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Mike Parent

I only hope that principals who read this post will bring this statement down to the micro level:

"We have to be able to articulate a strong vision of what we want our schools to be or other people are going to tell us what our schools have to be."

In other words, if a building leader does not have a vision for his/her school, someone else will. This may be the problem with urban education - not enough vision leading the way at the building level.

I pray those Drexel students heard your voice in the wilderness.

Zack Allen

This summer my family and I traveled from Colorado to Virginia to help my mother-in-law move. I have 4 children. Several days before the trip I asked my youngest (4 years old) if he was excited about riding in a car for 3 days straight. His response was genuine and full of excitement, enthusiasm and energy. Two of his older siblings (ages 11 and 9) responded much differently. They told him that it wasn't something to look forward to, because it was going to be boring and there would be nothing to do.

That got me thinking about how a student getting ready to start kindergarten and an older student reply to being asked if they are excited about the upcoming school year. I think their responses are very much the same. They start school in kindergarten full of wonder, excitement and energy. And they lose that excitement and enthusiasm for learning along the way.

Then, I started thinking about why my oldest children felt the way they do about long road trips. In reflection, our previous road trips had always been about getting to our destination in as little time as possible. "Stop now? We still have half a tank. We'll be cutting our miles per hour average if we have to stop now. Didn't you pee at the last stop? Yep, that looked interesting, but we don't have time to stop and look at it. We have to get to where we are going."

In essence, our road trips had been always been about the product to the detriment of the process.

The focus on high stakes testing and other mandates in education cause us to focus more on an arbitrary and unauthentic product to the detriment of the process. Our students and teachers lose their enthusiasm for learning and teaching (the process).

On our trip back to Colorado, we decided that we would focus on enjoying the ride and not on getting to our destination as soon as we could. We stopped for half a day at Monticello, for 2 hours at the Brown vs. Board of Education historical site in Topeka, KS, and at a water park in Denver on our way. My kids said that it was the best trip we had ever been on and that they couldn't wait to go on another 3 day road trip.

I will be sharing this analogy with my staff this year with hopes of collaboratively reworking our vision to include a balance of product (an authentic one) and process. This will be difficult in light of our high stakes assessments scores having dropped this past year. Our focus for now has to be on student achievement in spite of the high stakes tests not for or because of them.

Fred Deutsch

Uh, well . . . I agree with you on some points and disagree on others. First, yes, most definitely and emphatically I agree that school leaders must have a vision for our schools. We need to be able to look down the road and draw a picture of what we want our schools to look like, and then establish a reasonable and realistic plan to successfully accomplish our vision.

This week our school board met for its annual retreat to establish long-range goals for our district. A few of our goals included improving the graduation rate from 91% to 100% (perhaps not a viable goal, but how can you set a graduation rate goal that’s less that 100%?), developing resources to attract and retain the best teachers in the region, and developing the top academic program in the state. Challenging goals? Of course! But we are serious about accomplishing them. That’s a portion of the vision our school board has established.. We are now in the process of drawing a road map to reach our destination.

Concerning your take on the “biggest legacy of NCLB” is the erosion of trust in educators – I respectfully disagree. There may be erosion in some quarters, but there is elevation in others. I believe the single most significant legacy of NCLB will be the improvement of academic achievement for America’s school children.

Does that mean I believe NCLB is good federal policy? No. I believe is a notch better than mediocre. And it MUST be improved. But it’s clearly better than what we had before, which essentially was next to nothing. At least now, America has a direction – a direction that establishes some minimum academic bar of acceptability. That’s how I look at NCLB – as a minimum set of criteria, a sort of basement level accomplishment for American education. Realistically, American school children should be able to achieve so much more than the limited requirements set forth in NCLB. We’re a great country, a noble county, and “all” our children are capable of more.

Accomplishment of NCLB criteria, when appropriately established, should be a walk in the park for the American education system.

As for the way NCLB measures student achievement – there is no question in my mind that needs to change. Hopefully, the election will bring that change, regardless of which candidate is successful. I’m personally a proponent of the growth model. What’s important in my mind is that no matter what challenge exists for student learning, that the challenge be overcome, and school become a place of meaning for academic accomplishment – meaning that can be measured in … well, meaningful ways.

As for the myth of lazy teachers, I believe the percentage of lazy teachers is equal to the percentage of lazy people in society. I don’t know if that equates to the “vast, vast minority” as you state. I also believe the percentage of teachers that have grown weary or tired of their jobs are likely similar to the percentage of college educated people in America that have become weary or tired of whatever field they have entered.

There is no question that the educational system in America needs great leadership. Thanks for creating a forum to dialog about it.

Fred Deutsch
School Board President
Watertown, SD


We do need to articulate a vision. If we don't we WILL wander. "Not NCLB" is not a vision although it could be a measuring stick of good legislation. The intent is admirable; the letter of the law, disheartening at best. Even so, it did knock us off kilter enough to slightly open an eye to the current state of affairs.

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