Walk yourself through this exercise. Take a clean sheet of paper and write down what you believe your students’ work environment will look like in 25 years. Write down what you see and how technology is integrated and relied upon. Move beyond the sights and imagine the sounds as well. Do you hear discussion, collaboration and the creation of great ideas and solutions to challenging problems?
Now take a moment and write down the sights and sounds of the classrooms in your school. Are students working with paper and pencils as teachers are pacing through our rooms with chalk-stained pants? Is any technology being used for summative assessments beyond Scantron machines? Are kids being assessed by how effectively they can remember the ideas of others rather than the effectiveness of their own ideas? Do you hear any talking in classrooms beyond kids asking to borrow a piece of paper from their neighbors?
Nobody can deny that in many classrooms across the country, there is a significant disconnect between what we are preparing our students for, and what we are preparing our students with. I am an Ohio resident and teacher. As a swing-state resident, I can assure you that I am well aware of the legislative ideas of all our candidates. I have yet to hear of a legislator willing to fund a 21st-century education system while resisting from writing legislation that gets in its way.
My reality in Ohio is that our district has lost 28% of its revenue, and other districts have had funding severed as well. The learning environment across our state is crumbling, and the legislative answer has been the introduction of high-stakes testing, more funding cuts, more charter schools, and a teacher-evaluation model that will eliminate the pipeline of future student teachers. Not only are legislators failing to give us the tools and technology we need to prepare our students for a 21st-century work environment, they are blaming us for the problems they are creating.
We need legislators willing to shoulder the responsibility of funding a 21st-century education. We need leadership with the courage to move beyond the rhetoric of a bright future — we need leadership willing to fund a public education system that empowers a bright future.
Brian Page (@FinEdChat) received the Ohio Department of Education Milken National Educator Award in 2011 and was a 2012 Money magazine “Money Hero.” He teaches financial education and economics at Reading Community City Schools in Reading, Ohio, and is an outreach director with Cincinnati United.