A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Prisoners Of Time - April 1994

VII. DEVELOP LOCAL ACTION PLANS TO TRANSFORM SCHOOLS

WE RECOMMEND that every district convene local leaders to develop action plans that offer different school options and encourage parents, students, and teachers to choose among them.

School reform cannot work if it is imposed on the community top-down. Genuine, long-lasting reform grows from the grassroots.

The Commission believes every community must engage in a community-wide debate about the shape and future of its schools. To that end, we encourage every district, with the support of the superintendent and local school board, to engage major school stakeholders in a comprehensive, long-term dialogue about the hopes, aspirations, and future directions of local education. The conversation should include students, parents, taxpayers, employers, and representatives of public assistance, juvenile justice, health and other social services agencies. It should be organized around learning time. If this conversation is to be productive, it is essential to include teachers and administrators as equal partners.

We are convinced that larger school districts can offer families a wide array of alternative school calendars by encouraging individual schools to adopt distinctive approaches. The more options, the better. No single configuration will satisfy every need. Districts of any size, with a sense of vision, boldness, and entrepreneurship can experiment with block scheduling, team teaching, longer days and years, and extending time with new distance-learning technologies.

No community in the United States is so small or impoverished that it cannot benefit from an examination of how it uses time-if not in extending the day or year, at least in re-configuring how it uses the time now available.

The Commission wants to stress that this recommendation provides a real opportunity for local leadership groups-the business community, colleges and universities, churches, civic groups, newspapers and the electronic media-to go beyond criticizing schools by helping frame the education debate community by community. This is not just a task for educators. There can be no doubt that the 1989 Education Summit, convened under the leadership of the White House and the nation's governors, went a long way towards focusing Americans on the goals they hold in common for their schools. Local leaders can do a lot to transform their communities and their schools by convening similar education summits, county by county, city by city, district by district, and, if need be, school by school.

Finally, the Commission issues a challenge to local school boards: use your time to perform the leadership role for which you have been elected or appointed.

Recent analyses demonstrate convincingly that far too many boards function as managers instead of policymakers. School board time should be devoted to local policy, goals, and the education needs of children, not to micro-management of school operations.

Our challenge: help your community crystallize a vision for its schools.

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