Monday, January 17, 2005

Western Leadership

Well this weekend I was at the NEA Western Regional Leadership Conference in Denver. Plus, I got to do some night time geocaching with my friend Michelle - we had a blast!

Reg Weaver is the president of NEA, he gave a nice speech Friday night. This isn't exactly what he said but a small portion of it simplified a bit. It was fun and hopefully useful - that remains to be seen if we can put anything from the conference to good use.

Reg Weaver's Ten Commandments! You want public education to be great in this country? Then try following these:

Commandment Number One: Thou shalt not pretend to reform schools by passing some bogus Ten Commandments law that will most likely be declared unconstitutional.

Commandment Number Two: Thou shalt not say that children are America's top priority when 20 percent of America's children live in poverty, 15 percent have no health insurance, and 13 children are killed by gunfire every single day.

Commandment Number Three: Thou shalt recognize that only public education has the potential to provide each and every child in America with a quality education, and therefore, thou shalt not abandon public schools, but redeem and enhance them.

Commandment Number Four: Thou shalt not spend more money on prisons than on schools. The more quality schools you have, the fewer prisons you'll need.

Commandment Number Five: Thou shalt not kid thyself that paying starting teachers $20,000 a year is any way to attract and retain the best and the brightest educators for our kids. Thou shalt support future teachers - not insult them.

Commandment Number Six: Thou shalt respect every child as precious and capable of learning - regardless of their background - and treat them as the valuable natural resource that they are.

Commandment Number Seven: Thou shalt not bash teachers - especially when thou has not been in a classroom thyself for the last 35 years.

Commandment Number Eight: Thou shalt honor not only teachers, but the people who drive the buses, clean the hallways, serve the lunches, counsel the students, take the attendance, nurse the injured, assist in the classrooms, and run our nation's schools with dignity and dedication and grace.

Commandment Number Nine: Thou shalt recognize that quality education requires everybody in the education community to work together cooperatively - from retired teachers to new administrators to parents - and engage them accordingly.

And finally, Commandment Number Ten: Thou shalt remember that public education must always be an immediate priority and a long-term investment. Schools must not be subjected to quick fixes or get-rich-quick schemes.

And what the heck. Let me add an Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not determine a student's entire future by the results of a single ultra-high stakes test -- especially if that test is inherently flawed and unfair!

And a Twelfth Commandment! Why not? Commandment Number Twelve: Thou shalt not establish a whole new set of standards for schools without aligning them with the curriculum! Or, without aligning them with the tests! Or without any input from the teachers who are actually going to have to teach them! And thou shalt certainly not hold schools accountable to these standards without giving them the help and the resources they need to meet them!

Now those are Twelve Commandments that will make a truly extraordinary difference for children all across America!

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