A Declaration of Devotion

11647261_10153134009193020_1077395906_nAre Americans ready to declare their devotion to ensuring that the public education system continues to exist and prosper? We have rallied to support our troops, but, failed to consistently support our public schools. We have questioned why we always have money for war, but, we have not demanded the same for education.

Have we ever made a declaration of devotion to a national goal for public education? In the 1960’s, Francis (Frank) Keppel, the architect of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act wrote something similar to what follows here, but his words were never heard nationwide.

∞∞∞∞

A  Declaration of Devotion to Educational Excellence

We the People of the United States, in Order “to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunity in this Nation’s elementary and secondary schools” will act in accordance with the principles and practices that will guide and support our efforts to ensure excellent education for all.

Our goal is to achieve and maintain an education system that offers maximum opportunities for all students to learn while holding the highest expectations for the individual pupil and all those that are responsible for supporting students. This system will continuously strive to improve public educations’ role in serving the needs of our free, fair, and democratic republic.

To accomplish our goal, the expectation set for the system is that all those governing, employed by, and voluntarily supporting our public schools will function based on mutual respect for each other and all stakeholders in an effort to earn and maintain the trust of the People.

We Recognize that it is in the best interest of the nation to assure equal opportunity to be educated to the fullest of an individual’s potential and that goal can best be realized by maintaining a strong and effective public education system.

  Action   Provide equitable and adequate resources with the knowledge, guidance, and oversight to use those resources wisely to solve problems.

We Recognize that to improve means we must consistently and accurately assess current conditions of our schools based on appropriate data that aligns with our national goals.

  Action   Establish a report card for the nation that uses indicators of what the public deems important and make the findings know in an annual State of the Nation’s Schools with corresponding State of Our State schools reports.

We Recognize that to ensure the strengthening and improvement of local schools requires a strong and capable Department of Education nationally and in every state.

 → Action Reaffirm the commitment of the U.S. Department of Education to its original purposes, identify the states seen as chronically low-performing, and support the training of those state department personnel in effective school improvement processes.

We Support community organizing efforts to engage parents and the community in youth support activities, programs, and their schools.

Action → Enlist the Cooperative Extension Service to educate and train volunteers, disseminate proven practices, and assist in coordinating efforts to use locally available resources more efficiently and effectively.

We Support research, development, and diffusion of effective practices.

Action →  Invest in our existing public institutions of higher education focusing on improving teacher, counselor, and leader education; and reinvest, reclaim, and refocus the function of regional education laboratories to maintain integrity, relevance, and responsiveness in research aimed at seeking solutions for communities’ education problems; and establish the outreach and extension of research findings to ensure their use in educational improvement practices.

We Support those schools that have been identified as chronically low-performing by providing federal emergency assistance, immediately, in cooperation with state and local education agencies.

Action  Provide a federal support team (also called “success teams”) to help facilitate school and community members in a guided improvement process.

We will:

  • maintain local responsibility shared through the democratic governing of schools,
  • depend on state accountability with shared knowledge of measurable results and costs,
  • and, rely on federal oversight, guidance, and support through the practices of the U.S. Department of Education and through responsive and responsible federal policy set by Congress and the President of the United States.

Federal education law must be written with the understanding that effective execution of the law depends on local education personnel with public participation and support. In order for all who wish to assist their schools in fulfilling the promise of maximum educational opportunities with the highest expectations, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act must be reduced, simplified, and made to once again address the needs of the educationally deprived children of this nation.

(This is a modified excerpt from addendum 1 of The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present: Education’s Missing Ingredient 2nd edition © 2012 Victoria M. Young)

I hope all of you will take the time this July 4th holiday to reflect on what is important in your lives and crucial to the life of this nation.

Happy Independence Day, America!

single-minded-quotes-8

Informed Citizens

For our republic to survive and prosper, informed citizens are vital.

The importance of informed citizens was clear from the start.Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 9.39.15 PM And as time has marched forward, there has been a notable commonality among U.S. presidents that dissemination of information is an essential national service. Education matters. The question has always been; how do we do it?index

With the civil war raging, President Lincoln answered in 1862 by signing the Morrill Act establishing the land-grant college system. He said at the time:

“The land-grant university system is being built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support and their confidence.”

Fifty-two years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act that established the cooperative extension system for disseminating practical applications of research findings from the land-grant colleges to the people who needed the education.

President after president has acknowledged the success of that dual system including President Ronald Reagan as stated in A Nation at Risk.

“The American educational system has responded to previous challenges with remarkable success. In the 19th century our land-grant colleges and universities provided the research and training that developed our Nation’s natural resources and the rich agricultural bounty of the American farm.”

So, I personally am left wondering if President Reagan was unaware of the intentions of President Johnson (D) and his secretary of health, education and welfare, John W. Gardner (R), to model educational and community improvement after our successful programs in agricultural education.

In July 1964, John W. Gardner, then president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, headed a presidential task force that proposed establishment of the RELs [regional educational laboratories] as a vital link to interpret, shape, and communicate the centers’ research findings; tailor them for practical school use; and infuse them into the nation’s classrooms, including college classrooms.”

