A Difficult Mesaage for Many Educators To Swallow

New Agenda for Public Education Starts with a Difficult Message for Many Educators to Swallow

Recently, the Learning First Alliance (NSPRA is a member) honored Jack Jennings — one of the most respected education policy leaders inWashington — with its 2012 Education Visionary Award. Jack was the founder and recently retired from the Center on Education Policy after a long and productive career on Capitol Hill.

We Need to Do More Than Fiddle with NCLB

In his acceptance speech, Jennings outlines some steps that go beyond “fiddling around” with NCLB, and making some controversial changes so more charter schools become a reality. “We are in a world where you can’t stand still. We are in a world where we have to improve. And unfortunately, national leaders are coming across in education as saying that things are okay, and I don’t think that is helpful. I think that it is much more helpful to say that American education must be better than it has been in the past for the sake of the kids, but also for the sake of the country,”Jennings said.

His new agenda notes that we all need to look directly at what happens in a classroom with education. And he notes that we have to demand that there be a challenging curriculum for every child, that there be a well-trained and effective teacher for every child, and that the money be provided to make that possible for every child. “I think that the new agenda ought to concentrate on curriculum, on teacher quality, and on funding. And that this agenda ought to replace the agenda that we have today,” he added.

To see Jack’s full acceptance speech go to http://www.learningfirst.org/new-agenda-public-education.

Finding the Courage to Say “We Must Get Better Faster”

As Jack aptly notes, we are in a world where we have to improve while we are perceived as saying, “Everything is okay.” Well, this message dilemma is a difficult one to crack. On one hand, most educators can point to a wide variety of success stories that prove that we are doing much better than just “okay.” Education leaders rightfully take pride in these accomplishments brought about by their hard-working staff.

And the minute we say we need to improve (as all industries do), we are hit by our political education bashers along with the seemingly “big-pocket” corporate “solutionteers” ready to win lucrative instructional contracts as fast as they can.

Improvement Is Our First Order of Business

So we need to find a way to say that improvement is our first order of business. We must get better every day and build on the foundation of achievement found in many schools around the country. Simultaneously we must tip our hats to the accomplishments of staff and communities for their work and support throughout the years.

Whether it be implementing Common Core Standards, devising new assessments for staff and students, taking new tech approaches to learning, or restructuring the school year, we must develop a sense of urgency to get better every day. For some doing so will mean going from good to great, while for others it may translate into finding a new way to do business.

Improvement is our first order of business—we must get better faster.

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director  

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3 Comments on “A Difficult Mesaage for Many Educators To Swallow”

  1. Tom DeLapp Says:

    Good post Rich. Jack is right to say that we keep looking at the same old things and expecting them to change themselves. The Keys: Rigorous curriculum, quality teaching, investment capital targeted to meet unique student needs, and courageous leaders willing to break the mold. However, I don’t think we need to use the term “improve” because that connotes that we are somehow “deficient.” I think we need to start talking about “excelling” in order to meet our rapidly evolving national and global challenges. Maybe it’s just semantics but the kids don’t care; they just want to grow up being competitive in life with an education that has true value.

    • Rich Bagin Says:


      Good point. . . just want to give some ways of approaching it. . with LFA, we will be running a focus group at the Seminar on ways of moving forward . . and what our members may think will work. Thanks for your thoughts.


  2. I agree this is an excellent post and I also agree that we shouldn’t label ourselves as educators or let others label us as deficient. We do need to improve and we do need to excel in our work with students. However, we also need to acknowledge that the work is difficult and nuanced and requires a community of learners and supporters to lead the change needed. We’re all responsible for the change that’s needed to serve our students better.

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