Commentary: Too Much Urgency Creates Bad Education Policy


We often make mistakes when we hurry. It is inevitable. The same is true in public policy. And I have seen it first hand in public education.

Cheryl Williams, the Executive Director of the Learning First Alliance, wrote:

We all feel the urgency of educating our young people; it just takes time to do it right in the democratic, locally governed system we call public schools. And it takes the commitment, empathy, and collaborative support of all of us to put what is urgent into practice in a way that benefits our students and ourselves.

The federal government can wave billions of dollars in front of a state and it is often incentive enough to chase the money. Meanwhile, as local school districts are having unproven ideas and theories thrust on them, we are witnessing a backlash. Educators are often angrier than taxpayers.

That same federal government that can use its power to impose its authority also provides little of the monetary resources – less than 10% in most cases. In comparison to the state and local which provides the bulk of dollars used in public education. We must embrace local control, even when it means the wheels move slowly. Because only then will we have greater control and better allow our teacher voices to be amplified.

Jaime Vollmer wrote:

There is a fundamental truth of the universe: What we focus our attention on grows stronger in our life. If we choose to focus on the negative things that occur in our classrooms, our schools, and our district, then we become more negative. Optimism fades. Conversely, when we choose to put our attention on the hopeful, encouraging, positive developments that occur within our schools, we become more positive. Optimism grows.

I maintain bottom-up repairs are what are needed to fix the system, not just the symptoms. What matters most is changing how teachers teach and students learn. This can best be done only at the schoolhouse by teachers, administrators, parents and students working together. And we must do that by focusing on the positive.

In business, sports, education or anything else you can do things right or do them right now. Too often we have embraced fast fixes, rather than the right solutions. To put it another way, we must learn what carpenters reminds us: measure twice, cut once. Most of us have heard this saying many times. It simply refers to double checking your measurements before you cut something to prevent making a mistake. That makes sense doesn’t it?

Let’s endeavor to do things right in Tennessee even if it takes a little bit longer.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

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