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July 1, 2007
Vol. 64
No. 10

Introduction

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      A book now surfacing in the corporate world is Blue Ocean Strategy (Kim & Mauborgne, 2005). The book's premise is that most businesses are swimming in a red ocean of competitor-infested waters. To create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant, which is what Blue Ocean Strategy advocates—businesses must seek out blue oceans. Whereas the red oceans are crowded places to swim, the blue oceans are more inviting.
      To reach blue oceans, however, you need to dream up and create products and services that go beyond those that are currently available. In blue ocean territory, you invent 24-hour news (as CNN did); airlines with low fares (Southwest is mentioned); safer subways in New York City (thanks to the New York City police); or exercise clubs for the not-quite-fit (Curves). In the blue oceans, you don't have rivals (at least for a while), but you do chart a course in a whole new world.
      As I compile this collection of articles for The Best of Educational Leadership 2006–2007, the ocean imagery resonates. It seems that all our authors are grappling with how to teach students to swim in both red and blue oceans. We want the adults of the future to be competitive, and we want them to be innovative. We want them to master basic skills, and we want them to learn 21st-century skills. We want a meaningful traditional curriculum, and we want an equally relevant, engaging new curriculum. We want kids to be tough enough to endure harsh realities and wise enough to finesse peace and prosperity.
      In addition to educating responsible capitalists and adventurous employees, we'd like to develop some statesmen and poets, even a few artists and saints, and possibly a philosopher and a plumber or two. In short, we want much more for our children than the Blue Ocean authors envision for the corporate world. We want the best of all possible oceans.
      • Teaching to Students' Strengths. The selected article from our September issue is a conversation with pediatrician Mel Levine. Dr. Levine counterintuitively suggests that the best way to leverage skills is not to shore up students' weaknesses but to relate learning to their affinities.
      • Reading, Writing, and Thinking. Our selected feature from the October issue looks at how ELL students, so many of them already global citizens, need academic instruction that goes beyond second-language learning. Yu Ren Dong tells us how to design instruction that encourages students to think critically.
      • NCLB: Taking Stock, Looking Forward. In “Catch-22 for English Language Learners” Wayne E. Wright explains why the red-ocean NCLB regulations intended to close the achievement gap are not having the desired effect. He outlines what needs to be done.
      • Spotlight on Science. From our December/January issue, authors Jacqueline B. Clymer and Dylan Wiliam describe assessment that communicates with students not only about how they are doing in science but also about what might help them deepen their understanding of science. Such assessment has the effect of letting kids know that, “Smart is not something you are—it's something you become.”
      • Improving Instruction for Students with Learning Needs. From our February issue, Thomas E. Brown contributes insights from the blue-ocean field of neuroscience, which someday may teach us how students learn. He describes current thinking about Attention Deficit Disorder, a complex syndrome of impairments in the management system of the brain.
      • Responding to Changing Demographics. In 2006, the U.S. population officially reached 300 million, double the nation's population in 1950. In “Five Trends for Schools,” Shelley Lapkoff and Rose Maria Li enumerate the many changes that school districts face—from wildly fluctuating enrollments to potential health problems for obese children.
      • The Prepared Graduate. In “Becoming Citizens of the World,” Vivien Stewart describes competencies adults will need in the future. To communicate with people all over the world and tackle immense global problems, our future citizens will need to apply knowledge of world geography, history, current events, and, most especially, languages.
      • Educating the Whole Child. In both our May issue and in our Summer online-only issue, we focused on ASCD's whole child initiative, which urges schools to keep the whole picture in mind as they shape curriculum, instruction, and assessment. In “Assessment Through the Student's Eyes,” Rick Stiggins writes, “Even the most valid and reliable assessment cannot be regarded as high quality if it causes a student to give up.”
      Can we impart to students an education that prepares them not just to tread water and survive but to part the seas and thrive? That question reminds me of the question Kathleen Jamie asks in the poem “Alder.” After observing how the alder tree endures in “this, the age of rain,” the poet asks, “Won't you teach me a way to live on this damp, ambiguous earth?” It is the unspoken question most of us—our students, too—are asking.

      Marge Scherer has contributed to Educational Leadership.

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