October 2010

The annual KSDE conference was held this past week and I was interested in some themes that seem to be emerging from the many conversations. You can decide which conversations were the good news, and which were the bad.

Conversation number one. As always I had the opportunity to talk to a great number of superintendents about this years enrollment. The trend started early, superintendents were telling me that their enrollment was up. I don’t know what the numbers are, yes this opinion is unburdened by data, but I quickly became aware of how many school districts reported that they had increased enrollment. If this trend holds it is definitely a reversal from recent years.

Conversation number two. Actually, this was the un conversation that I became aware of when I talk to Terrel Harrison from Colby. She told me that it had been a much more pleasant fall without the constant threat of imminent budget cuts. That’s when I realized I hadn’t had a single conversation about money.

Conversation number three. The new Deputy Commissioner appointed just the day before the conference started was on many peoples’ minds. Some were exuberant in their support, many reserved judgment. Concerns for those that had them seemed to center on the issue of his support for innovation and creativity in schools, or would his traditional paradigm stifle the innovators? This will be an issue worth watching since the goal of the state Board of Education is the redesign of the delivery model. It’s hard to redesign the delivery model without turning the creative and innovative people loose to experiment.

Conversation number four. Testing, testing, testing … Insanity!

Conversation number five. The recommendations starting to come out of the Kansas Education Commission. There seems to be large and growing support for project-based learning, or more generally learning by doing; focusing on authentic student engagement, not just test scores; and the tension that is growing between college ready, career ready, and more generally, life ready.

In my opinion the news was a mixed bag. Some good, some bad, some wait and see. I am still very concerned that the federal government is absolutely forcing us in the wrong direction, but there are more and more conversations about how to mitigate the damages done by ESEA. We have had 12 years and two administrations encouraging the wrong kind of school change.

I am encouraged that there are more and more conversations about doing what’s best for kids rather than what’s best for the federal government. Stay tuned. – Steve Wyckoff

School change: it’s time for the revolution!

by Steve Wyckoff on October 20, 2010

Schools are evolving slowly. Too slowly. The rate of change in society is dramatically faster than the rate of change in schools. School change as it currently exists is losing ground on a daily basis. Our schools are already obsolete and getting more so every day.

As part of the Kansas Education Commission I am extremely concerned that the discussions are still focusing on how to get better at what we’ve always done. We are working extremely hard to improve a one size fits all, factory model system, that even if we reach our goals won’t be satisfactory.

I am utterly amazed at all of the conversations I have with educators who get this. Yet at the upper levels of policymaking and administration, we are still focusing on the past.

The problems are overwhelming. Where do you began? Our system functions under so many misconceptions, old traditions, and outdated policies that I honestly don’t know where to begin.

I once heard Tom Peters explained the best advice is father ever gave him, “Dammit Tom, do something!” Perhaps we should give that same advice to superintendents? I am amazed at how many superintendents are paralyzed by the fear of repercussions for any move they make. A well justified fear, but a paralyzing fear nonetheless.

I worry that we have killed the innovation and creativity among our kids. But we have done even more damage to the creativity and innovation within our system. Educators are terrified to make the kind of systemic change necessary to prepare our kids for the 21st century.

So in my opinion Tom, LET THE REVOLUTION BEGAN! It doesn’t really matter where you start, dammit, do something! – Steve Wyckoff

School change: The Myth of education

October 19, 2010

I couldn’t have said it better … NO REALLY! I COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER! So I’m not going to try. Here is a post from my friend Deb Haneke’s blog. I will take credit for inspiring her to write this post because I placed the link to this video on our group page on […]

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School change: high school math just doesn’t add up!

October 14, 2010

It started  some time  ago when I realized not every student needs algebra to be a productive member of society. I, like all educators, had drank the kool aid.I believed that every student needed algebra. But it kept nagging at me that I couldn’t give sufficient real world examples of the use of algebra in the real world. […]

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School change: how we organize high schools makes no sense.

October 12, 2010

School change at the high school level needs to begin with completely rethinking how we organize learning for students. That is, if we want kids to be able to do something with what they know, rather than simply knowing a lot of stuff for tests. That’s a big assumption. Schools presently are organized perfectly to […]

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School change: does the “classic liberal arts education” still serve a purpose?

October 11, 2010

Last week at the the Kansas Education Commission meeting one of the participants commented about “the classic liberal arts education” as if it were given how important, and appropriate, the classic liberal arts education is. As I’ve written before, the most difficult thing to do in school change is to decide what not to do […]

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