So as President Johnson set out to address the issues of poverty simultaneously with those of the education system, he saw the need to provide services for children that would “be adapted to meet the pressing needs of each locality.” He urged that we “draw upon the unique and invaluable resources of our great universities to deal with national problems of poverty and community development.” And it was envisioned that the university extension system could help the people to help themselves.Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.40.32 PMDissemination of information was seen as essential to improvement.

As envisioned by the main architect of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Francis Keppel, a network of regional educational laboratories was written into law. As Keppel expressed, they were “designed to serve education much as the agricultural experiment centers long served and stimulated the development of agriculture.”

He felt this would bring together schools and school systems, link proposal to practice, to provide “a missing link.” They were to be the key to maintaining informed citizens.

Today we have ten regional educational laboratories, but they are not serving as originally intended because their marching orders have changed with the changing of ESEA.

During the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, the centers and laboratories were intended to be a network of institutions designed to revitalize American education through strategic research, development, and dissemination of new programs and processes. Since their inception, such external issues as the federal role in education and the allocation of funding, along with such internal issues as the challenge of applying research to real-world school settings, have significantly affected the mission and operation of these institutions.”

But despite all the changes and difficulties, the regional educational laboratories have put out some excellent research. However, the goal of forming a network to freely disseminate information and assist in training at the local level was never fully realized and has left us with pockets of schools in need of improvement but without the knowledge and skills to do so. We say they “lack the capacity” to improve. We lack informed citizens.

The regional educational laboratories were intended to provide practical solutions to the issues facing schools. They were to serve as the bedrock of excellence. The information they provided was then to be disseminated to the schools and the general public— free of charge, for the most part. They would be supported by the public system. Flow of information needed to be in both directions ensuring that researchers were addressing what the stakeholders needed to know and be able to do.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.55.17 AM

When financial support for public research institutions is cut and private interests start picking up the tab, the integrity of research is potentially compromised. At what cost?

We currently have the system backwards — top-down, outcome-based, data-driven instead of student-focused, needs-driven local improvement.

General diffusion of knowledge, dissemination of information continues to be a recognized problem.

As President Carter established the U. S. Department of Education in 1979, the importance of dissemination of research findings was written into the purposes of the department with a few little words— to “share information” (#4).

Diffusion of knowledge, dissemination of research findings, sharing information — whatever we call it — the concept once held such importance that it had its own title in ESEA.Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.58.26 AM We once understood the significance of a national system for providing affordable practical education, doing basic unbiased research, and sharing practical, useful information for improvement purposes. And it worked!

Land-grant campuses collectively enroll more than 4.6 million students and have 645,000 faculty members. They conduct two-thirds of the nation’s academic research and charge a third as much as comparable private universities, even after years of price increases.”

…. “If a Congress fighting a civil war could pass the Morrill Act, I don’t think the fact that, today, Washington is so divided should stop us from recommitting to it [the land-grant system].”

Preserving, strengthening, and improving this part of the system is essential to K-12 improvement…And it is not clear from either the House or Senate versions for ESEA reauthorization that Congress sees the importance in dissemination of information and its significance in cultivating an informed citizenry. #DoSomething

Tell Congress to go back to the drawing board NOW! This country has waited way too long to end No Child Left Behind and get back to a law that works for US!

(This Call to Action went unanswered because we lack informed citizens. So the Every Student Success Act (2015) -ESSA- became the latest version of ESEA to contribute to the dismantling of the public education system.)

How Our Great Education Institution Was Created

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”  George Washington, Farewell Address

And as our American education story goes, it was President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Morrill Act “to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in several pursuits and professions of life.” This set the foundation for the land-grant college system, our agricultural experiment stations, and extension (diffusion) of practical research-based information.

How do we grow a nation?

How do we grow a nation?

Lincoln believed that “The legitimate object of government is ‘to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves’.”

A hundred years later, the need to maintain the integrity of educational research and development through the use of our public institutions of higher learning was recognized by the educational visionaries of that time and written into law – the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And the role of the federal government was clearly understood as expressed by John F. Kennedy,…

“A century of experience with land-grant colleges has demonstrated that Federal financial participation can assist educational progress and growth without Federal control.”

A network of regional educational laboratories was to be developed intending to provide the basic research and development of practical solutions to the issues facing schools. They were to serve as the bedrock of excellence promoting use of best practices ( Theory of Action). The information they provided was then to be disseminated (diffused) to the schools. But the goal of forming a network to freely disseminate information (diffusion of knowledge) and assist in training at the local level was never fully realized.

And time marched on. The Reagan administration report, A Nation at Risk, pointed to the Cooperative Extension System as an example of America’s can do spirit. Ronald Reagan recognized that…

“Despite the obstacles and difficulties that inhibit the pursuit of superior educational attainment, we are confident, with history as our guide, that we can meet our goal. The American educational system has responded to previous challenges with remarkable success. In the 19th century our land-grant colleges and universities provided the research and training that developed our Nation’s natural resources and the rich agricultural bounty of the American farm.”

How we make progress is up to us.

How we make progress is up to us.

By using the right foundational building blocks, it is possible to erect an institution for the diffusion of knowledge that is built to last.

(This is the last of a ten blog series on The Road to Educational Quality and Equality that began with The March Begins.)