Thursday, May 29, 2008


Network Meeting (Washington Policy Seminar) - April 2008

“. . . I learned something important that made me think, and I came home with a renewed belief that we can make a difference in education by working together — with each other AND with our Congressional representatives”.


“We have the tools we need; we need an education speech like the Obama race speech.”

NCLB is not leaving, may emerge with a new name.

Assessment, NCLB possible national test in future-assessment of all students will be on same material at all levels.

A good educator needs to be a caring person, someone who can relate to students’ needs.

If a teacher can build a good relationship with students, those relationships will help develop a better learning environment.

Just meeting AYP and just missing AYP are treated the same, i.e. - both are failing schools! We should look at “differentiated accountability.”

NCLB is a soft bigotry of low expectations, achievement gaps, and cheap tests. There are 4 gaps (1) opportunity and resources, (2) low expectations, (3) inadequate leadership, and
(4) disastrous outcomes.
Schools are stopping everything to prepare for the test(s). NCLB is driving out teachers and creating a generation of kids who hate school.

People come to school with their hearts and we respond to them with our heads. Schools and teachers need to connect more with their communities.

We are in a very unhappy country; 81% believe we are seriously on the wrong track and 90% feel the economy is in trouble. Our biggest challenges: a poisonous political environment and many of our problem solvers are leaving. We have more information available than ever before, yet are finding objectivity very difficult.

American students are falling behind their international peers, but there is no outrage about our (the U.S.) rankings in math and science.

The silent epidemic of high school dropouts is having and will continue to have a severe and significant impact on the nation; students are not prepared to attend college.

As the value of personal relationships and networking to policymaking was formulated by the speakers, there was a definite connection to the/our rural college access work. By using the tools provided by the leadership training, the visits with the Senators and Representatives (actually their staff), I had a first-hand opportunity to speak about rural college access issues. This networking needs to continue in our rural communities and states – and with our national representatives.

The development of professional relationships with groups/individuals who have a vested interest in my work (AHE) needs ongoing opportunities and mechanisms for collaboration.


Networks are useful; (Clifford Adelman was an IEL Fellow).

A network is about talking to someone who has solved the same problem. (Rachel Tompkins)

The idea of the value of personal relationships connecting the student, school, community, state and nation was prevalent in the breakout sessions and general sessions. The power of relationships and networking in forming state and national education policy was also evident. Personal relationships and networking opportunities can influence on policy making and provide a foundation for educational change.

Check out the McKenzie Report
here – it could do for education what the Kinsey Report did for sex! Common characteristics of the best performing schools in the world: They: (1) Hire the best and train them well. (Actually hire a year prior in order to provide adequate training); (2) Know where they are going and have a sense of purpose, and (3) Set high expectations.

We are in a state of crisis in education; we have not fixed a system that has failed; we are in a state of ADD (Affection Deficit Disorder).

One cannot separate education and relationships.

We move forward by empowering principals, giving permission to once again be affectionate, and by developing a curriculum that engages our students. It is recommended that we raise standards for teachers and raise their salaries as well, but at the same time make it harder to become a teacher.

The complexities and interconnectedness of politics, values, and loyalties are what count in federal, state, and local governments. Senses of dramatic change sharpen the edges of the issues and therefore are less likely to work across party lines. We are at a crossroads with real challenges. Education is critical to remaining competitive globally.

At this time education standards are at an all time low. There is a great need for political leaders to establish high expectations and rigorous standards, provide for effective teachers in every classroom, and arrange for more time and support of student learning. We must internalize and realize what is truly at stake as we work to resolve our systemic education problems.

10,000 bills are introduced; however, only 400 will become law. Congress is not driven by policy alone; the politics of the players is a factor.

Because of the large turnover of legislative staff there is no institutional memory. There must be an understanding of policy, politics, and procedure. Congress lives in a procedural world; the House hates the Senate version on general principle, and the Senate hates the House version. Thus = ping-pong.
ARC needs to be convinced to continue to financially support the AHE programs

It appears that in terms of sustainability, the ACHEs are on their own in many regards.
Ultimately success comes down to a local and state issue


As globalization continues, how will rural schools and communities be able to design programs that value the Appalachian culture (close to home, family) and prepare the students for the shrinking world of work and the economic reality(s) of the future?

Why have educators not been more vocal on the national political stage with suggestions for educating ALL students regardless of their region?”

[After viewing 2 MILLION MINUTES] - How can we get American educators and parents to be more concerned about the quality of the education of our children?

