The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

We’re Missing the Point

A couple of nights ago, I posted a question on Twitter about the need for innovation to be based on what leaders are hearing. My call to listen prompted a response from my friend and PLN member Greg Miller, an educator from Alberta, Canada. We began to talk back and forth, and our exchange of ideas prompted Greg to share two documents and a blog post with me about work being done in his province to reform education. As their curriculum redesign and student outcomes framework documents, dedicated to bringing all stakeholders together to redefine the intended outcomes and curriculum for schools.

Parents, students, the business community, government officials, and teachers all worked together on the documents and new vision for education in Alberta. There is an emphasis on critical thinking, digital literacy, and considering the perspectives of others. Numeracy and literacy are emphasized in the process that Greg called “prototyping,” not a top down, nor totally bottom up approach to reform. Teachers, yes, teachers, are at the center of this process that is bringing people together. A recent symposium about these reforms included delegations from Shanghai as well as Finland to study work that is being done globally. This process is reimagining education in Alberta, trusting educators as professionals and engaging citizens from all over the province on what the desired outcomes for students will be.

As I read the documents and post, I thought a lot about Michigan. Our Governor is working to reform education, but is doing so through with recommendations from a group that does not include teachers. Rather than promoting collaboration, competition is at the heart of what our reforms are all about. Our state department of education has implemented a policy that analyzes “gaps” in scores on one standardized test, without considering an entire body of work from a school. Our legislature, in a lame duck session, is intent upon pushing through bills that haven’t been sufficiently studied or considered. Frankly, we’re missing the point. We are arguing about working conditions, structures, and ownership of buildings, not what our students are learning.

As I pointed out in my post “Why School,” our landscape has changed because of technology. By engaging all the stakeholders in their province, I believe Alberta is on the right track to developing an education system that will better prepare learners for the future they will face. Michigan, on the other hand, has grown more divisive and hindered meaningful reform.

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