Fifty-four years ago, America was galvanized when the Soviet Union put a satellite into space. We responded as we always do when we have a national consensus on an important goal: We innovated. We invested heavily not only in rockets, but also in education, to prepare our entire nation to be second to none. I’m old enough to remember how exciting it was to feel a part of the national response to Sputnik. We knew that America would regain its leadership, and it was all up to us kids!
In education today, we wait in vain for the “Sputnik moment,” the time when our leaders decide that falling behind our international peers in academic achievement is no longer acceptable. Instead of investing in research and innovation, as we did in the wake of Sputnik, our leaders today try to solve our educational problems by fiddling with management solutions, governance solutions, and assessment solutions that do not fundamentally change what happens between teachers and students. These policies may be beneficial, but they don’t scare the Finns or the Chinese or even the Canadians who outperform our students. The reason it was Neil Armstrong and not Nikolai Armstronganoff who landed on the moon was that we invested in targeted, relentless research and development. We did not manage our way to the moon, we invented our way to the moon. Dramatic improvements in medicine, agriculture, and technology happened the same way. And so it must be in education.
Sputnik: Advancing Education through Innovation and Evidence is a new blog dedicated to disseminating news and information on research and development in education that could transform teaching and improve student outcomes on a scale that matters. In addition to reporting on research itself, it will focus on policy developments relevant to research and innovation in education. Guest bloggers will present their perspectives on how research and innovation can play a greater role in policy and practice.
This is an exciting time for those who share a belief in research and innovation as the way forward in education. I hope you’ll join me in exploring the outer limits of education reform.
The opinions expressed in Sputnik are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.