When looking at the big picture of reforming education one question emerges immediately: What issues do we tackle if we want to become more engaged in driving positive changes? I believe the answer has to be: Any issue that has an impact on educational excellence. Education reform must be about reform throughout the system - not just one or two issues. Here is my take on some of the most pressing areas, as I outlined in a recent opinion article.
- Student Achievement: It is 2012 and we still have significant achievement gaps. What strategies and actions do we pursue to change that? For example, will high quality pre-school for all students eliminate these gaps in the future?
- Curriculum and Standards: What should we be teaching our kids? At last count, 46 states had adopted what are called the Common Core Standards. Will these consistent standards across the states be enough to guide teaching and learning to where it ought to go?
- Accountability and Testing: How much should we test students? Should standardized testing be used for accountability? How do we measure student progress? Are teachers teaching to the test, and is that good or bad?
- Teachers: How should teachers be evaluated? Are salaries and benefits too low or too high? Should teacher pay be linked to student performance? Is tenure good or bad?
- Factors Outside the Classroom: How do we address problems we have in our society, such as poverty, to ensure all students receive a high quality education? How important is the role of the parent/guardian and what should that look like? Are extra-curricular activities important?
- School Choice: Charters, vouchers, private schools, magnet schools, home schools, digital schools, schools of innovation. ...Does having choice make a positive difference for student performance?
- Funding: Is current funding for schools adequate? Are funding formulas equitable? Is it time to mobilize citizens around this issue?
- Governance/Leadership: Do we need site-based councils, boards of education, state departments of education, or are there other governance structures that would work better?
Many people hold such strong opinions on these issues that there is limited, or no opportunity for a civil discussion. Too much energy is being spent on the disagreement - and not enough on the effort to find common ground. Having a meaningful impact on improving education means we must come together to find answers to these questions. It's time for adults to leave their sandboxes and focus their shared energies on progress that will benefit our kids.