Opinion: Mind the gap in education

Last month, I wrote about the need for leadership on the educational issues facing Vermont, to address the great divide that exists on many of our most critical decisions. There are growing signs on every level of our educational systems that we must move forward and take action rather than engage in positional debates that further erode the platform from which we need to build a vision for education in Vermont.

To this end, the Vermont Business Roundtable has stepped forward with thought leaders throughout the state, including legislators, Agency of Education representatives, superintendents, and others, to come together in November to take a deep, critical look at the issues ahead and how we will collectively address them. The event has been titled “The Green Mountain Imperative: a Breakthrough Summit on Public Education,” and is two full days of inquiry and research that has been designed to get at the issues that have created such strong rifts in educational design, with governance and educational spending at the top of the list.

There is high hope for this summit. We’ve tried to move forward through the legislative process, which has proven quite challenging. Our political realities have collided with our educational sensibilities. The process of coming together and engaging all stakeholders in a process of critical inquiry is essential.

There is significantly more data this year that speaks to funding and educational equity, but data won’t be enough for us to move forward, collectively, in reimagining what our schools can and should be. We know that belief often trumps data, and perspectives can fall on either side of the numbers. Increasingly, it appears that the ability to listen, coupled with a sound body of data, will be a critical combination. Somehow, we must develop our ability to find common ground while maintaining our strident beliefs that root us in our individual worldviews. And then, we need to take a step forward. That is the hope for the Green Mountain Imperative. Dialogue is critical, but there is a point where our conversations on educational issues become reiterative and we enter into a swirling Groundhog Day that can be maddening at best.

With a commitment to address student needs first and take action on those needs, we can bring greater purpose and clarity to the legal, political, and social frames we wrap around education in Vermont.

Peter Burrows, D.Ed., is superintendent of the Addison Central Supervisory Union and has more than two decades of experience in education.

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