Today the Michigan Department of Education and our new State Superintendent Brian Whiston released a survey asking what will make Michigan a top 10 state in education in 10 years or less. I encourage everyone in the state including educators, parents, family members, business owners, and especially students to give their opinion as all voices should be valued.
If we sit by and do not give our opinion, we must silently accept what educational reform happens in our beloved state.
Here were some of my answers to the questions. Please feel free to use the comment section to add you ideas to the mix:
7. What are the top two or three goals Michigan should focus on?
1. Creating a culture of collaboration between schools and communities NOT competition.
2. Making assessment (mostly formative) and feedback part of our daily process of education.
3. Using assessment for guidance and growth NOT for punitive purposes.
8. What current policies get in the way of that goal?
1. 50% of staff evaluation hinging on 1 or 2 tests yearly. This breeds competition not cooperation to make Michigan a stronger educational state.
2. Top to bottom rankings and scores reported in the news as if educators are failing our students. (They aren't...the system is failing our students).
3. Funds and time given to districts to collaborate with other districts who's best practices are those to emulate.
4. (See above) Revisit funding imbalances between districts and how school schedules must be developed (days required, start times/hours required, post-Labor Day beginnings etc.)
9. What policies are needed to expedite our progress toward this goal?
1. Funding balanced by student need (socioeconomic and special educational needs especially).
2. Incentives for districts and schools who collaborate on best practices up to and including monetary.
3. Elimination of reliance on standardized tests for ranking and sorting schools and instead use to identify those who need more professional development, collaboration and financial support.
10. If you were the State Superintendent, what are the first three things you would do?
1. Reduce reliance on standardized testing to determine school achievement (I.E. begin using portfolios and non-invasive "gradebook" type assessments focused on Standards Based Grading).
2. Continue to reduce time dedicated to standardized testing in each district and its reliance in evaluation.
3. Explore how school financing can be improved and balanced with need.
After completing my Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship training my mind was spinning! Even a few days later the thought that my opinions and experience have value beyond my small bubble is still a bit hard to fathom.
It's not a practice in our field to toot our horn or feel as though we're experts beyond curriculum or building. Educators are jacks-of-all-trades and thus we feel we are masters of none. So why would anyone listen to me? Should anyone beyond my realm listen to me? Why should anyone listen to us?
As I mulled over these questions I took out my notes, training materials, Voxer chats, tweets and I came up with one conclusion. Everyone should listen to educators because our craft is to build EVERYONE. There would be no doctors, engineers, lawyers, legislators, mathematicians, etc. if professional educators did not fulfill their destiny. The value on educating our populace is as unlimited as the future we want for our ourselves. Who better to clarify, give value and disseminate educational policy and practice than those building us as a nation one child at a time?
We as a profession of educators need to shout from the virtual and physical mountain what we are passionate about.
I have a voice and a passion on educational topics and the growth of children in Michigan and beyond. I can and will make a difference and will leave the educational landscape better than I found it.
Start shouting with me fellow Fellows and all educators of Michigan and beyond!
Just a chance to reflect over educational articles and ideas that float through my head.