My interactions with colleagues and audiences during Race to the Top workshops remind me how difficult change can be for individuals and institutions. Under the backdrop of fiscal stressors, radical reforms such as Race to the Top can be stressful and incomprehensible. Principals rightly ask, “where is the time to do this work?” Teachers wonder how they can adjust their curricula to the rigors of the Common Core Learning Standards while also implementing Data-Driven Instruction, and superintendents are concerned about budgets and further cuts in programs as revenue sources decline. The anxiety of teacher and principal ratings further exacerbates things.
Amidst the churn, Michael Fullan’s adage, “Problems are our friends” reminds us of the leveraged opportunities we presently have before us. Through RTTT, we have the chance to restructure how principals use their time; how teachers add rigor and relevance to their instruction; how leadership is distributed among teachers; and how we collaboratively use data to inform decision-making. In other words, we have a rare chance to deliberately and radically change our public education system for the welfare of our children and society.
There’s no question this country can do better in public education. All one needs to do is look at the Trends in International Math and Science Studies or the Programme for International Student Study Data for confirmation. With a sense of urgency, RTTT has pushed us out of our comfort zones to reconsider and reevaluate “How we do things around here.” Let’s ask ourselves if we are stretching students and providing the scaffolded support for those who struggle. Let’s commit ourselves to using data of all types to make good decisions. And let’s work together to figure this all out.
As Margaret Meade says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”