Saturday, February 07, 2009

Texas superintendents advocate for changing the focus of public schools

I know I am very critical of the public school systems. I criticize them because I know what my small town school system was able to offer me. Some of the teachers in our high school drove 70 miles once or twice a week to attend classes at the university so they could further their own education and keep up with the current technology...and that was 18-22 years ago! I can only assume they obtained great resources for us through different grants and government programs for rural areas. As a result, in my small graduating class of 57 people, at least four of us have a doctorate degree.

The rural area I grew up in had/has a fairly high poverty rate. In the 2000 census, the median household income was $23,083. Yet, the community and the school system worked together to ensure the kids had access to a quality education and good experiences (many times free...paid for by the Lion's Club, local businesses, and other local organizations).

I know that providing poor kids with quality education is possible. I'm sure it's more challenging to control quality in a large system like Dallas, but it is possible...and the resources are available. So, yes, I'm critical...of teachers, administrators, and systems, in general...when I see kids with tremendous potential failing miserably.

So, when I came across a recently released document created by 35 superintendents in Texas over the last two years, I was extremely encouraged to know what was going on behind the scenes. As I looked through the list of superintendents, I was also very encouraged to see our very own Dallas Independent School District superintendent, Michael Hinojosa, on the list.

In an AP article, Keith Sockwell, chief executive officer of Cambridge Strategic Services, profoundly stated, "When we look at our public schools today, I'd say they're doing a dadgum good job of preparing our kids for the 20th and 19th Century. It's almost like we need to blow it up and start over."

These superintendents recognize the importance of technology. "We believe that the new digital environment will have more impact on the generation and transmission of knowledge than anything since the invention of the printing press," and understand that preventing kids from using technology in the classroom is not the solution. "...Students come to traditional school settings with a mastery of iPods, Wii game systems, cell phones and other devices that must be 'powered down' in class. The challenge is finding a way to use gaming techniques and other technology to enhance the curriculum and create a more relevant and engaging learning environment."

I am dumbfounded when I hear politicians talk about voting against the stimulus bill because it puts too many funds into public education. What are they thinking???!!!!

Too often, I find the desire to become more innovative is limited to children in higher-income districts. It excites me to hear that they are advocating for ALL children by changing the policy at the top.

"We're asking for comment," said Stephen Waddell, Birdville school district superintendent. "We want people to read [the document] and respond."

I would love to see this happen and would love to be involved; I'm sure many of you feel the same. Unfortunately, I can't find how. If anyone knows, please inform me/us!

Let's work with these superintendents to help equip our children to become the great innovators we know they can be!
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