What is our vision? What can we create?

I like to read a lot about education, technology, and reform. Today I was reading a blog on Leadertalk about vision and how the work of a generation of teachers is being overshadowed by NCLB and high stakes testing. We are positioned in this community to take a great step towards creating a school system that will shape our young people to be thinking, creative and well prepared individuals. As Paris 95 and Crestwood Unit 4 come together to create a cooperative high school, we have the opportunity to lead with a vision of what we want a school to be and make it happen. The following quote says very well what we need to consider:

Right now, there are too many people who want to put too much of the fault on the people in the system. That’s the biggest legacy of NCLB — the erosion of trust in educators. And that’s criminal because we are squandering the good will and hard work of a generation of teachers. In the 1980 Presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan used the myth of the “Welfare Queen” as a major part of his campaign. Today, under NCLB, we have created the myth of the lazy teacher who, if only there was something to hold them accountable for the way they teach. The myth of that lazy teacher who could get students to achieve if only they worked harder is just that — a myth. Are there bad, lazy teachers? Of course, but they are the vast, vast minority. Most teachers went into the profession because they wanted to make a difference. But our system is broken, and if you put good people in bad systems, the system will win more often than not. And as a result, we have lost the ability to negotiate the terms of our own profession. And that’s what our current testing mania is at its root. It’s a political tool. It gives politicians a number that they can use to compare schools to each other, and claim that one number can encapsulate all that a student have learned. And these tests now are determining student, teacher and administrator lives, when we know that the tests — at best — tell only a small part of a student’s –and a school’s — learning. We need to tell a new story — we need to articulate a vision of caring, student-centered schools where students are judged by the work of their own head, heart and hands. We need to talk about how the technological tools at our disposal allow us to fundamentally change the structures of our schools so that we can prepare students for the world they will inherit, but we can’t do that as long as our assessment system is firmly placed in the past.

We need to articulate our vision for Paris’ schools and it needs to be the shared ideas of parents, educators, students (they are often left out), local businesses and the community at large. The City of Paris has taken a great step in the right direction by securing the prison work camp property for the use of an educational facility! We need to follow that up by creating a vision and an action plan to create a school that will serve the needs of our community! We must look beyond what is being done now. Look for ways around current regulations that bog down the educational process in political dogma. Illinois law allows for the creation of Charter Schools that, with special provisions, are allowed to operate without the ties of some of the poor lawmaking that have made our system as bad as it is. It is an opportune time and we need to take advantage of it!

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