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Educon 2.1: Panel Discussion on Educational Change and Reform

The Sunday panel moderated by Andy Carvin, National Public Radio, focussed on Education Change. The panel included:

  • David Bromley -- Regional Director, Big Picture Schools
  • Chris Lehmann -- Principal, Science Leadership Academy
  • Marc Mannella -- Principal, KIPP Philadelphia
  • Bette Manchester -- Former State Educational Technology Director, Maine
  • Gary Stager-- Executive Director of the Constructivist Consortium
  • Mike Wang -- Executive Director of Teach For America Greater Philadelphia

January 29-31, 2009 Educon 2.2 announced Save the Date!!

Here is a clip from the session.

Carvin asked each on the panel give an "Opening Statement". What does School Reform Look Like now that we have a new President in the White House.

Lehmann-"I am hopeful", That data driven decision making recognizes that the best data we have on our students is the work that they do in the classroom every day.

Mannella-Explained that KIPP schools fundamental belief that "All of us WILL Learn." Created to attempt to solve the problem of students. No Child Left Behind-got a couple things right, but a couple things wrong. Can't allow excuses to be made for students

Manchester-Running the Maine Learning and Technology Initiative (7 years). Every middle school in Maine, students and teachers using laptops. "My hope is that we will do what we know works." Transforming schools is not a mystery. The moral courage needs to be there to do what is right.

There has to be a level of coherence between Federal, State and Local schools.

  1. Schools need a morally clear vision and purpose
  2. Make clear that every staff member knows that purpose
  3. Committment to change everything! Focus on Deep Levels of Learning
  4. Intellegent Accountability-Focus on Assessment FOR Learning
  5. Lateral capacity-building those networks
  6. Leadership to focus on the change

Wang-Working to develop a broader level of leadership in Education and Business with Teach For America (Talked about D.C. Superintendent being a former TFA person)

Themes that are working: ("Non-Negotiable")

  1. Human Capital-Bring the right people in
  2. Use of Data-We can measure what students are learning when and how.
  3. Unyeilding Expectations with accountability

The President has shown the ability to dive into difficult issues and build consensus. "Arne Duncan is a great first step!"

Bromley-Big Picture Company, small student-centered schools

Cautiously optimistic, the real change will have to come from us

"Public Education is the one institution that still doesn't get it! " Need to move toward "imperical science" in how we look at kids. More schools are starting to move that way, but culture of schools, leadership need to change to fit what works for that kid.

(This panel is pretty balanced!-Except by race and gender, but philosophically balanced.)


  • "I dream of an America where the person put in charge of education is qualified."
  • Couldn't answer the question, "What's your favorite book about learning?"
  • "The Duncan appointment was something Republicans Like to Call Social Promotion."
  • Real teachers don't need data, they need to know their children!
  • In my vision of schooling, reform is based on
  • We must not rank or sort children
  • Partnership
  • Every child should have a rich education during the school day
  • Classroom an oasis for the joy of learning
  • Every child entitled to a passion
  • Learning is natural
  • Always wrong to be mean to children
  • External assessment is ALWAYS disruptive and interferes with learning

Carvin: What's realistic here?

Lehmann-replicability and scalability is difficult. The things that are replicable are processes. We can't scale curriculum, Tom Sobel-We can regulate the worst abuses out of the system but we can't regulate goodness Strives to put together policies that give good people the freedom and structure to be the best they can be.

Carvin: Is this possible to do with teachers who have been part of our current beaurocracy?

Bromley-A friend on the State Board of Education asked if what he is doing is replicable? There are so many teachers out there who want to do something different. YES-There are so many teachers who want to work differently with kids, but it's not going to happen over night.

Manchester-There are a lot of teachers like me who started in the 60's who never lost the passion, but it takes a force of many to decide to change. The messaging and the policies are critical-About the right stuff, not catching people doing bad things. Feed-back look in place where people can see the impact.

Mannella-Are we going to let perfect be the enemy of good? "I got to go to a good law school because I did well on my LSAT."

Stager-"I'm for more democracy not less." All of these schools can be a part of the solution, and parents can choose the "worksheet school" if they want!

Carvin-If NCLB doesn't work, what's the alternative?

Stager-NCLB was a political act. I'm glad it's not fully funded! We need to begin on the assumption that parents will make good choices for their children.

