Watch the book trailer for Renewal

Harold Kwalwasser, April 13, 2012

Here’s a promotional book trailer video I put together for Renewal, Remaking America’s Schools for the 21st Century – take a look:

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And here is the transcript (which is also the closed caption content from the video):

Movie clip: “A way has been found to accomplish the impossible: with pretzel-tying machines which can produce 50 hand-tied pretzels a minute…”

Hello, my name is Hal Kwalwasser. When I went and got my public education, it was sort of mass production style. There was one text book, taught one way, by one teacher, in one classroom.

For most of the twentieth century, American deemed that sufficient.

But kids are not widgets. Mothers did not give birth to baby Model-Ts. There’s no assembly line in this business. You treat every child as an individual work of art.

Renewal: Remaking America’s Schools for the Twenty-First Century

1. Artisanal education

You really have to start from the basic point of what do I want the teacher-student transaction to look like, and then reconstruct everything around it.

We’re moving from this mass production system to this professional, and I call it artisanal – as in you’re sort of creating individual works of art except they happen to be seventeen year-old high school graduates – and that that is systemic change.

That’s a much more complicated way of learning. It puts a lot more burden on teachers, it’s a lot more challenging, but here’s the real point: it changes the system.

In the old days, where all the decision making was concentrated in the central office, and what the superintendent wanted done was to have teachers simply follow the rules, and use the principals to enforce that the teachers did follow those rules. That model can’t work now.

2. In search of high-performing schools

So in 2007, 2008 as school reform got to be a much hotter topic, I looked at what was being talked about in terms of likely school reform measures, and I said, you know, this just isn’t going to work, because these measures don’t get at the heart of what is making good schools good.

So I went out across the country, and went to forty high performing and transforming school districts.

The two key fundamental attitudes in these successful districts were one, student achievement is everything. It is the lode star by which all other decisions are guided.

And two, there are no excuses around here. It doesn’t matter how many of our students are low income, or minority, or don’t speak English well, or have learning challenges. We can educate them.

They set goals. They developed benchmarks to tell themselves whether in fact they were achieving those goals. If they weren’t achieving those goals, they would own up to the fact they’d failed, and they’d try something else.

3. Don’t lose sight of the customer

What all of these districts have demonstrated is that it all has to relate back to does it change the transaction between the student and the teacher, because that’s what drives all of this reform.

Every service business in this country – and education after all is a service – will say to you, the way to meet our customer’s needs is to drive decision-making out to the edge and empower those who actually deal with the customers to make decisions about how that service should be delivered to that customer. It makes sense for law, it makes sense for medicine, it makes sense for education.

As I say in the book, you can’t lose sight of the customer, and that child, regularly under mass production, was lost sight of.

4. A call to action

The fundamental, underlying vision of the book is that it takes that grand community coalition to drive change.

There are no silver bullets and there are no demons. There’s no one thing or there’s no one person you can change or get rid of that will fix things. You need teachers, you need administrators, you need a variety of people. To demonize any of them, to take sides in this debate in that sense, is not helpful.

What is helpful is: I want to get to a certain result, and I want all of you, whether you’re a teacher, you’re a union leader, you’re a superintendent, you’re a state legislator: I want you all on the side of doing right by kids.

So here’s the book that in very simple terms lays out where we’re going, and lays out how you as a parent, or as a voter can help us get there.

Renewal: Remaking America’s Schools for the Twenty-First Century, by Harold Kwalwasser.

“…Comprehensive, wise, and extraordinarily useful.” Arthur Levine, President, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

On sale now wherever fine books are sold.

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