How do I express “intellectual affection?” Do I know how to love without sentimentality? (John Merrow)

If, as per Bud Hodgkinson, GA is doing a good job giving the HOPE grants, to high school graduates with a 3.0 GPA, then why is the number of college-going students in GA so small? If HOPE is working, why are we losing so many kids?

How do we (AHEN Directors) solve the problem of keeping up with our students across states AND within our state that ARE going to college?

When and why did we drop the ball in education?

If we move to adopt national standards, who will develop them?

If change is the driver and Senator Obama is elected President, what will happen as we move into uncharted territory?

How will the redistricting through the Census 2010 affect ideological lines?

Who is responsible for the well being of our nation -- long and short term?

Who is scanning the environment and looking out for us?

Congress is on a totally different wavelength from “grassroots” folks at home. How can we ever be on the same wavelength? Is that not what representation is supposed to be?

Where is the outrage? Why do we have this built in sense that everyone will be okay and that someone else will fix the problem?

Is the expectation for AHE program growth and sustainability realistic given the time frames which many of us are working with?

Why does the ARC limit the educational support for the AHE project given the long-term and systemic nature of the problem?


e-Lead said...

You are young enough to remember the coal boom of the 70’s during the oil embargo and the brief national recession that followed. Much of Appalachian Virginia weathered this very well and came face to face with the real challenge of keeping our young people in high school long enough to graduate.

The demand for workers and the appeal of making good money was too much temptation for many who opted to drop out of school early for employment. I fear we may experience this dilemma once again in the coal field and coal bed methane gas regions of Appalachia. The one factor helping, oddly(and sadly)enough, keep our young people in school at the moment is their potential inability to pass a drug screening for employment. This one factor is a cause of great concern for the employability of much of the current workforce in southwest Virginia.

Clearly our drug problem is multi-generational and the challenge for recruitment by the current mining industry is not an easy fix nor can we solve this issue through AHEN efforts alone. However I see our greatest message or battle cry for the AHEN effort(s) as HOPE, Helping Our People with Education. Helping the youth of Appalachia achieve the education necessary to ensure their success and ability to find sustainable employment is a purpose many have championed. To achieve this is the on-going commission to all of us in education in Appalachia.

I started this soap box speech in response to the challenge/question about addressing the need to include awareness of our heritage and the importance of rural schools.

Locally [in VA] there have been many successful attempts at local heritage education inclusion using a broad variety of venues. Equally there are the frustrations from dealing with the “hillbilly” stereotype. The two values mentioned, close to home and family, are some of the values being challenged by today’s Appalachian youth as they become educated. Again, this is not new because this has been the fear that when our youth gain more education they leave for better jobs.

The discussion I hear from this generation of young people obtaining their education is “I am leaving to get away from the drug problem”. They fear they and their children will not be able to resist or overcome the problems they have known all to well. Even if their child is able to stay clean they fear the person their child may associate with will not.

Running away will not solve the problem completely, but I have been amazed at the number of youth, mine included, who have left the area not wanting to return because of the drug problem among their friends and others who stayed. When they come home for a visit and spend some time with their friends they gain more affirmation they made the right decision.

Now these mobile young people are staying within Appalachia for the most part. However, I have noticed a trend lately of many moving to places like Montana because the pace of life is even slower than here. The appeal of much of rural Appalachia is the slower pace in comparison to the rest of the south and the country. As we build more four-lane highways and provide greater access to the world by way of satellite television and broadband internet access even the slow pace life of rural Appalachia is threatened.

The love of family and place is still embedded in modern day Appalachians, but also embedded is the need and will to survive. It is this survival spirit of Appalachians that inspires me! Some will leave and take with them these values of place and family and those who choose to stay put will deal with the problems at hand.

I look at our people who choose to leave as “Ambassadors” of our region, taking their values and knowledge to share with others.

I wonder if we who call ourselves educators ever learn any of the lessons of our experiences. Just this week a local school system announced they may have to delay opening two new schools this fall because of budget short falls due to increased energy cost for buildings and transportation. As we close smaller rural schools in favor of bigger consolidated schools we continue to spend more money per child while losing so much. . .

Even though VA may not be on top of its game at the moment with AHEN efforts, we are looking and waiting for the opportunity.

See you in July!

Sarita A. Rhonemus said...

Hi, Eddie
Good to hear from you. We, too, have a major drug problem in the area and many want to leave. Tell me what do others find and say when they leave the area as the drug problem in the U.S. knows no boundaries?

I like your acronym for HOPE...and I am sure you are aware Virginia just lost Pocahontas High School even though their community fought hard to keep it open.

If others are having difficulty posting you may need to reset your Internet Options and override the "Accept Cookies" setting. I have had problems posting until now.

Look forward to seeing everyone in July.