National School Boards Association
1680 Duke Street - Alexandria, Virginia 22314-3493 - (703) 838-NSBA - FAX: (703) 683-7590 -http://www.nsba.org
As the nature of work changes, so too must motivators. Carrots and sticks, whichworked with routine jobs, actually
efforts when the work is more complex,Daniel Pink says. Instead, the rewards of learning and challenges of the work itself mustnow be the primary motivators. Adults learn best, experts say, if they feel competent,autonomous, and a sense of belonging.Much in our current school systems works against these, and our new national focus onteacher evaluation will continue that trend. As a result of ignoring innate needs, ourschools too often are not innovative hubs. Yet to meet the challenges of our future, wemust cultivate a spirit of innovation and inspiration. We will only succeed in preparingfor our future if we
all in our schools to think through complex problems andprocesses and generate solutions. Rather than laboring over bureaucratic complianceproblems, let’s engage students and teachers (even board members!) in solving problemsof teaching and learning.Our schools will never become great through threat or intimidation. Schools must besafe places to take risks, where staff members and students feel valued for their ideasand talents and empowered to fail so that they can grow. Students will learn what theysee, experience, and enjoy.We have the knowledge and experience to do this at the national, state, and local levels.However, the present narrow focus on accountability and trend of demonizing those inpublic education, arrogantly focusing on “failing schools,” is diametrically opposed tofostering excellence.Again, we can learn from Finland: It holds teachers in high regard (appealing tocompetence). Teacher training includes a strong feedback loop; professionaldevelopment is embedded in the work, through coaching and ongoing support(appealing to belonging). People are willing to try new approaches and ideas (appealingto autonomy).Innovation requires investment. Retired school superintendent Jack Reynolds noted thatunder the original ESEA we had a national system for identifying, supporting, andsharing excellent, vetted educational ideas. We should return to such a system of research, development, and diffusion, using technology to share teaching and learningapproaches. Further, Ohio school board member Charlie Wilson suggested weencourage and fund our universities to conduct empirical research on the considerableexperimentation that does occur in our schools.Some board members suggested that we benefit from broad, guiding curriculumprinciples. Wyoming’s David Fall encouraged you to continue your work with theNational Governors’ Association to refine core standards. However, our children wouldbe best served if the standards were guides, but decision-making remained local.Across the nation, I have heard growing support for an emphasis on the early years. Toclose achievement gaps, we need to provide rich early learning environments forchildren born with the least. We need to teach their parents how to encourage theirlearning. Please continue to support states’ early childhood efforts.