Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Sustaining and Extending Educational Renewal

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Sustaining and Extending Educational Renewal

Article excerpt

A dual agenda of renewing schools and teacher education means that faculty members from both sides must join together as equal partners. Mr. Goodlad describes how the National Network for Educational Renewal has met the challenges of creating, sustaining, and inspiring such partnerships.

Two eras of school reform - one extending from the late 1950s into the late 1960s and the other from 1983 into the 1990s - have revealed to successive waves of political and business leaders that there are no quick fixes for whatever they have perceived to need fixing. Unfortunately, there is little likelihood that this learning will be passed on to their successors. Even the ones who give credit to the apparent progress of relatively long-term initiatives - such as those inspired by James Comer, Howard Gardner, Henry Levin, and Theodore Sizer - make little effort to examine the concepts and strategies involved and, in particular, those held in common. And the extensive literature on educational change, to which individuals such as Michael Fullan, Kenneth Sirotnik, and Seymour Sarason have contributed significantly, is virtually ignored.

One feature that stands out from the stories of somewhat successful reform is the extent and continuity of funding by philanthropies (some of them corporate) in order to serve the public good. Foundation officers tend to keep a low profile, some functioning in almost complete anonymity. By contrast, the rhetoric of politically driven education reform is laced with appeals to private purpose, commonly emphasizes efficiency,(1) and is frequently connected to the name of a governor, a CEO, or a Presidential aspirant. Often these politically driven proposals not only are short-term projects, but also run counter to last year's proposals or to those of a previous administration. Witness the succession of proposals since the publication of A Nation at Risk. The gullibility of the public (including educators) with regard to the personal benefits that will come from the rhetorical promises is a major indication of shortcomings in our education system.

Philanthropic foundations seeking to live up to their charters with respect to public purpose inevitably struggle with three troublesome questions: What should we fund? Over what time span? And how do we capitalize on what appear to be our best choices by increasing their contribution to the public good? Those of us engaged in educational improvement initiatives sustained by philanthropies over a period of years carry a great deal of responsibility for answering the third question. Are we developing a renewing capacity with respect to serving the common good? And is this capacity extending more broadly and deeply toward advancing the public purpose of education? Continuing attention to these processes necessitates some introspection on our parts.

The National Network For Educational Renewal

The initiative that has engaged my colleagues' and my continuing attention is conducted through the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) and involves thousands of people, some routinely and others intensively. The data regarding questions of renewal reside in these individuals and the institutional settings of which they are a part, settings committed to improving schools and teacher education simultaneously. Three groups of faculty members - in schools, in liberal arts departments in universities, and in colleges of education - join in renewing preservice teacher education programs conducted partly in partner schools for which they have improvement responsibilities. In reflecting on the education of students in schools and of the adults who will teach them, these groups of faculty members cannot easily escape focusing similar critical attention on themselves. They become engaged almost inevitably in a powerful genre of staff development. Consequently, the NNER is as much an inservice as a pre-service teacher education enterprise and as much an exercise in school renewal as in the renewal of teacher education. …

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