Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
EDITOR’s NOTE: The following guest post from Chris Shearer represents, well, the thoughts of Chris Shearer. And if you have the pleasure of knowing Chris, you know his thoughts and style are unique. And as such, they do not represent his employer (Hewlett) or this blog. Not exactly, at least.
Do you ever have trouble selecting which meetings to attend and which to tactfully avoid? Me, too. The unending crush of meeting requests and opportunities is one of the most notable blessings/curses of our lives as foundation program staff.
(I feel a bit like Andy Rooney here: “Do you EVER have trouble choosing between the GOOD meetings and the ones where you just KNOW you’ll NEVER get that part of your life BACK?”)
Well I am putting ink on paper online to urge you to think about attending a meeting that might normally default into your mental “spam” in-box. It’s GFE’s “Member Briefing on Innovation Design” this June in Detroit.
Why might you tend to dismiss the briefing? First, there is the seemingly squishy language: “harness the tools of design thinking to create new systems to serve twenty-first-century learners.” Ooh, ooh, Jargon bingo! Then there is the location: Detroit. The hothouse of innovation? I mean, I liked the Imported from Detroit ads during the Super Bowl (“This isn’t New York City. Or the Windy City…This is Motor City”) but I do not naturally think, “Hey, let’s go to Detroit to look at the future.” Then there is the time out of the demanding daily grind of grant reviews, grant making, grant reports, and grantee meetings.
And I’ll be honest: when GFE offered the first of the Innovation Design meetings in San Francisco last May I took a pass. It seemed too tangential to my daily work, too far away, too much time. But—as events transpired—I switched jobs and stunt-doubled for a new colleague ata follow-up meeting of participants from that briefing, held in September in Chicago. I thought of it as an obligation. I was wrong. It was a gift.
These convenings are enormously helpful and truly collaborative discussions about how we can think in a real way about the students of the 21st century. About how the education system actually needs to change to give kids a real education that they can really use in their real future. And, it turns out, some folks in Detroit have been facing the future pretty directly and thinking creatively and hard about how school design might need to change. Oh, and then there are your colleagues, who are each bringing solid case studies, experiences, and specific frustrations with the present system into concrete discussions of grants budget allocations, co-funding, technology, and system-busting to the table. All this is framed by the discipline and principles of Design and facilitated by some of the best external facilitators I have seen in a while.
Now, no meeting is perfect. And this Briefing won’t be, either. For example, I don’t think we are actually going to finish redesigning all of American education in the two days we’re there. And who knows if the best of the breakfast pastry will already be snatched up by the time I get down from my hotel room to the meeting space. But from what I’ve experienced, this will be an event worth attending. There will be much more about active discussions than you are used to. Much more about challenging current thinking. Much more about reforming instruction and learning than most of what constitutes today’s highly-charged tactical litmus test for “reform.” And, as a bonus, there are two tracks – one for past participants and one for folks just starting the discussion.
I was born into the race riots of downtown Detroit at a time when this country was walking (or, in true Detroit fashion, driving) away from its diversity, its changing economy, its challenges. I am looking forward to going back to hear what Motown has to tell me about seizing all that change as an advantage and to hearing from my colleagues about how we act today to transform education for tomorrow. Hope to see you there.
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Things are pretty nonstop NOLA here at GFE, given the fierce urgency of prepping for The Fierce Urgency of Now: Fulfilling the Promise of Excellence and Equity, our 14th annual conference, coming soon to the Crescent City.
Not surprisingly as our nation marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaks, we’re not the only ones with NOLA on our minds. Annenberg Institute for School Reform devotes the entire current issue of VUE: Voices in Urban Education to New Orleans.
And those Annenbergers are also talking about equity.
