Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rethinking Education

Last night, I attended "Your Role in Education Innovation", sponsored by Young Education Professionals DC and Young Nonprofit Network Professionals Network*. I had a great experience at the event listening to educational professionals (including interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson) discuss the future of education in the District. Henderson concisely summarized the argument that compensation should be results-driven instead of seniority-driven (a concept that Washington Teachers Union initially resisted, but agreed to incorporate in recent teacher contracts). She also spoke about how public school education in the District went from having no oversight, to a military-style oversight and "needs to return to the middle". I definitely think there were some disaffected stakeholders in the early stages of reforming education in the District and we need to move forward together; with Henderson, I think we're on a good path towards moving forward on one accord.

According to a recently released report, enrollment is projected to go up 3.5% in the 2011-2012 for DCPS and DCPCS combined. This is a great vote of confidence in the education reform that has taken place to date. Henderson expressed interest in being willing to try any educational model with proven results that shows similar results here in the District; if it works elsewhere and works here, our children will be able to benefit from it. This best practices-driven willingness to try new models, evaluate them carefully, and decide to abandon or proceed them with them based on actual educational results on the ground is key. Ben Riley of New Ventures School Fund emphasized that testing alone was not sufficient and suggested regular unannounced classroom visits and other methods to augment evaluation (the current model, I believe, calls for five classroom visits). Newer tech-based methods were also discussed as ways to improve instructor performance, such as allowing mentors to give real-time teaching advice to struggling teachers via Bluetooth device cordlessly attached to their ear as they taught their classes.

We definitely have to push for the best education models to take public education to the next level, both at traditional public schools and our charters. Continued evaluation of these models should enable us to find out what works and hopefully scale successful models to help more children succeed. We're all in it together.

The event hashtag on Twitter was "eduvation". Education + innovation = eduvation. Let's keep moving onwards and upwards.

* Search for the hashtag #eduvation for live tweets made during the course of the event.

Addendum: Special shoutout to DC Statehood Green Party visionary David Schwartzman for pointing out to me this brilliant article proposing one hour of real-world application of math and physical sciences concepts within the school day, by Marion Brady.

(Photo by George Ellenberg. Used under Creative Commons license)

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