World-Class Education

Last week, The Gazette ran a guest column by Ryan Wise, a Senior Policy Fellow at the Iowa Department of Education.

This particular paragraph caught my eye:

Since March, I have facilitated the state’s Task Force on Teacher Leadership and Compensation. This experience has broadened my beliefs about what is possible when educators stay focused on a clear purpose: Providing a world-class education for students.

It should go without saying that the concept of a “world-class education” is a slippery one and not the least bit clear.  We might as well announce that we all agree that Iowa should provide students with a super-awesome education.

In other words, it doesn’t make any sense to discuss education without a more explicit reference to educational philosophy, values, purposes, and goals.

I understand the impulse to want to say, “We’re Number One!”  But, number one at what?  And is that “what” something that really matters?

The only way to answer that is with reference to philosophy, values, purposes, and goals.  We might avoid controversy by not getting specific, but we also fail to define a clear purpose to guide meaningful decision-making.

What does a world-class education look like?  Does it look like “college and career readiness”?  High AP course enrollment?  Outranking Finland on the PISA?  Outranking other states on the NAEP exam?

What do you think and do you think that there is widespread agreement in Iowa on what a world-class education is?