An earlier blog, The Power behind Envisioning, describes the Georgia Vision Project, one state’s effort to rally residents in support of a singular high-stakes cause—providing all children in the state with an excellent education so they can be successful in college, career, and life.
A risky endeavor, you say? You bet it is, but so far, the response to the 45 recommendations has been great, say the planners. That response could be sheer luck, but it’s doubtful.
Take, for instance, the fact that the George Lucas Foundation has tapped Whitfield County Schools in rural northwestern Georgia (where 66% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch) to be part of its new “Schools that Work” series. At first glance, Whitfield County, which includes five public middle schools embracing project-based learning, seems the polar opposite of the first school profiled in the series—San Diego’s High Tech High, a network of nine K–12 charter schools founded by a coalition of business leaders and educators and with an annual operating budget of about $27 million. Despite marked differences in school culture and resources, the schools share important principles: a common intellectual mission, personalization, and adult-world connections.
And herein is a lesson for us all.
Perhaps more school districts should be like Whitfield County, where educators are respected enough by the community to make decisions about what is and isn’t good for their kids; where supporting one another is a practice, not just an idea (e.g., administrators fulfill morning duties so teachers can meet and plan together); and where there is freedom to try and even fail at new ways to engage students in learning for today and tomorrow.
Recommendation 8.4 of A Vision for Public Education in Georgia is this: Develop a culture and climate that foster innovation and responsible risk-taking. Whitfield County can check this one off the list.
Read why the George Lucas Foundation chose Whitfield County Schools as a “Schools that Work” school here: http://www.edutopia.org/stw-replicating-pbl-why-we-chose-strengths
I am a Georgia resident and actually live very close to Whitfield County. As a fellow public school teacher, I find this initiative quite fascinating, especially your focus towards the end about taking risks and having the powers that be have enough trust and respect for teachers to try something as modern as this approach. Georgia is low in respect when it comes to test scores and overall performance in national rankings so I applaud Whitfield County for trying to change perception, and dually, change the educational system for their children.
It seems like we are in a time where the motto “well, it couldn’t get any worse” can be applied, so taking this leap could potentially only improve Georgia education with a successful endeavor influencing us surrounding areas to attempt something of the same. In my school (about an hour from Whitfield) our focus is on the faults in the faculty instead of the needs of the students — if only there were enough people, in high and low places, who could group together to try something fresh for a change… Thank you for this article.
I am a school teacher in South Carolina and I am very interested in your initiative. It is so important for teachers to be respected and for the community to support the schools. We are really involved with High Schools that Work (HSTW) and trying to get the community to support the high schools. The common planning time for teachers is so important and it is wonderful how the administration pitches in to make sure the teachers have the needed planning time something our teacher have been talking about and wishing for for years. Much success on the initiative.
I am a teacher in Tennessee. I have been told to begin planning a lesson with the end in mind. I feel that this statement relates to Georgia having a vision and getting it started with the end in mind. They also have an effective PLC.
I am a current employee of a school system in Georiga as well. I have never heard of this program and it sounds like fantasic idea. We only have 2 middle schools and it seems like our schools are forever doing things to get parents more involoved. No one wants to get involoved till their student is failing. If the parents would come together more and give imput then they could see what is being done for the students of the area instead of always want to fuss about the bad they see.
I am a new teacher and graduate student in Georgia and I was pleasantly surprised to hear about this program. It really sounds like the teachers and administration has pulled together and made significannt strides towards change. they know their students are at-risk students which need strong role models to show them they can exceed and be different than the generations before them. I wish we had more professional development communities like this. Truly inspiring!
Amen to this article. As a counselor/instructor from a small rural district in Iowa I am finding that state legislative mandates are being passed with very little input from educational leaders. Do more, less time; taking the educational instructors away from their most valuable resource, the students. This bothers me a lot. We need a paradigm shift that looks at our students at the core.