The Learning First Alliance Builds a Plan for Education
The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a consortium of 17 of the largest and most influential education associations gathered for its annual leadership council meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 22-23, 2010. The leadership council includes elected association officers and their CEOs and deputies. I served as chair of the LFA executive board this year, and offered the following remarks at the beginning of the event.
“Welcome everyone to this year’s Learning First Alliance Leadership Council. I am Bill Bushaw, and it has been my privilege to chair LFA’s executive board this year. Foremost in the next two days is our opportunity to share our values with each other, and to do so with sincerity and candor. And as we work together, I am confident that we will make great progress because of the talented and dedicated leaders sitting in this room.
Speaking of a talented and dedicated leader, our executive director, Claus VonZastrow invited Jack Jennings to join us at the last LFA executive board meeting in March. Jack has directed the Center on Education Policy for the last 16 years and is one of the brightest men I know. During that meeting, Jack gave us a sound advice—advice I have often thought of since then. He told us to identify our values about public education, and then propose a plan—our plan—based on our values.
With Claus’s leadership, we have done much of this already. For example, I think we agree that:
- We want ALL children to have the skills they need to be as successful as possible. That’s been our focus for the last several LFA leadership councils.
- We want their parents and guardians to be central to that success.
- We want our nation’s teachers to have the resources they need and the respect they deserve.
- We want our school leaders, both appointed and elected, to have the skills and determination to rally their communities.
- And we want our universities to research better ways for teachers to teach and students to learn.
So it’s really quite simple. We confirm our values and we put forth our plan. But in doing so, we should recognize three challenges.
First, good plans take time to implement, and it takes time to see the results. Symbolic initiatives suggesting that real change can be measured in months are without merit. They waste everyone’s time. We must get a message out to all Americans that we are committed to progress for the long haul, not for a quick headline.
Second, we cannot wait for things to be perfect before implementing our plan. We will never have all the money we think we need; we will never have all the political support we think we want. But we must not wait. We must start now.
Finally, drawing on an African proverb used often by Al Gore, if you want to go quickly, go alone—if you want to go far, go together. We must reach out to others, recognizing that we will have differences, but in spite of those differences focus on the values that we have in common, and build upon these.
Whether it’s with the leaders in this administration; with the members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans; with other social agencies; or with the business community, we will need allies in order to deliver a 21st century education to ALL of our children.
The following quote is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must employ methods never before attempted. We have much to talk about in the next two days. Let us talk about our values; let us talk about our plans; and let us rededicate ourselves to work together within LFA and with others. Let us employ methods never before attempted.”