Education is always part of the political arena. Every time a presidential election comes around, education is one of the talking pieces. I selected my words wisely by using “talking pieces.” It is used as a piece in their puzzle to shift the pieces around to gather more votes, and once the political parties gain power, the pieces begin to move, and the talking never stops.
Temporary success and long-term problems of schools seem to be the pattern. Schools have taken on the responsibility for decades to be the reflection of the societal shifts and changes. However, I ask to what cost are we going to continue down this path that our children pay not only in our financial blunders but in our decision-making process overall.
I love to read, research, ask questions and ponder from my own experiences. If you have not read the work of Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley, please do. The Fourth Way was introduced to me as a middle school principal. We made significant changes to the school I was serving. Another book, The Fourth Global Way, came out after and was just as impactful. As a leader, you need to keep yourself informed, renewed, reflective and innovative in how you think, speak, and do.
I will state I am not seeing or hearing the moves in education I believe will help all of our children. I see divisions when I hear the talk of equity. We are continuing a negative dialogue. Let’s cultivate actual readiness to thrive in a diverse and changing world. I was a white female principal in a school with 40% black students, 7% Hispanic, 8% multi-racial the rest caucasian. At that time, 85% of our students qualified for free-reduced lunch. I also had seven registered sex offenders in the school as students and one female with an ankle bracelet reporting to a parole officer. We were experiencing some challenges, you can say, like our current one on our border. I knew and know my students and families. I visited their homes, spoke to them often, and joined in community events. We cried together at the loss of a family member; we worked together on issues, and together we did many things. We achieved success.
I have always stood for equity, diversity, the whole child, safety, belonging, responsibility, and continued growth. We need to continue to challenge our children to foster diversity, equity, and belonging. Our schools need to be places where we create conditions that empower learners, support communities, and build-up leadership in all areas.
“Shortly before the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, the chair of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee proclaimed that the “No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act had “become the most negative brand in America.” Eighty-five percent of surveyed educators agreed the NCLB was not improving schools, ”-The Fourth Way, pg 1.
In the quote, it refers to NCLB as a brand. This is exactly right. Politicians often use branding and catchphrases to spark emotions to get legislation passed that usually has many things tied to it that aren’t very helpful. Who would vote no on “No Child Left Behind” and think voters would reelect them?
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in 2015 to eliminate NCLB but only narrows the standardized testing leaving it to the states to determine standards. We have Common Core and then states creating their standards. Again branding no one would vote against.
“The past shapes our aspirations for and orientations to change in the present and the future. Knowingly or unknowingly, school leaders often take some of what worked for them in one school into the next–even when it doesn’t fit. Their journeys and experiences undoubtedly affect how they approach the Way ahead.”-The Fourth Way, pg.3
We must be clear about where we stand as leaders facing a critical turning point in our history. It is essential to take the most professional approach. Taking the familiar path is easy; it is without bumps and is smooth. It is time to step up and outside of the comfortable space to reach for a higher purpose. Our students and staff need us to climb the mountain with integrity as we reach to get higher achievement levels, success, and overall well-being.
I do not want others to create problems to find solutions to work we are doing. More action, no need to move any pieces around, have talking points for votes, or blow others’ candles out to make yours shine brighter.
Let’s do the work to accomplish what has been started. We have lots of work to do in order to get all of our students to achieve. It can be done with a focused approach.
A link to a short video clip for The Fourth Way. https://youtu.be/1NresL_05Rg