Putting Education Reform To The Test

What We Learned From Today’s #NPRedchat

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami-Dade school superintendent Alberto Carvalho speaks with Tell Me More host Michel Martin. Online the debate was happening at #NPRedchat.

Since early September, #NPRedchat has allowed us to take a deeper look at education and explore ways of engaging not only with our radio audience, but with the digital public on Twitter as well.  Today, we are talking with educators, parents and students from Florida to California, on critical education issues facing the nation.

The conversations on #NPRedchat have informed our journalism in unexpected and exciting ways and today’s LIVE Twitter Education Forum was no different.

Miami-Dade College student Shakira Lockett and New York high school senior Nikhil Goyal talked to NPR’s Michel Martin about their schools.

Lockett was angry about her experience: She was forced to retake five courses because she couldn’t pass the Miami-Dade College entrance exams.That meant paying for courses for which she received no credit and extending the time it will take for her to earn a degree.

“I do feel angry about the cost and how it takes longer for you to graduate,” Lockett told Tell Me More host Michel Martin.

“It’s like you’re going to school for no reason all over again.”

Goyal has written a book about American education and believes students are left out of the discussion too often.

“I like to say in education reform there are two different tables,” he told Martin, “the kids table and the adults table. And we need to combine those two together to have a rich conversation with all the stakeholders present.”

Schools were developed with an “industrial mindset,” Goyal said, and should be redesigned to allow students more control and to bridge “the gap between what goes on in the classroom and the real world.”

People following the conversation at  #NPRedchat liked what they heard.

“These kids are on fire. Impressive stuff,” @FactorTree tweeted.

Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho and former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee had different opinions on what needs to be done to fix schools.   The two had a lively debate about the different, and often contradictory approaches, they took to fixing their school districts.  But they agree that the goal remains the same: providing a better education for the nation’s youth.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the country needs to find a way of attracting and retaining the next generation of talented teachers who could improve schools for the next 30 years. Education historian Diane Ravitch said poverty’s impact on learning can’t be ignored, while former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said students shouldn’t be written off just because they are poor.

All three talked about whether standardized testing was really helping schools – or just magnifying flaws.

The show and all-day Twitter education chat were the culmination of several months of work by the Tell Me More & StateImpact Florida teams learning the issues and talking with people about how to improve schools.

It meant engaging students, teachers, thinkers, activists and policy leaders across the country. Along the way we learned about #satchat – a weekly Twitter discussion where educators share tips, tricks and ideas for better schools.

Online, hundreds of Twitter users weighed in with opinions and questions. Many of them said education discussions such as #NPRedchat need to happen more often.

Michel Martin said the Twitter education forum gave everyone a chance to be heard.

“If you had access to a smart phone or a computer you had a voice today. We’re going to go back and review, see what we could do better; but let’s keep (#NPRedchat) going.”


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