DAILY INSIGHT: What would you change about public schools?

We need to speak out more about what's best for the children. 
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We need to speak out more about what's best for the children. 

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

Looking through all of the digital debris that shows up in my filtered social media mail is usually a waste of my time. However, every once in a while I find a gold nugget among the flotsam. A couple days ago, one of the threads I follow asked the question: What would you change about the direction of K-12 public schools if you could? A couple of things struck me as I read through the responses. One was that most of the people commenting were not in public school leadership, but were vendors or consultants of one type or another. The other was that most of the issues raised, except for reducing testing, had little or no impact on student learning.

The first issue is probably the bigger concern. There are a great many people trying to control the direction of public education. However, many of them are not educators nor have they spent enough time in schools to really understand how education works. It is almost like the scene from The American President, when the president says his opposition asks people to recall the "good old days" that never really existed and then they spend time lamenting the changes (for the worse). I am working again with a salesman I have known for nearly 20 years. He continues to shake his head at all the things principals and teachers have to deal with—from kids without coats to custody battles that get played out in school offices, etc. It is imperative that the best educators who work in schools speak out about what they need to improve schools and help to shape policy at every level from the federal government to the local school board.

Everyone reading this needs to commit to inviting a policy maker or shaper into your school to show them how things are really being done. We also need to speak out more at all levels about our views about what is in the best interest of children.

There was discussion of needing more business partnerships (without discussion of how to link those into instruction) and less federal regulation. There were some general comments about needing to be more flexible and embrace technology. Michael Perko, one of my former professors, always said that education's dirty little secret is policy makers really don't care about what happens inside the classroom walls. I continue to struggle to prove him wrong. Let's work hard to focus the conversation on how to use technology to improve student learning with specific examples and not glossy overarching statements full of buzz words. If educators are going to be able to direct the future of public education, it is time for educators to provide the necessary leadership.

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning. Follow North Boone on Twitter @NBCUSD200.