“We often mistake symptoms for causes. This has been especially true in the realm of education policy: underperforming schools underperform because of insufficient accountability, the prevailing argument has gone. And we’ve only made things worse by tightening the screws . . . With the focus on test results pushed by state officials and for-profit school management advocates in the 1990s and reinforced thereafter by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 and Race to the Top (RTTT) in 2009, our misguided efforts have intensified.” P. 302 Samuel E. Abrams Education and the Commercial Mindset 2016
“Public education policy these days is trapped in behaviorist thinking about rewards and punishments.” –Jan Resseser, November 1, 2016
Public education is caught in a vise that allows for almost no meaningful innovation. The problems facing public education can’t be solved by mandated “reforms” for increased accountability, doubling down on an inputs/outputs model that has never fit the system of public education, or letting for-profit entities with their top-heavy executive salaries and management fees take over failing and cash-strapped public schools. Where do the best ideas for improving public education come from?
What many policymakers have been unable to recognize is that education is a complex adaptive system (CAS). Complex adaptive systems are extraordinarily resistant to bureaucratic mandates and top-down control. Like ecosystems, they respond to external pressures in unpredictable or even undesirable ways. But unlike purely biological complex adaptive systems such human systems have the element of intelligence that can attend to small changes that make large impacts. Such small changes at the most fundamental levels of the system can unleash processes that result in largescale system improvements.
Despite much hue and cry from what must be a relatively small group of Americans, the U.S. Department of Education is moving on with a variety of policies that will undermine the institution of public education. Do Americans really value public education?
I wanted to make you aware of some important changes in federal education funding with respect to civics. Today, the federal Department of Education released guidance to help states, school districts, and schools provide all students with access to a well-rounded education including civic education. Under that guidance, the Department outlines the criteria for new grants that are available under the ESSA legislation. The funds will be provided to state education agencies that will in turn distribute the funds to districts/schools.
These new grants – called Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) – give districts and schools flexibility to tailor investments based on the unique needs of their student populations. The guidance provides resources, tools, and examples of innovative strategies to support effective implementation of the grant program. Grants under this new source of funding will make their way to schools at different times depending on the timing of the congressional appropriation and your local state agency processes but planning will start now. We expect these funds to be available next school year.
The new grants provide a great opportunity for iCivics to work with you to enhance your civics instructional program. We invite you to create a plan that will address the needs of your school. Plans could include:
– Student workbooks
– Professional learning opportunities
– Video based resources on civic topics
– Project based learning resources
– New technology tools for student civic engagement
It is important for you to have your voice heard and ensure that civics is prioritized as part of your district’s efforts with SSAE grant proposals. Talk with the grant administrators in your district about opportunities like those mentioned above, or if you have other great ideas.
Contact Kelly Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore how we could work together to promote engaged citizenship in your school.
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We’re formally launching CAPEOhio.org on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the Public Education Partners summit. The Citizen Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) organizers will be at the summit where we will give presentations in the morning and afternoon.
Frances Strickland will be joined by other CAPE organizers to share the 13 fundamental principles for public education that represent our vision for redefining public education. We hope that decision makers—students, parents, teachers, boards of education, legislators, administrators—will use these principles in developing policies and practices before it’s too late.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations on assessments under the Every Student Succeeds Act. In the House of Representatives on Thursday, the House education committee approved new legislation on career and technical education (CTE) and a House appropriations subcommittee passed an education spending bill.
Citizens Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) is an organization of teachers, learners, parents, and grandparents who care deeply about the fate of public education, its sacred duty, and its boundless potential to endow every child living in America with opportunity. We welcome you to our site and invite you to be become participants and activists in reshaping the trajectory and impact of public education.
Historically our system of public education has anchored our democracy with the goal of providing broad and generous opportunities for all citizens. Our own years of experience in a variety of educational settings and our current observations tell us public education is in real trouble, however. While many citizens continue to support public education in their own communities, too many have given up on public education’s power to lift all learners in every community.
Rusting bridges and eroding beaches provide powerful metaphors for public education. Failure to support public education is as dangerous as the failure to repair deteriorating highway bridges. As natural forces are eroding beaches, often unnoticed, benign neglect and clandestine forces are eroding public education. This puts our democratic system and our well-being as a nation at risk.
As citizen advocates, we defend the concept of public education as envisioned by the nation’s founders. At the same time, we also seek the transformations that will improve and advance learning so that all students develop their full potential and thrive in a future of rapid and unpredictable changes.
Our work must go beyond “repairing” public education, which can at best restore it to an outmoded 20th century ideal of cheap mass-produced outputs. We need a new vision of public education that fits the current and future needs of our country. This vision should honor public education’s historic contributions while pointing to dramatic changes that are imperative.
We invite you to read our vision of public education and the set of the accompanying principles that show key systemic changes we believe must occur. We urge you use our work to start conversations about the future of public education with us on this website and with fellow citizens in your community. Public officials must hear your voices and understand how invested their constituents are in public education as a sustaining and enriching force in our democracy. If citizens insist that all decisions regarding public education be made with a shared vision and a set of guiding principles for change, public education will at last have the strength to fully serve children, parents, teachers, communities, and our nation.