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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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School Reform: Focusing on College Prep is Key

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Whether you are a fan or a cynic, the film, "Waiting for Superman" has shone a welcome spotlight on the long time crisis in our public education system. What I believe is really at stake when considering that crisis is whether or not we give a generation of kids the opportunity to move out of poverty. Our work as educators is about giving young people access to the opportunities and choices that can move them beyond the struggles of their parents and into a life of their own making.

If we agree that our goal in reforming the education system is to end the cycle of poverty, then reform and redesign must focus on attainment of a college degree.

But what sort of education are we talking about here? What enables students, all students, to find success in college and beyond? The "basics," including reading, writing, and arithmetic, are necessary but not sufficient to succeed in today's world. What will determine a young person's success in college and life in the 21st century is the extent to which they possess a critical and creative mind and are capable of using, applying, and communicating knowledge. They must be inclined to collaborate, be technologically adept, and be experts in their own intellectual strengths and areas of growth. Mastering content knowledge and applying that learning is the key to success in today's interconnected, global, digitally-driven economy.

The next question becomes, how do we do this? How do we democratize the best practices that have evolved over forty years of education reform and make an excellent, college preparatory educational experience accessible to all? How do we turn around the education system? By expanding the number of charter schools? Firing bad teachers and leaders? Adopting common standards? Ending tenure? Enriching the curriculum with technology and project-based learning? It is a daunting question. Remaining focused on the goal of college success aides us in unraveling the answer. For this generation of students, a high school diploma is just not enough.

While such films like "Waiting for Superman" have stirred people's passions -- both in favor and against the film, it is engaging the nation in these difficult but crucial questions. I believe we're at a tipping point and that this is the decade various efforts will coalesce into a unified education reform movement.

Whether you like "Waiting for Superman" or not, it is a call to action for all of us. The time is now.

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