By Kevin Kelley
Willard Daggett, a nationally known consultant on reforming education for the 21st century, will give a presentation to parents at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium at Fairview High School.
Earlier that day, Daggett will conduct a workshop for teachers in the Fairview Park City Schools. Students will have that day off.
Superintendent Brion Deitsch, who has seen Daggett talk at state educational conferences, has long been a fan.
“To me, he’s the foremost leader in educational reform in America,” Deitsch told West Life. “It’s a coup for this area to get someone of Dr. Daggett’s stature to come.”
Daggett’s mantra is “Relevance, Rigor and Relationships.”
“Until you have a relationship with kids, you can’t tell what’s relevant for them, and it is relevance that makes rigor possible,” Daggett said in an article in Educator, the alumni magazine of Temple University’s College of Education. Daggett received his doctorate in education from Temple in 1974.
Many public school districts had settled into offering a rigorous academic curriculum to high-achieving students while providing occupational training for the rest. Instead, Daggett argued, schools should provide an education that is both relevant and rigorous to all students, so they can become lifelong learners who can survive when technological advances alter the employment environment.
“For students, we needed to be able to answer a really simple question: ‘Where will I ever use what I’m being taught today?’ It sounds crazy, but a lot of teachers can’t answer that question, other than saying you can use it on the test, which is not what the students are asking us,” Daggett said in Educator. “They’re really asking, ‘How does this relate to the world beyond school?’”
In 1991, Daggett formed the International Center for Leadership in Education, which has consulted with public school districts in 50 states and many state education departments. The Fairview Park City Schools has purchased services, including curriculum materials, from ICLE, Deitsch said.
The Fairview Park district is paying Daggett $9,300, including transportation costs, for his Sept. 30 presentations, Deitsch said. The payment comes from funds the district receives from the Cuyahoga Educational Service Center for professional development, not local tax dollars, the superintendent said.
“We have, over the years, had groups of staff attend his events and they have been enthralled with his work,” Deitsch said.
Daggett is not without his critics. Several newspaper articles and blogs criticize Daggett for misstating facts or exaggerating when mentioning anecdotes about the changing world with which educators must keep pace. For example, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported that Daggett told an audience he had served as a university president when he had actually been a professor. Daggett also reportedly claimed that the U.S. was the only nation in which chemistry and biology are taught as separate courses. Critics said they could find no proof of this.
Deitsch said he was aware of the criticism but noted that much of it originated from a single individual. The superintendent said the importance of Daggett’s main message – that schools need to adapt to a rapidly changing world – overrides the criticism.
“We need to change the way we do school,” Deitsch said, summarizing Daggett’s message.
Daggett’s presentation Monday at the Fairview High School auditorium is free and open to the public. The high school is located at 4507 W. 213th St.