For the last day of the conference, I attended the Thought Leader Session: Failure is NOT an Option with Alan Blankstein and the concluding General Session with Yong Zhao.
Blankstein related the current status of public education to what Ed Ziegler used to say:
- We are not as bad as the public believes.
- We still need to get better.
He pointed out that graduation rates have risen nation wide and the achievement gap has narrowed. However, we still need to improve in changing the culture for all kids. He stressed the importance of focusing on what is meaningful instead of what is urgent and for leaders to put energy into developing people’s capacity for continuous improvement instead of chronic inconsistent program implementation.
Blankstein also reminded leaders of the power of purpose. School organizations need to determine their true purpose and ensure all aspects of the system are aligned with the purpose. Many rules and procedures within educational organizations go against their purpose. We need to create schools that do not lose students. Blankstein proposed the following:
- What is the purpose of your organization?
- How are you ensuring engaging and relevant pedagogy?
- How will you know they are learning it?
- What will you do if they don’t learn it?
Blankstein ended the session with the following thought provoking question:
Do we open or close doors for our students?
The conference ended on a powerful and humorous note with Yong Zhao speaking about the importance of developing creative and entrepreneurial students. He asked educators to ask the following questions:
- What makes a good education?
- What talents do we want to cultivate?
- What type of skills and talents do you want your own child to possess?
Zhao explains that we are living in a new society that requires new job skills. Traditional job demands have disappeared, been replaced by technology, or have been outsourced. He believes that our public schools need to cultivate a new middle class that is creative, right brained, and entrepreneurial. Today’s employers want employees that don’t have to be managed, are confident, have friends, and are creative. He concluded the conference with the following:
There is a new paradigm in education. We have to make everyone a creator and entrepreneur. Everyone has to be great!