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Changing the National Narrative About Public Schools ... Next Steps

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By Cheryl Williams, Executive Director, Learning First Alliance (LFA)

 Over the past year, member organizations in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) have shared their perspectives and expertise on the work their members and stakeholders have led in support of public education throughout their careers.  If you've had the opportunity to read some or all of these postings, you'll know that public education professionals are tireless in their work to meet the needs of their students and that no silver bullet exists to "fix" what doesn't work in public schools.  With this, the final Transforming Learning post, we reiterate what we know to be true as professional educators and seasoned policymakers, community members, and parents--

·       Universal, publicly funded, education is our country's most important historic asset and needs commitment and support from all of us, whether we currently have children in the schools or not, to succeed.

·       The work of meeting the needs and increased achievement requirements for all our students is complicated, multi-faceted, and nuanced.

·       Professional educators and elected school officials at the state and local level in no way support the "status quo" when that "status quo" has proven inadequate or unsuccessful in meeting student needs.

·       Many, if not most, of our public schools do an excellent job of supporting student achievement, but when they don't, we all need to work together to make the changes necessary to serve students well, regardless of their socio-economic or family situation.

·       The knowledge and experience of public educators and policymakers should be respected, heard, and acted upon, if sustainable, systemic improvement is to be achieved in our public schools.

·       Strengthening public education requires a collective effort, not one that appeals to individual self-interest in the short term, but one that considers what's best for all our children now and in the long term.

·       All "reform" efforts need to be evaluated for effectiveness, and when those initiatives work well, they should be shared widely to scale up good practice.

·       And, finally, competition for dollars to fund public schools saps time, energy and resources from the important work that educators are involved in. Until we are ruthless in our examination of how we fund our public schools, which currently results in poor communities with insufficient financial and human support, we'll not achieve the progress we need.

 Next step for LFA is the launch this year of an aggressive messaging campaign that will showcase public schools, districts, and communities that are exemplary in their approach to meeting all their students' needs.  We plan to work at moving the national narrative about public education writ large from "we're failing" to "we're working together to improve all our public schools."  All of us in the field acknowledge that there's work to be done, but we also know that we must do it together if we're to succeed.   We invite you to join us in a solution oriented dialogue with the goal of strengthening the institution of public schooling and our nation.  As important, we invite you to abandon fault finding and blame placing on those of us currently working in public schools, so that not only the narrative around our work but the results of our effort will prove positive and provide the results we all want and need.

 Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

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