Thursday, July 29, 2004

Education Environment

I'm in Chicago this week attending a board meeting of Learning Point Associates, an organization dedicated to helping school districts, principals, and teachers improve learning by creating various systems to improve teaching, create more accurate measurement of results, and to allow policymakers to beast their decisions on facts. I got into a very interesting discussion with one of the leadership team of the organization about some of the finding of e-scan. He was telling me about his 17-year old son who plays "Blackhawk Down" online. He has a whole squad that "reports" to him, and he considers his game mates his friends. He has created a whole world that didn't, that couldn't have, existed a few years ago. We pondered what this means for the future of education and learning, and how to teach information literacy to students who already know more about technology than most of their teachers.

Educators are under the gun right now. Under the "No Child Left Behind" law, school administrators for the first time are being legally compelled to produce results or face losing their jobs. Learning Point Associates is trying to help schools prepare for these challenges. As one of my fellow directors, the chief education officer for a large Midwestern state, said yesterday, a school superintendent had told him that in his 37 years of experience he had never seen a school district superintendent fired because his kids weren't learning. They had been fired for poor football results, transportation issues, bad calls on snow days, but never for failure to education. The new law changes that, requiring wholesale personnel changes in schools that consistently fail to produce.

We can argue for years over whether this is appropriate or not, but this is the law, and no one on this board sees the law changing no matter who is elected in November.

But outside of partisan arguments, doesn't it seem like there is a marvelous opportunity for public libraries to help here? To be advocates for helping toddlers enter school ready to learn, to help young students read for pleasure, to keep middle schoolers engaged during the summer, to polish the credentials of graduating high schoolers? This is where public librarians could step into the role of true community partners, without changing their mission, without feeling like they've sold out. And they could truly make their communities better.

I'm off the blog for a week or so for some R and R. I'm sure Alane and Alice will keep you informed and challenged in my absence. Or, as Groucho Marx once observed when he was leaving a party, "Outside of the improvement, you'll never notice the difference!" (Boat drinks for everyone!)


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm part of the leadership team at Learning Point Associates--and we're thrilled that George agreed to help us as a Director. We need strategic direction from leaders who know what the public sector can accomplish when its elements work together--George and the staff at OCLC know that.

At Learning Point, we know that public schools in the U.S. can't get to their goals alone. We need schools that are embedded in communities that work for families--communities that are healthy, full of jobs, full of public spaces, full of strong resources such as their public libraries. Public libraries, since their first establishment, have served an essential role in building healthy communities--as sources of information and guidance, havens in a difficult world, places of reflection and inspiration.

Now, increasingly, as schools struggle with scarce resources, the school library is vanishing--so each year the public library has an ever more enormous void to fill.

So, how do we all work together on this? A start is having OCLC leadership helping Learning Point Associates set its strategic direction. Thanks, George!

Kate Nolan

ruhan said...

Very successful

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