Dr. Michael K. McLendon
Dean, School of Education
Winston Churchill — who knew something about the enabling effects of courage — wrote: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” These words seem especially well suited for the era in which we educators live. If indeed courage is needed most when change is most deeply felt, then this “first of human qualities” should prove indispensable as schools of education — in particular, our School of Education at Baylor — consider how best to respond to recent changes on the education landscape.
For example, Congressional passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has shifted to the states significant authority for setting educational standards and holding schools accountable for their progress. With the pendulum of control for education having swung toward states, Texas can make decisions formerly prescribed by ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
As if on cue, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability in January began convening at the Capitol. This Blue-Ribbon body, on which I serve, is charged with making legislative recommendations for new learning standards, student assessments, and accountability systems for schools.
Thirdly stands the issue of higher education’s future — a future that once was universally envied but today appears clouded by concerns for the sector’s direction, priorities and financial sustainability. The recent formation of a high-level commission on college costs speaks to the prominence of these concerns in our state.
Rather than idly observe such developments, our school this year has mustered the courage to ask of itself: “In what ways have we risen to the education challenges of our times? How can we do better? What must we change in order that we can improve learning for all?” Seeing opportunity in the face of change, we have identified new programs we wish to pursue in preparing teachers, leaders and clinicians; areas of research investment we believe will deepen our impact and elevate our visibility nationally; and new partnering opportunities for us to contribute to improvements in education locally.
As we continue during this spring and summer to formulate our plans for the future, I invite you to share with me your hopes and aspirations for the School of Education so together we can courageously address the education changes — and challenges — of our day.