Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Face of Progressive Education Reform

Originally posted at DailyKos

There's been a lot of chatter this past week in edu circles. Apparently our president-elect is about to announce a new Secretary of Education or some such thing? Well, two groups, The Educator Roundtable and A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education have been busy rolling out agendas for reform during this critical transition period.

The Educator Roundtable sent emails last week to all 34,186 people who have signed this petition. In it the ER called for support for Doug Christensen, former Education Commissioner of Nebraska, to get the top spot of Secty of Ed. A lot of progressives support Linda Darling-Hammond (I am one of them), but ER's thinking is that she will not be selected because she is on Obama's transition team. If that's the case, I also strongly support Dr. Christensen, an educator who has successfully fought the edu-biz agenda of the US Dept of Ed.

Also in the ER email was a letter to all friends of democratic public school reform. The letter referenced a school in Utah that asked parents (!) what they wanted the school to provide their children. The parents responded that they wanted educators to respect their children as individuals, encourage their curiosity, and help them get along with others.

To this end, a group of long experienced educators and parents have formed a coalition to introduce a higher vision of teaching, thinking and learning. We offer a framework or "skeleton" upon which each community can build.

The framework is called "Educating for Human Greatness," and consists of seven "ribs" that each community can use to create strategies for its accomplishment:
Identity, Interaction, Inquiry, Imagination, Initiative, Intuition and Integrity.

The Educating for Human Greatness group believes that the purpose of education should be to

Develop great human beings to be contributors (not burdens) to society by focusing on 7 Dimensions of Human Greatness:

Identity – Help students learn who they are – as individuals with unlimited potential, develop their unique talents and gifts to realize self-worth and develop a strong desire to be contributors to family, school and community.

Inquiry – Stimulate curiosity; awaken a sense of wonder and appreciation for nature and humankind. Help students develop the power to ask important questions.

Interaction – Promote courtesy, caring, communication and cooperation.

Initiative – Foster self-directed learning, will power and self-evaluation.

Imagination – Nurture creativity in all of its many forms.

Intuition – Help students learn how to feel and recognize truth with their hearts as well as with their minds – develop spirituality and humility.

Integrity – Develop honesty, character,morality and responsibility for self.

I've joined the Human Greatness Group and would love to hear any comments, questions, or suggestions you might have about it's purpose or the above components. Also, if you're of like mind, please join! Everyone's welcome.

A Bolder, Broader Approach has also been busy recently, advancing its campaign by sending emails to 860+ signers of its statement. BBA's conviction is

that schools alone cannot close the achievement gap, but that school improvement must be complemented by improvements in the social and economic conditions from which children come to school -- specifically by high-quality early childhood programs, provision of comprehensive routine and preventive health care, and high-quality after school and summer programs.

This, of course, is a direct response to those in organizations (such as Teach for America) who believe that high teacher quality is the only factor necessary to get those test scores up. These groups work against teacher unions and bash many older,established teachers as being uncaring and mediocre.

BBA is now forming an advisory board and committees to help direct each of it's goals: Outreach and Recruitment (e.g., new BBA signers); Health (including school clinics); Early Childhood; School Improvement; After-School and Summer Programs; and Comprehensive and Coordinated Services.

Additionally, BBA will sponsor a series of forums on Capitol Hill, as
well as, where possible, state capitals, on various aspects of the broader bolder approach. At these forums, signers of the BBA will describe more specifically the statement's principles. We plan initially to sponsor sessions on the importance of health care for achievement, on what is known about the impact of early childhood programs, on what is known about the impact of after school and summer programs, and on how accountability policies can be sufficiently comprehensive to ensure that a broader, bolder approach can be carried out.

Our Web site ( will be further expanded, and become, we expect, the definitive resource for state and federal policymakers for research on, and solid evidence for, this broader, bolder approach.

We will sponsor a series of demonstration projects, in half a dozen cities nationwide, where school improvement, early childhood programs,adequate health care, and after school and summer programs will be coordinated to produce real outcome gains for disadvantaged children.

Please check out their website for updates!

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