It’s Time to Think Proactively

ASCD published a blurb entitled: “Recession sparks interest in school personal-finance classes”

The summary said:

More states are considering mandating school courses in personal finance as credit-card debt and foreclosures mount. “The silver lining to our country’s economic conditions just may be that we place a greater emphasis on financial education, which does our country well for many generations,” said Laura Levine, executive director of the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

I am so, so tired our our reactive–rather than proactive–approach to life in our country.

After there’s a widespread break-out of E. coli, then the FDA sets more stringent regulations for the factory production and distribution of meat.

After our country is besieged by terrorism, then the TSA tightens security procedures at airports.

After people start foreclosing on their homes and claiming bankcruptcy, then our schools start teaching financial literacy.

Give me a break! We have to wake up and start thinking ahead. Figuring out what our children need to be successful in college, the 21st century workforce, life in their families and communities, and the globalized world is not rocket science. Of course they need to be financially literate. We didn’t need an economic collapse to tell us that.

They also need to understand how to live a healthy lifestyle. And they need emotional intelligence. And the ability to speak multiple languages, think creatively, innovate, solve-problems, set goals and plan backwards to achieve them, understand diverse perspectives, question the legitimacy of information, synthesize information, resolve conflict peacefully and symbiotically–the list goes on.

My point is, we need to deliberately think about the world our children will grow up to assume control of, and we need to structure our schools to prepare them for that world. We can’t wait for national or international crises to make the decision for us.


The Push for National Standards

A report conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in conjunction with the Kingsbury Center, revealed that a school making adequate progress in one state would be considered failing in another.

This situation is yet another illustration of how I agree with NCLB in theory but not in practice.

I love the idea of creating a vision (i.e., standards), planning assessments that measure achievement of the vision (i.e., standardized tests), and then aligning instruction with the assessments.

However, if states are left to their own devices to create the vision and the assessment, they also have the liberty to dilute expectations for their children (ahem, Mississippi, I’m looking at you).

Creating national standards would also save a lot of money. Just imagine how much each state spends to develop and revise their standards. Then multiply that by 50.

Plus, families are more mobile these days. National standards would ensure more continuity from state to state.

Finally, we would have a clearer and more accurate picture of which states are letting their students slip through the cracks.

The Tampa Tribune says:

“I know that talking about standards can make people nervous,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said recently.

“But the notion that we have 50 different goal posts doesn’t make sense,” Duncan said. “A high school diploma needs to mean something, no matter where it’s from.”

Every state, he said, needs standards that make kids college- and career-ready and are benchmarked against international standards.

Pre-School to Open in Museum

Wow! I love the idea of placing schools within the community. Literally.

Check out this school in South Dakota.

If only our towns had been designed with services centralized in a single location: a school, public library, retirement center, museum, medical clinic, etc. That way, teachers could more easily contextualize learning for their students.

P.S. They are offering Spanish classes and yoga as well.

Foreign Language Instruction Should Be a Priority

An article in The Washington Post illuminates the benefits of even 30 minutes a week of foreign language instruction at the early elementary level.

I read it and thought, “No duh.”

Think about all the complex and amazing mental processing that goes into learning another language. Second language instruction should be happening as soon as our kids enter school, and our goal should be fluency.

This concept is not new. Look at major European countries and their approach to foreign language instruction. When traveling, I am always so impressed by the sheer number of people I meet from other countries who fluently speak multiple languages. I am often dismayed by how self-centered and egotistical we Americans can be when it comes to learning a foreign language.

The 21st century is an increasily globalized world. Foreign language instruction helps students in myriad ways. It:

  1. Broadens their perspective of other cultures and deepens their understanding of the globalized world.
  2. Makes them more competitive in the 21st century workforce.
  3. Fosters brain development that helps lay the foundation for all other subjects.

It shouldn’t be relegated to 30 minutes with a teacher who teaches from a cart.

The Center of Learning in a Literacy Classroom


I’m working with teachers in a school with a high percentage of students on free and reduced lunch. Today they have the entire day to organize their classroom libraries. I’m so excited that they’re given time to undertake such an important endeavor. The library is the center of learning in a literacy classroom.

I found an amazing classroom library online here. A little bit of research revealed that this school in Troy, MI has only 4% of students who receive free and reduced lunch.

For educators who work primarily with economically-disadvantaged students, I think it’s important for us to continously seek out information about what is happening in more affluent schools. Our kids deserve the same rich experiences and resources.

Quote of the Day

“Man ultimately decides for himself! And in the end, education must be education toward the ability to decide.”—Victor Frankl

Setting Higher Goals for Economically Disadvantaged Children

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I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m just starting to research the Harlem Children’s Zone. It’s embarrassing because so many of our ideas are so similar.

The Harlem Children’s Zone starts with children at birth. Their goal is to end generational poverty. They believe in investing time and resources into education at a young age in order to build a foundation for lifetime success.

It’s interesting, however, to hear CEO Geoffrey Canada define what a lifetime of success looks like.

In an interview with Colbert (featured above), Canada explained:

“We are determined that our parents are going to give their children something better than generational poverty and we want them to give them good education so that they can grow up to be tax payers and help support this great country instead of costing America millions and hundreds of millions of dollars while we lock up more children and more adults in this country than anyplace else on the face of the earth.”

I’m reminded of a quote I heard from Howard Fuller, the director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, during one of his lectures. He said something along the lines of:

“Our job is not to prepare our children for the 21st century. Our job is to prepare our children to transform the 21st century.”

That goal seems a lot bigger and more aligned with the potential of our children. The functioning of our democracy and the welfare of our country and the world demand more than just diligent taxpayers. We need to help our children develop into creative problem-solvers, innovators, informed and proactive citizens, productive workers, balanced and healthy individuals, and humanitarian beings.