In New Orleans: the Challenge of Equity and Scale, they note some of the challenges that have arisen as school choice becomes the mantra of NOLA education reform:
- in the immediate aftermath of the flooding, displaced residents had no voice in the decision-making processes that will continue to shape education systems in the city for years to come
- with two districts (i.e., the Orleans Parish School District and the statewide Recovery School District) and scores of charters, there is no single system of accountability–such that increasing school choice doesn’t guarantee increases in school quality, at least not in terms parents can easily monitor
- as in most cities, transportation poses a major impediment to lower-income families seeking to exercise school choice–but the problem is especially acute given flood-related disruption and devastation of public transit
- as many as 50% of the nonprofits operating in NOLA pre-Katrina are no longer functioning–making it harder than ever to find external partners to provide the emotional, cultural, recreational and other supports children need.
Beyond Human Resources: Human Capital Development for Scale and Sustainability discusses challenges within Louisiana’s Recovery School District, which currently oversees the majority of the city’s charter and public schools. New Orleans has seen a huge influx of new teachers–but most of them with little classroom experience. The article explores the challenges that arise when teacher recruitment is successful–thus creating new burdens in terms of delivering effective professional development and mentoring, and preventing high levels of turnover that undermine school improvement efforts.
We’re looking forward to our convening in NOLA this month, particularly in terms of how the successes and lingering inequities in the region’s education systems can serve as a crucible for understanding–and executing–what we need to do to reform education throughout the country.
Monday, July 26th, 2010
There’s not much to be happy about when it comes to college graduation rates.
57% of students at bachelor’s degree-granting institutions earn a degree in six years.
22% of community college students earn an associate degree in three years.
And guess whether those numbers are even lower for African American, Native American and Latino students, as well as low-income students.
But we are happy that From Access to Success: A Funders’ Guide to Ensuring More Americans Earn Postsecondary Degrees is raising awareness about the college completion crisis–and demonstrating what education philanthropy can do about it.
And we’re not the only ones concerned. It’s great to be part of a growing national conversation about college success (and yes, we are pleased that the New York Times cited our report).
But it will be even better to be part of a nation where college graduation rates don’t stink like six-day old fish. Or like spending six years in college without even earning a degree.
Monday, June 28th, 2010
Reposted from Jillian Darwish’s The Future of Education blog
“She saved my life,” Robert Redford said in his remarks this afternoon to begin the 2010 Americans for the Arts Half-Century Summit. He was speaking about the teacher who brought him an easel to use in class as a solution to his continuous doodling and distraction. He went on to challenge the audience to dispel the persistent myths about the arts, namely that they are a trivial pursuit and that they are unrelated to the economy.
Following Redford’s remarks, I participated on a panel with Eric Booth, Carrie Fitzsimmons, Jim Shelton and Christine Tebben to discuss, The Future of Arts Education.
So where do Redford’s myths and the future intersect?
We are rapidly moving to a future where fully democratized knowledge is resulting in what Jim Shelton called “commoditized expertise.” To keep our nation competitive and our shared future secure, we must
1) challenge ourselves to be more precise about what we mean when we use terms such as creativity and critical thinking. (Thanks to Eric for the etymology lessons!)
2) build our capacity for providing evidence as to how we develop and measure these outcomes. (The references below are early signals we might build upon)
3) move beyond simple knowledge acquisition as the aim for learning and include skills and habits of mind such as those below that will be critical to a thriving future. (The arts can play a tremendous role in building these capacities.)
