President's Corner

Responding to the Call for Change

by BENJAMIN O. CANADA


The call for change in education resounds like an echo, repeating itself throughout generations of learning.

Change moved us from one-room schoolhouses into schools filled with teachers, technology and opportunities unheard of in the days when today’s parents were students. Yet when we walk the hallways of those school buildings, we hear the echo reverberating: change.

External pressures squeeze the status quo at schools across the nation. Rising expectations, limited resources, loss of public confidence and changing needs of students promote the call for action. To survive and thrive, public schools must evolve at the same rapid pace as the world around them.


Audacious Goals
I believe four crucial steps can generate the significant, ongoing change that education in our time demands. Those steps are:

  • Dare to aspire.

    Understand the mission of your school district, identify core values, then set some audacious goals. Be bold. This is not the time for conservatism or underestimating. The aspirations of parents and the community are, in fact, the same as ours.

    We all want 100 percent of our students to show significant growth every year toward achieving rigorous academic expectations; 100 percent of our students to continually set ambitious learning goals; and 100 percent of our students to contribute to the community.

    Are these the proper aspirations? Change the list if you will, but use this test for validation: If all of your objectives are realized, will success for all students be achieved?

  • Face the gap.

    When we dare to aspire, we create a daunting gap for ourselves. Our finest Olympic long-jumpers--not to mention our already overstretched schools--would be challenged to leap the gap between our aspirations and the reality in many of our schools.

    Consider what it would take for our schools to reach objectives like those I mentioned above. Then determine what capacities are missing in our schools that would enable us to meet those objectives. Those missing capacities expand the gap.

    We must change the way we do business to meet the challenges of our goals. When our organizational system limits our performance and keeps us from achieving our goals, we need to overhaul the organization. We must change school district culture to one of service, excellence and respect; invest in people, providing the training and support they need to do their best work; expand partnerships with families, businesses and the community to enrich learning; and advocate for the regulations and resources needed for student success.

  • View the future.

    Envision the possibilities that can come from positive change:

    + Teachers setting high expectations for all students, customizing instruction with improved data and best practices, collaborating with colleagues and sharing in decision-making;

    + Principals pro-actively leading schools, targeting resources and collaborating to strengthen programs and empower staff;

    + Administrators and support staff setting the stage for learning by establishing essential accountabilities and standards and supporting the efforts of teachers and students; and

    + Students coming to school eager to excel, involved in their school and community, making significant academic growth.

  • Rapid Change
  • Begin the journey.

    Begin the journey now by involving all stakeholders--staff members, parents, students and the community--in the case for change. Each stakeholder has a role to play in improving learning, and the stakes are high.

    High school graduates who entered college this fall witnessed more change since kindergarten than some past generations saw in a lifetime. They take for granted a world of computers, facsimiles, ATMs and other technology that has their parents--and some of their teachers--scratching their heads and scrambling for instruction booklets.

    Schools cannot remain stagnant as our world and knowledge shift and reshape in the blink of an eye. I invite you to aspire, face the gap, view the future and begin the journey.

    Ben Canada is president of AASA.

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