Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Water and Rocks

It is inevitable that we paddle streams previously paddled.  When we do I'm always amazed at how the stream has changed.  Seasonal flooding changes so many things about a river.  Two recent examples come to mind.

The first was a short paddling trip we took on the St. Francis at the end of April.  I've paddled the lower stretch of this section more times than I care to count, but had not done so in a few years.  I was amazed that the river had taken a completely new route for about 1/4 mile.  From what I remember about the area, the river would have had to go uphill to cut through.  The area had seen record setting flooding in 2011.  Water is a powerful force.

The second example from trip on Current River.  Up and down the stream one can find large rocks/boulders with part in the water and part out, kind of like a stationary iceberg.  While flooding changed the river in the previous example, these rocks tend to stand the test of time.  Flash flood after flash flood and they stay in place.

I think about this concept as I consider education reform.  A flood of reform measures (vouchers, tuition tax credits, charters, virtual charters, performance pay, tenure changes, etc.) are pushing against the rock of public education.  There's plenty of evidence showing that these reforms don't yield significant results.  What we, as educators, fail to grasp is that these efforts are not about quality -- they are about choice.  Once parents are given choice, the education marketplace is supposed to take care of itself.  Don't like your kid's school?  You've only yourself to blame because you get to choose.

In the midst of this flood is the rock of public education.  Schools have stood the test of time, making changes along the way to provide a quality education for millions of students. There are good schools, bad schools and everything in between.  Public perception data on public schools is actually quite good, but you don't hear that on the evening news.

But the flood of education reform is on a steady rise and there is no end in sight.  Will public education hold firm, making changes that provide better opportunities for all kids?  Will the money behind the flood continue to flow?  Will public education be wiped clean by the flood of reform/choice?

Only time will tell.  In the meantime my colleagues and I will continue to lead public school districts along a path of continuous improvement.

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