Seizing the Opportunity to Rewrite the Rules

Congratulations! Take a bow! You’ve won a victory against government over-regulation!

In late 2015, President Obama signed into law the replacement for the much-despised No Child Left Behind Act. As most of you know, the new law – the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – calls for a course correction. ESSA still requires some testing, but turns back much more control to states and local districts. It sets targets for total time spent on testing, while eliminating redundant and unnecessary tests.

It’s high time! Standardized testing has overwhelmed students and teachers alike for years.
A 2015 study found that a typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade! The heaviest load falls on 8th graders, who spend an average of 25.3 hours a year taking standardized tests. Good grief!

Some districts around the country revolted. California did away with its high school graduation test in 2015. Ditto for Minnesota, Mississippi, Alaska, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

But now let’s ask the tough question: What do we do now?

How will we, as educators, structure, monitor and evaluate student learning and progress?
One way forward – and one I advocate – is to begin candid conversations with our school boards, colleagues and parents. Let’s sort things out. Let’s talk, really listen to each other, and start working together to create standards which represent the unique DNA of a school, a district and a state.

The future of education is back in our hands. Let’s involve our communities in the process. Let’s recognize our own limits and reach out to those who have the information we need. Let’s not mess this up, and huddle behind closed doors guessing on new approaches and mandates.

The reason we’re forced to rework education legislation every few years is because we’re bandaging a broken system.

What should matter to all of us are our students. All of us have the opportunity to collaborate, share what works and what doesn’t, and advocate for students once and for all.

Let’s build a 21st- century model of education. Let’s explore a radically new way forward. Let’s rewrite the rule book.

Scary? Sure. But exciting, too!

So let’s get busy—our students are depending on us.

The Anti-Establishment Effect is a Win for Us

What a wild ride this election season has been. I’m not going to talk politics, but I do want to highlight one observation: Many people have turned against the establishment. They have had it with trying to work within a system they feel is rigged, and are done with an elite few making decisions for the many. And to these voters, it’s not about the details, it’s about voting against the establishment.

In my last blog post, I mentioned how decades of regulation made by a few people in a room far beyond your classroom have left teachers — and, by extension, students —at the mercy of others who don’t know their challenges. Teachers are the ones who know and understand their students’ needs. Educators see how illogical it is for the “Inside-the-Beltway” group, as I call them, to be calling the shots about public education across this diverse nation. And finally, with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it seems regulators are acknowledging how illogical this has been. To a great extent, ESSA puts the power to make decisions back in your hands, where it should have been all along. This is the result of educators pushing back against a steady stream of regulations, standards, tests and evaluations that distracted them from doing what they wanted to do — prepare students for successful careers and lives. You knew the education establishment, however positive their intentions, was keeping students stuck in Quads A and C. So you made noise. Good for you. You advocated for your students and their best interests, and I believe you are being heard!

The result? In essence, ESSA has provided you with the long-overdue ability to plan your own instruction. For us in education, it’s no longer about pushing against the establishment. Now it’s about the details, and you have been handed the chance to partner with your communities and sort through what is best for your students.

It’s like the dog who chased the bus and caught it. Now what?

As thousands of people across the country support candidates who give voice to their frustrations, you, educators, already have a victory in hand. Let’s not squander it. Let’s get strategic and future-focused as we reclaim our authority over the policies and curriculum in our districts, schools and classrooms.

Stay tuned. 

No Better Time Than Now to Share Ideas

Thanks to the recent passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we are entering an era when educators can finally take back the reins.

As a key inspiration for this blog, I will look to those bold teachers, administrators and schools who have already done this — who have said “no” to intrusive standards that didn’t suit their school’s DNA and said “yes” to successfully charting their own paths. In this weekly blog, you will find insights into the structures, strategies and tactics used by our nation’s most rapidly improving schools. You will also read my latest observations about the state of education in our country, as shaped by my 40 years working with educators across the country and the world.

At the International Center for Leadership in Education, we have followed, studied and tracked the nation’s most rapidly improving schools.The goal of this study was to understand what these schools do differently to break free from Quadrant A and C of the Rigor/Relevance FrameworkIn turn, we continue to partner with tens of thousands of educators, including those in the Troup County School System or the Asbury Park School District as of late.

To me, there’s no better time than now — when we are beginning to construct the “Post-Common Core Era” — to launch a blog through which I will post the secrets of these successful schools. My ultimate goal is to share ideas that you can implement in your own school to start a conversation, particularly as ESSA frees you and your team to reclaim your districts, your schools, your classrooms.

Your students are counting on you.

Welcome to the What’s Relevant Right Now blog.


Dr. Bill Daggett