The Alliance for Excellent Education President and TSC Signatory, former WV Governor Bob Wise, hosted a panel to review the annual report from The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. It’s really too early to know the full impact of the sequestration on education across the country, but it is clear that Metlife’s report comes at an interesting time in K-12 education policy.

The $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget reductions, known as sequestration, started on Friday. As we tried to wrap our heads around what this means for education (and how to pronounce it correctly consistently), we found an infographic created by the National Education Association helpful. These numbers are pretty hard to swallow:

Sequestration_blog                                                                                                                                   

Surprisingly the tone of the panelist participating in yesterday’s webinar was optimistic. Despite the survey’s findings that principal job satisfaction is at the lowest point in the last decade, and teacher job satisfaction is at the lowest point in 25 years, at 39 percent, the panelists were positive and hungry for improvement.

The panel consisted of:
Laurie Barron, EdD, Principal, Smokey Road Middle School (GA);
2013 MetLife/National Association of Secondary School Principals’
National Middle Level Principal of the Year
Adam Gray, Mathematics Teacher, Boston Public Schools (MA);
2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year (for his work at Monument High School)
John Jenkins, EdD, Regional Director of New York, School Leaders Network
Dana Markow, PhD, Vice President, Youth and Education Research, Harris Interactive
Dennis White, Chief Executive Officer and President, MetLife Foundation

The discussion began with their reaction to the report; however, the majority of the time was spent discussing the solutions to the complexity of the challenges facing school leaders. They spoke about how fostering “educational designers” requires flexibility, creatively thinking about scheduling, blended learning, and innovation despite tough budget constraints. A reoccurring theme during the discussion arose around creating a “no excuses” school atmosphere for teachers and administrators. As Laurie Barron, National Middle Level Principal of the Year, put it: “Whether you have the money or not, you have to get it done for the students.” This sentiment was echoed throughout the panel, reinforcing that our educators on the ground are vigorously working to do more with less. Metlife_blog_quote

For us, it was great to hear Governor Bob Wise and the entire panel agree that the notion of time as a constant is not only flawed, but in dire need in rethinking. Adam Gray, 2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the year, recalled a conversation with the principal of City on the Hill Charter School, an expanded-time school in Boston, where the teachers are benefiting from the additional collaboration time. He seemed hopeful that in the near future schools will begin moving to a system with more time and leave the agrarian calendar in the dust. We hope so too!

Balancing the sequestration and the conversation among the panelists left us with the understanding that we all have a role in moving forward education for our students, and with budget cuts on the horizon, strong leadership and creativity will be more important than ever.

Are you as hopeful as the panelists? What ways can your community creatively address the challenges ahead? Leave your comments below!