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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Up Front: Putting Public Education Back on Track -- Together

The time to retool our schools for the 21st century is now.
David Markus
Former Editorial Director of Edutopia; dad of 4 (3 kids in public school)

In your wildest dreams, did you ever think that 2009 would mark the dawn of a new era of positive change in American public education? Or that the trigger for this opportunity would be a devastating stall-out in the U.S. economy?

Ironies of this magnitude stretch credulity. But the fact is, this painful, downward spiral of vanishing wealth and runaway unemployment is changing our country profoundly. The hard times will last long and be painful, but they will bottom out. We will recover. And as we see unfolding even now, this recovery will take root in deep and generous investments in our nation's essential services such as health care, transportation, alternative energy -- and education.

Notably, only one of these essential services leverages and propels forward all the others. That is the investment in public education. Only education provides the one-two punch of putting folks quickly back to work while catapulting our labor force back into a position of worldwide leadership. In his address last month on "Complete and Competitive American Education," President Obama said, "What's at stake is nothing less than the American dream." When so many of our friends and fellow citizens are struggling, it may sound mercenary and insensitive to hail silver linings. But the fact is, the stars have aligned in education's favor. The federal government is nearly doubling its investment in public education in order to rebuild and refurbish schools, improve teacher performance, and extend new technologies into the classroom in every state in the union.

One caveat: Unexpected events around the globe or here at home could intervene to render moot the benefits I am describing. And, of course, the implementation of the investment may be botched or misdirected. But I doubt the fundamental push to put public education back on track will be deflected. The opportunity to retool our schools for the 21st century is here. How do we meet the challenge?

At Edutopia, we embrace the idea that change is not something we hope for. It is something we do, now. Our marching orders are actually written next to our logo: Show "what works in public education." There are successes aplenty in schools across America and throughout the world. We will continue to illuminate them with an emphasis on the nuts and bolts of how success is achieved and sustained. We do this with the precise purpose of enabling other less fortunate schools and communities to implement like-minded changes of their own.

In sharing these success stories, we will use the pages or our magazine, as well as Edutopia videos and e-newsletters and the interactive applications of Edutopia.org to break down for you -- with 1-2-3 tactical purpose and clarity -- how to improve your school. If the 21st century and today's unparalleled economic crisis have taught us anything, it is that solutions to our problems do not arise when a few are cloistered out of view to pursue narrow agendas. Solutions come when many voices -- with diverse perspectives and needs -- inform and influence the growth and evolution of our institutions.

So stay tuned to Edutopia, where we will tackle the big themes and specific strategies. We'll share the inspirational stories of the educators, parents, and community leaders who are turning the wrenches of important reforms. Come soon and come often to Edutopia.org, where every day, you will be able to connect with a growing community of folks like you, to take advantage of the tools that make discovering and sharing successes in this new century more practical and empowering than ever before.

A door has swung open. Few of us saw it coming. But each of us has a unique opportunity to lean into the change to come. Let's get busy -- together -- and make the most of it.


David Markus
Editorial Director

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