Why has this not been happening?
My experience in public education is rather limited. I have merely been a charter school administrator; and then for only slightly more than 12 years. During that time, however, I have taken numerous courses in educational leadership at WSU. In my opinion; educators have not been a part of the political discussions simply because they have had nothing to add. In short, we educators need to get our act together. In order to change the minds of politicians, educators must be believed. If educators are to be believed, we must be credible.
And, yes, we must each get out of our silos.
Educators in the field need to form working relationships with educators in colleges of education who are involved in educational research and in the formation of young teachers. The WSU Education Village will foster the kinds of working relationships needed to allow PreK-12 educators and their college counterparts to enter our country’s political conversations with credible research that has been tested in our schools.
In preparation for its Education Village, WSU has already entered into many partnership agreements with schools throughout the area. I can speak only about the relationships that we at the Dakota Area Community School (DACS) are building with the university. When I announced our intention to move to a STEM approach in our school Bruce Ramsdell, a member of the WSU Education Department, contacted me and said in effect, “We may be able to help.” And they have. We have worked with WSU for over seven months now and we are far closer to meeting our STEM goals than we expected to be over a year ago when we set them.
We also agreed to pilot a new Teacher Induction program that WSU is implementing next fall. As a part of this program, WSU will send representatives into the field to work with its new teacher-graduates in their places of employment. The Teacher Induction program allows WSU to provide needed insights and professional assistance to first-year teachers. Perhaps as important, it provides feedback to the university so that it can improve its course content. The Teacher Induction program is really a continuous improvement process – both for new teachers and for the university itself. DACS is proud to have had the opportunity to participate in the piloting of this program.
Next year, we hope that DACS will be able to serve as an elementary science field experience site for new education students. Yes, our school is continuing to build the types of relationships with the university that did not even exist a few short years ago.
The Education Village will expand the opportunities that WSU has to interact with real PreK-12 students and real PreK-12 teachers. If you are one who is critical of public PreK-12 education – and many are – I say, “Give us a chance.” Tell the politicians to limit their involvement to financing. Let educators move education along with innovative techniques and approaches that are developed and proven through cooperative activities between PreK-12 educators and their teachers – the Education departments of major colleges and universities like WSU.
After all, we need students who can do more than simply pass a standardized test.
This commentary was first published May 10, 2013 by the Winona Daily News