I admit it. I was not just wrong about the Education Commission of the States National Forum on Education Policy. I was wrongedy-wrong-wrong. I knew that the forum would be made up of many important voices speaking into education policy in our country, including fellow Teachers of the Year, elected leaders, researchers, and leaders from the business and non-profit worlds. Yet as the forum drew near, I began to have my doubts. So much of what we do is talk, and so rarely, it seems, does that talk get us anywhere. I am making a difference when I work directly with my students or with teaching candidates in university teacher-prep programs, but what would it gain me to spend three days with policy wonks? The answer is inspiration, motivation, and a better relationship with the foot soldiers and field captains in the battle for our children's, and therefore our country's, future.
For an excellent summary of the forum, check out my friend and 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb's blog post. I would like to spend a bit of time, though, talking about some particulars I gained. Did you know that
- hope is stronger predictor of college success than the SAT or a student's G.P.A. and that hope can be reliably measured according to Gallup?
- there is a negative correlation between PISA math scores and perceived entrepreneurial capability, also according to Gallup?
- University of Texas mathematics professor Philip "Uri" Treisman suggests that not everything in a school's or a district's report card must be psychometrically valid and that we should be presenting what a school does best and letting the public decide?
- according to Dr. Paul Kelley of Oxford's Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute the onset of most mental illness is in adolescence and is caused by sleep deprivation?
I could go on and on about redesigning the job of teachers so that we can extend the reach of excellent teachers for more pay, within budget, and without forcing class-size increases, as at least one organization has shown can be done. I could talk about an innovative program that Kansas State University has established to help administrators develop the skills they need as leaders, recognizing that there is a world of difference between administration and leadership and that schools need both. I could share with you an amazing alliance of military, business, crime-prevention, religious, and athletic leaders called Council for a Strong America that focuses on early childhood development and pre-K programs.
I say I could speak about these and many more insights into education, but I am tired of talking. There are people, good people, who are working hard and trying new things to help our children, and I want to join them. St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, famously wrote in the 3rd century, "non loquimur magna sed vivimus," which translates, "We do not talk big things but live them." (De Bono Patientiae, 3) This was the motto of the first Junior Classical League chapter I sponsored in Austin, Texas, and I am taking it back up as my own. It is part of our American heritage to know that we do not need permission and we do not need to be asked to make things better. We simply do it. To paraphrase a line from Thomas Babington Macaulay's famous Horatius, now who will stand on my right hand and join the fight with me?