Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bill Richardson 08 Education Question

I was contacted today by the Richardson campaign (that would be Bill, not Will, although I’d definitely sign up for Will’s campaign) and asked to participate in a conference call with Governor Bill Richardson today about his education plan. Well, okay, participate might not be the right word, as I never got to ask a question and it didn’t feel too much like a conversation. (Chris Lehmann was similarly frustrated, as we Skype-chatted during the call.) I know, probably awfully naïve of me to assume it would be any different, but sometimes you gotta have hope.

But then it occurred to me, “Hey, I have a blog!” I can still ask my question (see below). Or, better yet, maybe a bunch of us could ask some questions. So, faithful readers (I always wanted to keyboard that), the challenge has now been issued. Read through Governor Richardson’s speech about his plan (or read the PDF summary they emailed us when we were contacted about two hours before the call), and come up with a meaningful question. (Oh, you also only get an hour to work on it - that's when I got to the email - and have to be doing your regular job at the same time, just to be fair.) If you blog about it, consider tagging it with BR08EDQ (Bill Richardson 08 Education Question) so that they can find it, and leaving the URL in the comments to this post. I’m going to email the URL of this post to the “Director of Online Outreach” at the Richardson campaign to see if we can continue the conversation.

I had a hard time coming up with a question in that short amount of time (while doing other things – I know, excuses, excuses) that would work in this format (non-conversational), was directly related to his plan, and really got at some of the 21st century learning issues that we’ve been thinking about. So, I came up with one that sort of sideways came at it, but I didn’t like it that much.

Governor, you have a statement in your plan about rigor, relevance and relationships. Too often in education I feel like rigor is defined as simply “harder” or “more homework.” It seems like folks are saying that what we’ve been doing isn’t working, so let’s just require more of it. Instead, I think often what we should be asking is, “Are we doing the right things in the first place?” Can you talk a little bit more about how you define rigor and what are the key skills, abilities and habits of mind that our students need to be successful in the 21st century?
I was also ready with a brilliant closing after he answered my question. In the conference call he stated that he would name a “teacher as Secretary of Education.” So, my closing was going to be (if I didn’t chicken out),

Thank you, Governor. And I’d be happy to volunteer to be that teacher who’s your Secretary of Education.
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Chris’s first question was about alternative assessment, but someone asked a very similar question (a real-live educator, although I didn’t catch his name – I think all the other questions were from reporters). So he scrambled and came up with this one (I helped a little bit with the end of the second sentence).

With the One Laptop Per Child mission, we are soon to see millions of students in the developing world use laptops in their learning every day. You want to see American education move into the 21st Century, what would you do to provide American students with the same opportunities for connectedness and collaboration?
I think I like Chris’s question better. Too bad he didn’t get to ask his either. Of course, I’m not sure either of our questions aren’t fairly easily talked around by an experienced politician. I’m not trying to be overly critical here, I can’t imagine what it’s like for these candidates, but I wish there was a better way to get straightforward, fairly specific answers to some of these questions.

I’m not sure how I feel about this experience. Should I feel flattered that they picked my blog and invited me? Should I feel frustrated that I didn’t get to ask my question? Should I demand to be Secretary of Education as compensation? OK, probably not that last one. But I do find it interesting that the campaigns are trying to reach out in some way to our network, even if they haven’t quite figured out the best way to do it. It will be interesting to see if (and how) they respond to my/our questions. Maybe we can start an Election ’08 Edublog Debate (trademark pending) . . .


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  2. I find Mr. Richardson's plan amusing and far from what it will take to change our education system. If I were to ask the Governor some specific questions, it would be the following:

    How does he expect to provide universal access to quality pre-K programs, when most states are struggling to provide a quality K-12 education.

    Let’s also be honest. The state tests administered under NCLB provide NO instructional value to teachers, so I am all for providing a fairer, more comprehensive, and more supportive system of measuring progress, but I would like to hear the details. One of the biggest problems with this statement is that measuring progress requires good assessment practice and this is one aspect of our professional that is sorely lacking.

    Based on what I have read on your blog, you probabaly would make a good candidate for Secretary of Education!

  3. This sounds a lot like the conference call that Will Richardson and I (and others) had with Senator Lamar Alexander! Sorry...