Thursday, August 28, 2008

Education in Denver 2008: An Interactive Diary

Mark Warner, speaking at the Democratic convention, connected education with the economy. You, too, can participate in this Great Schools forum on the question, “How would an improved education system affect our economy?”

ED in '08 is on the ground in Denver with ads in seven states. You can view all the ads here.

Strong American Schools Chairman Roy Romer is trying to raise awareness. Gov. Romer wants America to “get a political will” even though, according to one roundtable participant, 78% of American households do not have children in school. All of us need to invest in all of our children's futures.

Gov. Romer believes America needs to benchmark our country's education performance and accountability globally by annually comparing ourselves to the ten best nations. In other words, we need to stop congratulating ourselves on our good schools (like my town recently did) when we post 52% tested proficient this year instead of 50%. A 2% gain is great when half are not proficient in the richest country on earth?! We need to get real about the data .

Gov. Romer says this nation is simply not conscious that our expectations are too low because we are lying to ourselves. He continued, “If we put as much into education as we do athletics, we would be first in the world.” I agree. It is not money. It is commitment. The money will follow commitment. If we put as much into education as we did into the war in Iraq, we would be first in the world. Furthermore, it would not be money down the drain; it would be an investment in the future. For those who are risk-adverse in their investments, this one is virtually guaranteed to reap benefits that really will “trickle” down.

Maybe we are complacent because we think we got our education. Is it possible we think if the schools did alright by us, they are probably doing alright by our kids? Great Schools challenges all to find out “Are you smarter than an eighth grader?” Go ahead and test yourself, and then see how you compared to eighth graders in 46 countries.

Maybe it is just the common artifact of surveys. We generally believe the other guy is worse off than we are. That would explain the survey results quoted in this post. Maybe the country simply cannot get on the same page, preferring turf wars to substantive debate. Republicans and Democrats seem irreconcilably opposed on a number of education issues, but unions conflict with at least one Democratic school reform group with a prominent place at the convention. Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) allude to some of the conflicts in their blog. Fully half of DFER's board members are involved with charter schools no less.

When American society finally decides it wants a world-class education system, there will be no stopping us.

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