Reflections on Excellence in Action: 2009

Gov. Bush puts on a good conference. As you can see from the text of his keynote (Wednesday’s blog) he’s on fire about the transformative power of learning technology.

Michelle Rhee rocked the house with an honest assessment of performance in DC schools and her plans for the future. I thought her hard-charging style would cost Fenty too much to keep her around for long, but despite a rally in support of fired teachers yesterday, parent and community support remains high for her common sense reforms. Rhee has thousands of supporters around the country that are cheering for her; I think she got a sense of that today with two standing ovations.

Clay Christenson gave a very thoughtful lunch speech. He asked us to think about the job we’re asking school to do for kids. He suggested that what students need from schools is to feel successful everyday. And we’ve designed schools where only some students feel successful sometimes. Adaptive content (e.g., learning games) has the potential to provide instant feedback and give students the feeling of success everyday while learning stuff adults think is important.

John Chubb talked about the political barriers to innovation. He began with the illustration of the Louisiana state board that will be voting Tuesday on three proposed virtual charters. These would obviously expand quality options for students statewide but are opposed by the superintendent’s association because they would take students and money away from districts. Is this about adults or kids?

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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