Rewarding those who come up with innovative approaches, who prove that they have winning teams, who can show demonstrated success is a thematic within the Obama Administration. Of course, this is not ‘abandon those who fail’ and thus the more appropriate summary might be: “Reward those who show success, help those who struggle reform toward success.”
The Department of Education’s Race to the Top is a poster child for that approach:
Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come.
Let’s help institutions develop solution paths and then figure out how to propagate those that work elsewhere.
Whether this is in figuring out the most effective paths for energy efficiency, transportation planning, prison reform, education, or elsewhere, this is a laudable path to follow.
When it comes to “ambitious … education reform”, however, might the Department of Education be missing what might be the most cost-effective and fastest path toward improving American school performance?
Here is the program’s stated focus:
Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms around four specific areas:
- Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
- Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
- Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
- Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
Where, if at all, does Greening the Schools fit into the equation? It is hard to see where even though, quite simply, greening schools is the most cost effective path (even cost cutting path) toward improving educational performance even while achieving many other worthwhile goals. In short, taking aggressive greening the school house is about one of the smartest steps the nation can take, action that should go beyond bipartisanship to true unity of action as it is a win-win-win-win strategy along so many paths:
This Administration has a substantial focus on the importance of a clean-energy future, along with the more general importance of fostering a stronger foundation across the board for a more resilient and prosperous society for the generations to come. Improving and strengthening the educational process — at all levels, for all students — is a substantive part of this. The Administration (Secretary of Education Duncan) would well serve the nation by recognizing how closely linked fostering that clean-energy economy can and should be with improving educational performance.
As The Race to the Top moves forward into future rounds of submissions and funding, the nation would be well served if at least one of the funded “states leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform” would have greening their schools as a centerpiece of their path forward. Is “Greening the Schools” the only path toward improving educational performance or should it be? Absolutely not. On the other hand, Greening the School House certainly should be part of a comprehensive, nation-wide effort to achieve that improved educational performance.
- Clean Energy Jobs Go to School: A proposal for $50 billion / year for greening America’s public schools
- Greening the School House discussing legislation that passed the US House of Representatives in 2008, with a discussion of the range of benefits from greening schools.
- Keeping students awake … and more productive discussing the implications of a LEED-certified high school. “energy savings are not even the tip of the iceberg in real benefits, in measurable impact from “going green”. Study-after-study of green buildings has found that there is improved worker productivity, reduced absenteeism, and improved retention (reduced turnover) which directly impacts the bottom line (helping companies make green by going Green). In addition, related to these is that workers have fewer health problems — working in a healthy space turns out to, surprise surprise, contribute to one’s health.”
Some green schools resources:
- Growing Greener Schools (with a PBS show this coming Sunday, 25 April)
- Green School Buildings, US Green Building Council “Green schools cost less to operate, freeing up resources to truly improve students’ education. Their carefully planned acoustics and abundant daylight make it easier and more comfortable for students to learn. Their clean indoor air cuts down sick days and gives our children a head start for a healthy, prosperous future. And their innovative design provides a wealth of hands-on learning opportunities.”
- Green Schools.NET
- Alliance to Save Energy Green Schools Program
- Project Green Schools (New England focused) (Note that there are many state/regional sites & groups. See, for example, Michigan Green Schools.)
- Green Schools Alliance
- National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools