Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Global Achievement Gap--Introduction

As part of an effort to develop professional learning communities in the district, central administrators and principals are reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. I haven't read any of Wagner's earlier writings, but looking at the titles of his earlier works, it's clear he has been discussing school change for some time. However, unlike some of the alarmist rhetoric we've seen in the past, in his introduction Wagner is adopting a measured tone that reflects a core reality of schools.

The failure to give all students these new skills leaves today's youth--and our country--at an alarming competitive disadvantage. Schools haven't changed; the world has. And so our schools are not failing. Rather, they are obsolete--even the ones that score the best on standardized tests. This is a very different problem requiring an altogether different solution (p. xxi).

What I am left wondering, naturally, is just what the solution(s) are according to Wagner? I'm at a loss to think of an obsolete industry that recovered, climbing out of obsolescence and back into some kind of meaningful relevance in the world. Is there "an altogether different solution" that doesn't mean bulldozing public education and starting over from scratch but that can still be implemented in an effective enough and timely enough manner to resurrect our schools? Wagner appears hopeful. He closes the introduction on this note.

In this book, we embark on a journey together, not only to understand this global achievement gap but also to discover new ways of thinking about education and best practices in schools that are preparing all students for learning, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century (p. xxvii).

I've started in on the first chapter wherein Wagner explains his take on the skills students need to develop during their K-12 education in order to be successful in the world beyond the classroom. We shall see.

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