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ELECTION: Happy, Realistic, Purposeful

Barack Obama's election as President has made a lot of people understandably very happy.  A change of parties in control of the executive branch.  A new generation of leadership in the White House.  The first African-American president-elect.  Lots of new opportunities for work.   If my meds didn't prevent me from experiencing strong emotions, I'd be happy too.

ArtobamaspeechcnnBut there's a reason that -- did you notice? -- Obama was hopeful but not exhultant last night during his acceptance speech

In education, for example, no one has presented a realistic path by which education issues become any more of a priority (or a reality) than they were 24 hours ago. Don't let anyone tell you they have, or dangle shiny plans in front of you without explaining how they get enacted.  With the campaign done, it's clear that much of what was promised cannot and will not happen anytime soon. The economy is such a mess and foreign relations needs immediate attention. 

So let's not beat our heads against the wall about that, or pretend things are going to happen when they're not.  Instead, how about focusing on smaller, lower-cost things that could still have a tremendous impact on improving schools:  viral philanthropy like Nothing But Nets, better research so we know what we're doing before we jump into things (again), open-source alternatives to costly software applications, community engagement efforts (parents union, anyone?). 

I think there's lots of good things to be done in education during the next four years.  Just probably not many of the things that people are talking about now.

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I'm cheap enough to think twice before buying yard signs for $5.00 a piece, even if it is for Obama. But I respect the frugality of a campaign that charges for signs even when they have millions coming in.

In a time of austerity, we won't be as quick to buy into the flavor of the month "reforms" as we did with NCLB money. Even if you think NCLB I produced benefits, surely nobody thinks we can continue to afford such modest gains with such a high price tag. You cite two things that cost nothing, purposefulness and realism.

You got us off to a good start by phrasing the question so well, "how about focusing on smaller, lower-cost things that could still have a tremendous impact on improving schools: viral philanthropy like Nothing But Nets, better research so we know what we're doing before we jump into things (again), open-source alternatives to costly software applications, community engagement efforts (parents union, anyone?)."

Robert Pondiscio advanced the discussion further by noting the potential for "value-added" methods of identifying students at risk for dropping out, as opposed to the
more common, though more questionable, approaches regarding teacher accountability. The same could be said for using technology for seeking out elementary students with problems like absenteeism, and funding rifleshot programs for timely interventions.

There are so many candles that could be lit for a very modest price, as opposed to just blaming the darkness on political opponents. The most cost effective reform that I am aware of is realistic and purposeful conversation. And with the edusphere we could be offering one of the best bargains available.

Of course, research is a bargain also. But research findings don't explain themselves. And they don't implement themselves. The best way to become better consumers of educational research is to invite educators into the discussion.

I'm cheap enough to think twice before buying yard signs for $5.00 a piece, even if it is for Obama. But I respect the frugality of a campaign that charges for signs even when they have millions coming in.

In a time of austerity, we won't be as quick to buy into the flavor of the month "reforms" as we did with NCLB money. Even if you think NCLB I produced benefits, surely nobody thinks we can continue to afford such modest gains with such a high price tag. You cite two things that cost nothing, purposefulness and realism.

You got us off to a good start by phrasing the question so well, "how about focusing on smaller, lower-cost things that could still have a tremendous impact on improving schools: viral philanthropy like Nothing But Nets, better research so we know what we're doing before we jump into things (again), open-source alternatives to costly software applications, community engagement efforts (parents union, anyone?)."

Robert Pondiscio advanced the discussion further by noting the potential for "value-added" methods of identifying students at risk for dropping out, as opposed to the
more common, though more questionable, approaches regarding teacher accountability. The same could be said for using technology for seeking out elementary students with problems like absenteeism, and funding rifleshot programs for timely interventions.

There are so many candles that could be lit for a very modest price, as opposed to just blaming the darkness on political opponents. The most cost effective reform that I am aware of is realistic and purposeful conversation. And with the edusphere we could be offering one of the best bargains available.

Of course, research is a bargain also. But research findings don't explain themselves. And they don't implement themselves. The best way to become better consumers of educational research is to invite educators into the discussion.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.