Wang-I'm listening to this and I agree with 92% of what some are saying, but the rest I go "woo!" The disagregation of data is a great reform in closing the acheivement gap. "We are a "niche" school and we sometimes yell at them. If that's going to work for that child, then we'll do it. I better spend 2x's as long

(Great backchannel on Twitter right now between the panelists and audience while people are talking)

Lehmann-The tests sometimes are measuring test taking. I have a child who probably will have an IEP and I never want teachers to look at him and say, can we get him to be proficient on the test. I want them to care for him. NCLB is choking our schools by changing the way that teachers look at students. The STAR program in Nebraska was great! Stop the insanity and work on what we know is best for kids.

Wang-It's not the policy that is bad, it's the implementation policy. As long as higher ed looks at test scores, we need to teach to the test.

Bromley-I think we need assessment, but doing test prep for a standardized test is wrong. We need to look at kids empirically. It's not Washington, it's not the policies, its one student at a time. We all need to be around the table and advocating to policy makers.

Carvin: Look around the room, and see who is here? How many people of color are here. Philly schools are 80% minority, are we doing anything wrong by not bringing more diversity into the conversation here?

Friedrick Bertley from the Franklin Institute , he was a former AIDS researcher stepped up to say that 3/4 of the world w/ AIDS were people of color, but when he attended conferences, they looked like the group here.

Wang-Too many students of color are not going on to higher ed, and that's not ok.

Manchester-I probably come from the "second whitest state in the Union!" It's about money and accessibility. Our poorest schools don't have a shot to do what schools in other parts of the state can do. The Maine Laptop initiative was the first in her state that leveled the playing field for students accross the state. The first thing is going to idividual schools and tracking where professional development $ go.

Lehmann-Goal of SLA is generating a generation of scientist and teachers who look like the population of the city around them.

Bromley-How much are we modeling for students, all the time? How often here did we sit and visit with people that don't look like us? Look at the panel....(I had dinner last night with Matt Kay and his parents.)

Comment from the Audience-Part of who you sit with has to do with the diversity of your community. The cafeteria at her school which is diverse, still gravitate toward

Stager-We can name the people of color at NECC each year. We can all help the situation by bringing people of color here.

Carvin-What does 21st Century Citizenship mean to you?

Wang-Expectations that extend far beyond the education community are needed. Teach for America is trying to develop leaders that understand what's happening in schools in their communities. "It is possible for all kids to learn."

Manchester-Technology helps with making the connecctions to learn and collaborate with each other.

Lehmann-I want my students to be Thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind-If the tools help this to happen, great, but it can be in any century.

Carvin-It seems that real inovation happens in smaller schools. (SLA-500 next year, KIPP 340) Is there hope for larger schools?

Mannella-If schools can forge relationships and overcome the

Manchester-The relationship piece is the key to success no matter the size.

Lehmann-"Small schools can't be big schools in drag", Even in small schools, if there aren't opportunities to forge relationships so everyone can celebrate their shared humanity first, then it doesn't matter.

Carvin-How can you get schools to change when their stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Mannella-KIPP-Founded on "Power to Lead", give them autonomy

Manchester-All the work in Maine involved work with principals on assessment. U of Maine wasn't teaching assessment in their pre-service instruction or Admin licensure! Once training on assessment happened, then principals were able to be more articulate and could give feedback to policy makers on what was and wasn't working.

Mannella-With great power comes great responsibility

Lehmann-Responsibility is internal, Accountability is external. There is a disconnect in how people are judged.

Wang-The limiting factor is human capital.

Carvin-Educon currently the 2nd most popular topic on Twitter! If everyone had a chance to have a beer with Obama, what would you tell him?

Wang-We know know beyond a shaddow of a doubt that all kids can learn

Bromley-I'd just want to listen. Ask him to reflect on what made him successful. Connect him to relationships

Lehmann-Hire Debbie Meyer

Manchester-Don't invest in one $ on technology if you aren't willing to

Stager-Pay attention to the educational experiences his daughters are having at the Friends school, and replicate that around the country.

It was interesting to have people of diverse opinions on the panel, but I did discuss the lack of diversity (racial, gender) with Bertley. He is hoping to encourage Lehman to include more of that on next year's panels. It should be noted that the panel on Friday had much more racial and ethnic diversity.


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