Friday, April 18, 2014

Now What?

Through my many connections on Twitter, the relationships I have established with other educators in NYS and the friendships I have nurtured with my classmates at Penn, there is one common thread that connects them all... most of us agree that the current landscape of public education is not a pretty one and things don't seem to be improving any time soon. The question that always follows is... what are we going to do about it?

from sandiegofreepress

I had breakfast with a friend, a fellow educator, the other day and we discussed the many challenges and issues facing public education today. Our list included (but was not limited to)... 

  • high stakes testing with little positive impact, if any, on kids; 


  • poor implementation of the Common Core State Standards (are the standards the issue or the way they are being implemented?); 

  • the current push to reform educator evaluation models and establish a direct link between educator's evaluations and the way students perform on one high stakes test; 

  • the standardization of instruction, which is unfolding in many schools behind the thin veil known as the Common Core State Standards (do standards mean we must standardize the way we teach?); 

  • issues like poverty and class that impacting many of our schools in this country - will the Common Core close that "gap" for kids?; 

from rayoflighcambodia 

  • the ineffectiveness of some educators who are either in classrooms or leading schools/districts today - they are not the majority but they are in our schools and they are impacting our children in a negative way!

  • the fact that non-educators are making decisions about teaching and learning... people who have never taught a day in their lives nor have they spent a moment of time in a public school today... yet they have more voice than those of us who dedicate our lives to this world!

  • are we actually preparing our children for their futures? Have we correctly qualified what it means to be college and career ready? What should education look like for our children today?

Of course, the list above could go on and on (please feel free to add to the list in the comments section) but the question still remains... Now What? If there are thousands of us, and I will go a step further and say probably even hundreds of thousands of us, who agree that the issues outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg plaguing our schools today, what are we going to do about it? How are we going to change things? What will we do to advocate for the needs of our children? What will we do to change the landscape of public education?

We can no longer close the doors to our schools or classrooms and do what we want in isolation (even if we are doing some awesome things for kids); we can no longer just complain about the problem or merely acknowledge its existence; we can no longer allow others, in many cases people who are not practitioners working in schools everyday, to make decisions that impact learning, instruction and best practice in OUR schools. NO! 

We must figure out a way to regain control of our schools... our classrooms... our collective voices in an effort to do what is best for children! The time has come and we must work together to answer the question... Now What? 


  1. Well done, Tony.
    How about this for a next step? Get a group of educators together to provide direction to our politicians regarding educational practices. You would be a great one to lead this effort.

  2. Hey Tony...

    Do you think that a student can do well on tests and have a great experience in school that is valuable to their learning and future? I just think that when we talk about how schools needs to change, while we are still working with schools, that we are part of the problem.

    If you (or I) are going to wait for politicians to do something different, then you will be waiting for awhile. What are you doing as an educational leader to make schools better for kids? That's what I want to see/hear/read about it.

    1. This is a great post by Tony (as always) and I really appreciate George's follow-up question. I'm taking the post and reflective prompt to heart. Articulating possible solutions and identifying a possible "path" forward that's best for 21st century learners is the commission of visionary lead-learners. I'm looking forward to responding in word and deed and collaborating with Tony and others on this. Thanks for your leadership Tony (and George)!

  3. Great post Tony.
    Next steps is at our door step. The time is now because as the saying goes, "if not now when, if not you/us then who." Yes, the mountain that needs to be climbed is daunting and often it seems as if the only way to climb it is with our hands tied behind our backs and yet, that shouldn't deter us. As you mentioned in your post, there is a significantly large collective voice. We need to harness that voice & start to use it more to communicate it to those outside of it. Specifically the ones making the decisions on behalf of educators and ultimately our kids. Certainly not an easy task but nothing worth doing is easy. So yes, we need Administrators, teachers, students, parents and all stakeholders to pony up to the line. We need to "poop or get off the pot" so to speak and I share that with due respect. The stance does not mean we need to be adversarial or combative, but we certainly need to work together.

    I'll end with a quote that I thought of as I was reading your post.

    "Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all."
    ~ Norman Vincent Peale #Quote

    Tony, you are no doubt a very rare breed in the education community. Your actions are sincere and thought provoking. You are touching hearts and causing people to pause and reflect -- teachers and parents alike. You've found your gift and that is a blessing to you and to all of us.

    Mil gracias for your passion, sincerity and innovative leadership. I'm blessed and honored to have had the opportunity to cross paths with you.

    ~ Sylvia

  4. Well said, Tony. After a move and a few years away from the classroom, I'm hoping to return this coming year. As I write each cover letter, I can't help but wonder if all my endeavors to make a difference and do what's best for my students will come to full fruition with the political climate that lies ahead for us all. I know a gifted teacher makes a difference no matter what challenges are faced, but for the first time, I'm actually nervous that I'm going to be forced to teach in a manner I don't agree with.

  5. Great post Tony. I think about this EVERY day and worry if we are on the right track in New York, which I think we are not. It should be interesting to see if this will come to a colossal end and fail miserably. The only problem is that in the end, I fear that our kids will suffer. So much lack of innovation. We just need to be brave enough to push back. Nicely done my friend! Vicki

  6. And I'll add to that Vicki, that I too am deeply concerned and worry every day about the everyday school experiences we are creating for our children. I support more time in school to work on projects and an increase on afterschool activities. I deeply believe that time on task learning skills is not enough to help our students develop interests, passions and relationships (especially in this tech-filled life they are growing up in). I also, as a parent, a board member, an educator, someone deeply concerned with society and where our middle class is going, encourage all of those who are concerned as you, Tony, Vicki and others are, to continue working towards holding lawmakers and those outside education accountable for the society that we are sending our children into. What kind of citizens are we creating? How will they contribute to our world today and tomorrow? How do we teach them to care about school when the world they live in seems at odds? Do we really think our kids don't hear the negativity around the CCSS, implementation or otherwise? What kind of message are we sending to them? Testing - no testing? Talk about confusing. I worry about my children and my nieces and nephews and wonder what life has in store for them. There's no reason not to push back; but we need to remember to do so with respect. Our children are watching.