a day when professional development for teachers involves more than training them to ensure compliance with the newest mandate or on how to upload evidence to prove they are doing their jobs. It is time to provide the resources so that schools can work with teachers to develop meaningful professional development that assists teachers in growing as professionals and changing their practices to meet the needs of today’s students.
Finally, I HAVE A DREAM of a time when dreams are more important than plans. Where we stop tinkering with failed reform ideas and work together for wholesale transformative change. No one can argue against the importance of planning if we are to initiate large-scale, sustainable, systemic change. However, we are mired in a bureaucratic system that rewards beautiful plans more than a comprehensive holistic view of change. It is time to do what is hard and not what is easy or expedient. If we are to create a modern educational system that is responsive to the current needs of our children and society, we need to dream big and create a vision for change rather than maintain a rigid focus on accountability and compliance.
I HAVE A DREAM…will you share it with me?