The Conversation

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, about this little thing called education in Delaware.  Want to know what I hear?  A lot of screaming.  A lot of people stamping their feet on the ground saying you can’t do this.  I’m guilty of it.  We all are.  Whether it’s the DOE, Governor Markell, the teachers, the superintendents, the boards, the charters, the legislators, whoever.  Tempers are flaring, and everyone is up in arms.  We can sit here all day and talk about what hasn’t been done, or what we think will happen.  We can say our way is the best way.  But guess what’s not going to change… the everyday reality of the students in this state.  We can form committees or a task force or whatever you want to call it.  It will drag things out, kick the can down the road, and someone else will have to pick it up.  And there we are, right back at the same place we started from.  Do I have an easy solution?  Probably not.  Nobody does.  We can keep throwing stones at each other.  Whether it’s done with a state board resolution, a vote of no confidence, or a blog post.  But guess what?  None of it is working.  We have eight sides in this battle: the teachers, the parents, the DOE, the districts, the administrators, the charters, the politicians and the communities.  Actually nine if you want to count the students.  But they aren’t a side, they are the victims.

I’ve taken many sides in this war, but at the end of the day, I have to ask: is anything better?  Have I improved education in Delaware?  Nope.  Not one iota.  If anything, I’ve made it worse.  I’ve brought fire down in regards to a standardized test, preached from the heavens, and parents are opting out.  I think that’s a good thing, but the reality is it is not going away any time soon.  It can’t.  Too many of the sides are for it.  The big and powerful ones.  But here is the deal, we need to get together.  Not in one hour meetings every couple of weeks.  Not in a board meeting where things can or can’t be said.  All sides need to get together.  There needs to be a whole week or weekend thing.  Where appropriate stakeholders get together and hash all this out.  We will scream, we will fight, and it will get ugly.  But no one can leave.  And when the fire of anger dies down to a few smoldering embers, that’s when the conversation starts.  We talk, we strategize, we form ideas, we find out what’s working and what isn’t.  And we do it together.  Cause if any of these sides do this without all of the others, nothing else matters.  Then it’s just noise.

Certain things aren’t going away any time soon: standardized tests, charters, school districts, opt out, choice, bullying, special education, crime, poverty, lack of funding, behavior issues, teacher evaluations, and anger.  All need to come to the table and deal with these issues on EQUAL standing.  This can’t be about one side saying they are more important, cause that doesn’t work.  People will need to eat some crow and give up some things.  If it means a consensus and taking on the Feds, then so be it.  If it means teachers have to give up what they feel are some inalienable rights, then so be it.  If it means parents have to be more tolerant about things, then so be it.  If politicians have to give up their own political ambitions with education, then so be it.  All sides must be willing to listen and collaborate.  We need to get real, and we need to do it NOW.  If you don’t think this is a crisis with immediate attention, then you need to open your eyes.  If you think the Delaware Way is appropriate for the students in this state, open your eyes.  Let’s get all the cards on the table so everyone can see them, and let’s start to fix things.  Adult egos and students don’t mix.

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