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What Will It Take for a Sputnik Moment in Education?

Daniella Fairchild of 50Can writes at the RI-CAN blog about a complacency seen in the education space that flies in the face of our history as a nation spurred to action by failure and disappointing truths. She points out that Russia's success in the space program and the dark truths exposed in 'A Nation at Risk' spurred us to action to be great. She acknowledges that recent reports of unimpressive PISA and SAT results haven't catalyzed a "moment" of any kind. She asserts that improving education is actually harder (and scarier) than putting a man on the moon.
But instead of a Sputnik moment, follow-up articles to the sensationalist first wave spoke of “why the dip in SAT scores may not be such a bad thing.” We can blame the limited efficacy of this most recent call to arms on apathy or poor message delivery. But the fact is that what we’re seeking to do is decidedly (and perhaps more dauntingly) difficult than “just” putting a man on the moon. We’re hoping to catalyze a host of communities all pushing various strategies and various goals underneath a nebulas concept of “improving education.” Lowered SAT scores may resonate with and call to action a slice of the population, but they also likely light no fire under others—even those middle class families for whom the SAT historically has mattered. And without a specific, singular, and measurable goal and definition of what an “improved education” looks like, it’s unlikely we’ll be celebrating education’s Neil Armstrong anytime soon.

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