- Flexible Thinking: In a world in which future workers are likely to have as many as eight careers or more in their lifetimes, lifelong learning will be essential but flexibility of thought will be equally critical, enabling individuals to move seamlessly from one transition to another. (For capacity development through the arts see Artful Thinking at Harvard)
- Resilience: Our Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic and Ambiguous (VUCA) world, characterized by the pressures of bio-distress, and many others, will require Increasing attention not only to our physical health but also to our mental health if we are to cope with an increasingly stressful environment (For capacity development through the arts see the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Festival of Healthy Living )
- Multiple Interpretations: The New Civic Discourse driver from the 2020 Forecast depicts a world in which continuous, bottom-up communication will be the norm, bringing an ever-widening circle of individuals with divergent views into contact with one another. If this dialogue is to be fruitful, not fractious, we will need to develop a new capacity for dialogue which includes the capacity to see multiple perspectives. (For capacity development through the arts see Teaching Literacy Through Art at the Guggenheim)
- Willingness to Experiment and Learning from Mistakes: Dynamism and acceleration are hallmarks of our current age. To innovate in this world, rapid beta-building and the habits of mind such as a willingness to experiment and reframing of “mistakes” as failures, to “mistake” as learning opportunities will be required. (For capacity development through the arts see College of New Rochelle’s ArtsConnection)
- Visual and Spatial Abilities: If we are to make sense of the vast amounts of knowledge we are creating, the knowledge era must become the visual era. We need to develop the capacity to bring multiple streams of information together in new ways to provide sophisticated and elegant pictures of complex situations. The Pattern Recognition driver from the 2020 Forecast has much more to say about this. (For capacity development through the arts see Winner and Hetland research)
And what will make it possible to bring these capacities into the future of learning? We need to bring our investment in education innovation in line with innovation investments in other sectors, increasing it from .3% to 3% of the total budget. We need a well-funded innovation effort that is distributed and that forms a national learning network. In this network, successful prototypes for the type of learning we seek will emerge, forming a knowledge base and lever for national transformation.
Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
There are a few statistics that have caught our breath of late.
1 in 10 K-12 students is an English Language Learner (ELL). Nearly 1 in 4 kids in the US has at least one immigrant parent. In California, that number rises to 1 in 2.
What does that mean for schools, and for the students they serve? Well, there are a few surprises.
Surprise #1: ELL is an issue across the United States
If the pop quiz question is “Name the states with the largest number of ELL students,” you’d probably guess California, Texas, Florida, New York. And you’d be right.
But if the question is “Name the states with the fastest growing ELL population,” would you guess South Carolina, Arkansas or New Hampshire? You should–all of them are experienced 250% growth in ELL learners in just ten years (so did Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia). Imagine what that means for school staffing and curriculum
We could keep up the quiz . . . guess how many states have at least 10,000 ELL students? Guess how many ELL students are in the states where you fund?
But let’s quit the quiz in favor of the facts. Here’s what the national population of ELL looks like:
And that picture is worth a whole lot of words, when it comes to the import of serving English Language Learners.
Surprise #2: ELL isn’t the same as immigrant
Not every immigrant is an English Language Learner–some arrive fully fluent, depending on the language and education system of their native countries.
Conversely, ELL issues affect students born in the US. Language-acquisition issues can be a struggle, even for second- or third-generation Americans–and ELL programs have to engage these learners appropriately. And even when kids have strong English fluency, if their parents lack the language skills or are unfamiliar with American school systems, they may be poorly positioned to be involved in their children’s education.
Surprise #3: When it comes to education, immigrants are not a monolithic group
Immigrants account for a disproportionate share of Americans without a high school diploma. But they also make up a disproportionate share of Americans with doctoral degrees–nearly one-third in 2009. Although these numbers reflect adult immigrants, they serve as an important reminder of the range of ELL students and families our schools serve.
Surprise #4: A rise in ELL/immigrant students isn’t necessarily bad news. In fact, it can be good news.
It’s possible to assimilate large numbers of immigrant learners, while increasing school success for all learners, as Linda Darling-Hammond has noted Finland has done: even as immigrants speaking more than 60 languages have come into the country, resulting in urban schools with close to 50% non-native speakers, achievement has increased and grown more equitable. We’re fond enough of saunas and cell phones, why not embrace this other Finnish innovation as well?
Of course, some American educators already understand that working with ELL learners provides an invigorated way to think about how to engage all students. And if we truly want American students to have the cultural capacity to participate as twenty-first-century global citizens, it’s easy to see the benefits of attending school with kids from other parts of the world. As long as those schools are able to serve all their students well.
ELL is a big enough issue that GFE has devoted three programs to it this year: two web seminars (both of which were very informative, thank you very much), and a member briefing (which is coming up in June). We’ve learned a lot in the process of developing the programs–but what’s most amazed us is how off-the-radar ELL remains for most funders. Is ELL something that is central to your grantmaking? Sorta on the sidelines? Not even sorta? How do these 1 in 10, 1 in 4, 1 in 2 kids figure in your work?