Why Ed100 Exists

by Jeff Camp | September 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
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An Eventful Decade

I want to share a bit of the history of Ed100 because I have a sense you might share our dream.

When my kids were small, I became intrigued by California's education system. It was enormous. Complex, yet at the same time deeply personal. I wondered how it worked, and how it might work better for more kids.

The Elephant in the Room

Figuring it out felt like living the parable of the blind man and the elephant. It was a giant, gray mystery. The only way to get a feel for it was to explore one bristly aspect at a time. I read everything I could. Complex research papers. Jargon-heavy policy recommendations. Historical documents. I volunteered. I attended all kinds of education-related conferences and meetings, learning many points of view.

Then I had a life-changing event.

About nine years ago I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I endured surgery, radiation treatments, chemo, and existential doubt. Ask any survivor: the experience makes you think deep, uncomfortable thoughts. What's important? Along with focusing on my family and a few other things, I resolved to work harder to support California's education system. There's nothing more important.

Learning On Purpose

Here's the big idea behind Ed100: Help lots of people understand the education system. Quickly. On purpose. Help them feel the shape of the whole elephant.

When people don't understand, bad things happen. Some fall for easy answers or myths that can be hard to dislodge. Some plunge directly into advocating for change, but don't know enough to be taken seriously. Others give up or hold back, sensing their own ignorance and unsure that they belong in conversations that matter.

I remember wishing for something like a "For Dummies" book. A way to help parents understand the system, so they could get involved in improving it.

How about using technology to deliver it? Make it free, online, up-to-date and bilingual. Deliver it in parts, so people could learn on the go, between this and that, picking up where they leave off. Equip them with the knowledge to know their stuff, so they can inspire raised eyebrows instead of eye-rolls. Prepare them to belong in the room where it happens.

I think we're on the right track with Ed100. There are about 10,000 schools in California and over 1,300 of them now have people signed up for Ed100. Some PTAs and school districts are using Ed100 as a training tool. The lessons are all available in Spanish, which is essential in California.

This is Where YOU Come In

I am betting that you share our mission of engaging people in the work of improving schools. Here is how you can help.

Make it personal. Ask a few people, individually, to form your school's Ed100 pilot team. Their assignment is to sign up and start reading Ed100. As the members of the pilot team work through the lessons, passing quizzes and earning "tickets", encourage them. You can view their progress using the Ed100 Leaderboard. For each school, it shows how many people are using Ed100 and how many lessons they have read.

Some of your pilot team will be "A" students. By completing all the lessons, they will become Ed100 Graduates! Graduating from Ed100 isn't difficult, once you decide to do it -- but only a small number have done so (142 at current count). When they graduate, celebrate their accomplishment. Ask them to print their completion certificates and post a photo. You'll spark a good conversation if you ask them to share a few things they learned from the experience!

Ask your PTA and school district to use Ed100 to engage parents at a deeper level. Ed100 includes ready-to-go plans for parent group meetings. It's all there: lesson plans, discussion guides, handouts and suggestions for taking action.

People often ask me about my hopes. What will change if people read Ed100? The answer makes me a little uncomfortable: I don't know. Each of California's 10,000+ schools is different from all others, with a different mix of needs. My dream is for each school to have an informed group of energized leaders, equipped to make wise choices about their priorities. From that beginning, it seems to me that great things become easier to imagine.

A Great Team

Of course, Ed100 represents a vision far too big to take on alone. We've built a great team, mostly volunteer, to move it forward. Special thanks to Carol, Mary, Manuel, Robin, the Stuart Foundation, the Kabcenell Foundation, and Full Circle Fund.

Are we on the right track? How is Ed100.org helping you? Please send me your thoughts. I'm jeffcamp@Ed100.org.

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