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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Beyond Superman: A Guest Blog by George Lucas

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation

Twenty years ago when we started The George Lucas Educational Foundation, we thought it would be 10 years before the general public would understand that the education system was in serious need of fixing. Today, in the wake of new energy in Washington D.C., new focus in the educational and philanthropic communities, and with the recent release of the film "Waiting for Superman," the nation is getting a better picture of what is wrong with public education in America. And people are finally talking about it.

It's time to have a conversation about what's right in our schools, what's working. And as we debate what to do to fix the problems, let's remember that there are successes in education everyday we can emulate. In districts of every stripe and demographic make-up, educators are dedicating themselves to providing their students with a high quality 21st century education, and using new technologies to make it happen. They are showing kids how to find and analyze information and how to creatively deploy their analyses to solve problems. These educators are beginning to re-invent the learning process, guiding students through rigorous, real-life projects that integrate core academic topics and personalize the learning experience based on a child's strengths and weaknesses. They are building confidence and ambition in children, by supporting them emotionally and providing a safe, engaging environment to learn. Most importantly, these innovative educators are creating a next generation of citizens with academic knowledge and problem solving abilities that will serve our country for years to come.

Are there enough of these teachers and principals? No. Will the work of fixing our schools and re-inventing the learning process be long and arduous? Of course. But as we move on from the debate and get busy building a better way, let's remember that the solutions--and the people who are implementing them--are not far away. In fact, they are nearer than you think. Check out our video library for hundreds of examples.

--George Lucas, Filmmaker and Founder of the George Lucas Educational Foundation

This blog also appeared in the Huffington Post.

George Lucas

Filmmaker and Founder, George Lucas Educational Foundation
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ayse stromsdorfer@slps.org's picture

Hope this does not offend anyone. As long as education is in the hands of the politicians, public school education will continue to suffer. Let's do away with the Washington D.C. model and let the teachers teach. Many of us try to do just that, but the federal, state, and district mandated tests leave very little time.

Getting back to basics might work.
AGS

ayse stromsdorfer@slps.org's picture

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians! Hope this is not an offensive anology, but the political intervention in the public school system might be the wrong approach.
Let teachers teach without the unending interruptions caused by the federal, state, and district mandated tests.
Also important is the availability of classroom resources; granted, too much money is allocated per student in many instances, but do the funds reach the classroom? No. We teachers constantly dig into our own pockets. Perhaps bus companies could use mini-busses to economize; even most urban busses seem to carry only a few kids at a time.
Other ways to cut costs to improve the system are out there, but unfortunately, when politics get in the way, children suffer.

Sandra Happold's picture

I totally agree "Too many chiefs, not enough Indians!" Politicians need to stay out of the mix all together and let the educators work on the problems and fix it and not the same old, same old either reform the whole system. Its broken because of government!

Angie's picture

It is my fifth year involved in launching a lab which runs on the Project Based Model. Thank you for being one of the primary inspiration for never giving up on our Innovation Lab. Here, we run a Science, Math, Project based learning environment tied together by the arts and empathetic learning design innovation.
The Solar Tree Project was our first social change, arts and sciences project....startup project which unfortunately bombed at its peak when our children lost all our money during the fateful stock market crash. :) Our lab continues to try to turn out new projects. Thank you George Lucas for inspiring me to keep going.
See our websites:
Last year:
http://web.me.com/angpingong/The_North_School_Enrichment_Program/The_Enr...

and by our kids before the crash:
http://web.me.com/angpingong/Site_3/Welcome.html

Thanks for your inspiration and support of educational innovation.

Angie

C. A. Bradfield's picture
C. A. Bradfield
Education Writer

Let's improve schools ... many schools are good ... ending poverty would help ... liberal shibboleth ... parental responsibility ... since Dewey socialism has hurt our schools.

Socialism and Capitalism are both protean ideas used to explain and justify what "socialists" and "capitalists" do. For that reason, can't we talk about socialism and capitalism in the context of schools in the USA? Or does the idea that the USA has been a social good, suggest that dialogues about socialism and capitalism aren't a social good? Why?

What is it we can't do, so that we wait for Superman to do it? Isn't it, to discuss what money does as a medium of exchange as against its unfair influence?

Karen Kovach Webb's picture

I agree. No matter what the model, system, or latest design all share two common components: teachers and students. Fund for Teachers invests in good teachers. We offer targeted grants that enrich the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students and on their broader school communities. We shine a bright, though small, light on the true heroes of education. Despite the over 4000 teachers who have taken advantage of FFT, we all face a teacher crisis in our schools. There is an overwhelming lack of experience and expertise in our classrooms. More than half of those entering the profession leave by the end of their fifth year. Many claim that they were unprepared to tackle the challenges of the classroom. They struggle with classroom managment and scramble to offer relevant and useful lessons for their students while making sure that those students master core content. More opportunities must be given to profesional teachers to invest in their own learning. We must invest in good people: allow them to make a difference in their own lives and in the process they will improve teaching.

Jack Helfgott's picture

As George suggests, there are success stories in many schools that should be emulated. However, I am finding that new Public School administrations feel compelled to dismantle the old structure entirely; throwing the baby out with the bathwater! There are still many programs that scream with success. Tearing everything apart so that public schools can be de-centralized making room for charter schools is a mistake.

Stefanie's picture

Mr. Lucas,
Would you please do a documentary adding to the much needed debate about this high stakes testing craze and the other issues Diane Ravitch talks about in her book. In order for this to be a debate, please share another side by consulting Dr. Ravitch, Dr. Peter Johnston, Dr. Allington, Dr. Darling Hammond, Ellin Keene, Harvey Daniels, Katie Wood Ray, and George Wood as they are the experts in education.
Please?????

Donald Johnson's picture
Donald Johnson
Fired ex-Geography/Journalism/English teacher, Houston, Texas

Karen, part of the reason for the crisis of good teachers is the even bigger crisis of ineffective administrators. Charter schools are often flawed, but occasionally they find hidden talents in teachers simply because they allow them to do things the overly restrictive public school monolith would never allow. Simply funding "more of the same" is highly unlikely to lead to educational improvement in a system crippled by its own bar-lowering ethic. The Law of Diminishing Returns prevents even huge expenditures from impacting educational achievement as the targeted student body drifts toward apathy and indifference, the inevitable result of misplaced priorities on the part of parents, teachers, and their bosses who reward mediocrity while discouraging innovation.

Margaret Burns's picture

Yes, the debate is important, but generating real solutions in the classrooom is more important. We need to share successes not deficits in education in order for our students to create a more collaborative educational environment, instead of the environment that has become polarized by the advent of charter schools.
The charter schools paint a bleak picture of public schools. It is not because teachers do not work hard. There are many barriers. The economic barriers become more pronounced as the charters take the money from the District and fail to return it when they send the students back to the public school. Yes, students are returned to the public schools, right around state testing time. Students who are behaviour problems are also returned, but the money per pupil is not. Is this fact mentioned in the movie "Waiting for Superman"? It is a real shame that the public is not informed of the financial practices these publically funded, privately run schools engage in, in the name of student achievement.

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