Vincent Ferrandino, executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, discusses what school leaders think these barriers to after-school education.
1. What are the biggest obstacles to implementing this report?
I think that one of the challenges we face in terms of implementing the report is that we are in a system where we have set standards and set assessments around those standards. But they are very focused on just a few things. They are focused primarily around reading, language arts, mathematics; they don't talk about a broader understanding of learning, of what we need students to learn.
So, if we are going to implement this report and talk about a new day for learning and a new way of learning for students, we have to make certain that if there are going to be new standards put in place -- whether they be state standards or national standards -- they incorporate an understanding of what it is we expect this new learning to look like and we have assessments built in to measure whether we are successful in those new learnings.
Some of the things we're looking at -- things like having the ability to make critical decisions, to problem solve to work cooperatively, collaboratively, in groups -- those are important skills we know the workforce demands of students, and yet we have very few ways, if any, right now, to see how successfully students are doing those things.
2. Won't principals see this as just another reform du jour?
I think we have all gone through so many different reform efforts in the last fifteen or twenty years that there is a bit of cynicism that exists in the field. I have heard it from teachers and principals who say, "This is just one more idea, and it's not going to make any difference anyhow, so why even bother?" And, in fact, it may not even be something I agree with. But I think what we're finding now is that there is a lot of research to support this. We know the system as it exists is not producing the kinds of results we need to produce.
I think most of the principals, and the vast majority of teachers, understand that and are looking for some better ways of approaching solutions. I think the problem we have had is that solutions have been brought down from on high, and that one of the things we are talking about in this report is engaging them in this process of identifying what this new learning day and new learning system ought to look like. If they are part of that process of developing that new system, they have a vested interest in participating and supporting it.
Also, understand there is no one model here, and that this is going to be a process whereby we are going to identify many good models that may work very well in certain places and not in others. So, we want to be able to have those different types of programs emerge and then at some point see how scalable they are. That's been the challenge for most of the reform effort historically.
I think this holds hope, because it doesn't prescribe a particular way of doing it. We can address different kinds of learning and a different kind of learning system with an extended learning time so that different communities and states can work this so it fits right for them and makes the difference it needs to make for students within their domain.