Ten #whatifs for You, Mr. Duncan

On December 30th, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan posed a question to the Twitter-verse:

What if every district committed both to identifying what made their 5 best schools successful & providing those opps to all their students?

I’m not sure Mr. Duncan was prepared for the response he received from U.S. educators. But then, I’m not sure Mr. Duncan is even aware of what anyone outside of his inner circle might think. So, go ahead, Google #whatif and read some of the responses.

I have my own list of educational #whatifs for Mr. Duncan and it goes something like this:

  • #whatif local and state (and yes, even national) education administrators spent at least 50% of their time each week observing in classrooms. Real observations, get down and dirty and participate observations? Unescorted.
  • #whatif educational practitioners had a voice in decision-making? And that voice was at least listened to? Could teachers be trusted to teach and make decisions about how and when something is taught?
  • #whatif lesson planning was less about district-mandated formats and more about creating safe, thought-provoking conversations, experiences and explorations?
  • #whatif January was not “test-heavy”, but “teach-heavy”?
  • #whatif MCAS English Language Arts testing happened at the actual end of an academic year instead of three-quarters of the way through? And by the way, #whatif less time was spent collecting data and more time spent figuring out what kids need through observation and analysis?
  • #whatif school schedules allowed adequate time for play? One 10 or 15 minute break in a 6+ hour day? No wonder students act out!
  • #whatif parents were allowed to leave work and visit their child in school without fear of reprimand or firing?
  • #whatif the Arts were not just an after-thought or prep. What if we actually practiced Gardener’s 7 intelligences and could honor students whose strengths and talents lie in different areas?
  • #whatif teaching professionals had real collaboration time? Not just an hour or so out of class to give a cursory look at a teaching module.
  • #whatif all my students had the basic necessities – food, clothing, a safe place to be before and after school, a roof over their head?

#whatif we all voiced our opinions on this? What would you add?