Dr. Rudy Crew, Oregon’s new Chief Education Officer, spoke at the Grantmakers Conference in Eugene on October 17th. About sixty representatives of Oregon foundations heard him suggest where Oregon should focus its energies and resources to help students grow and achieve—making sure all students can read by third grade, promoting STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), better training and supporting teachers, and supporting stronger parent and community connections with schools.
As I listened it occurred to me that education officials and advocates know how to advance in all four of these areas. There are proven programs for teaching reading and raising literacy. There are effective models for engaging students in meaningful STEAM instruction and activities. There are traditional and non-traditional programs that are better equipping teachers to be successful in the short and long-term. There are exemplars in building relationships between parents and schools. We have a pretty good idea how to do all this; perhaps not with unquestionable certainty, but with enough confidence to move forward. We lack just one resource.
And no, it’s not money.
Over the past six months I’ve been privileged to work with Chalkboard’s Distinguished Educators Council, 13 teacher leaders advising Chalkboard on supporting and strengthening teaching in Oregon. What I heard from them clearly is that they yearn for more time. Time to engage deeply and intentionally with colleagues to improve instructional practice. Time to conduct qualitative assessment to provide students meaningful feedback on their progress. Time to come alongside struggling students to give them the focused and sustained support of a caring and capable adult.
Our current educational architecture doesn’t come close to providing this time. But thankfully, education structures can be redesigned. Sure, money would help. It can buy labor. And we can and should make such investments. But until we can afford these investments, until we’re willing to make these investments, we need not throw our hands up in frustration. There are 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year. We can think differently about how we deliver traditional education services during these hours, days and weeks. We can better utilize technology during non-traditional “school hours,” not to mention caring parents and committed community members. There are models for all this, too. Since the State is looking to make strategic investments in promising educational practices, perhaps this could be an area of focus.