Is my child learning?
It’s the first question on every parent’s mind when it comes to education.
And the only way we can answer that question is through shared responsibility, shared accountability.
We have a responsibility to set a high bar for every child, regardless of the challenges the child may face, and provide the teaching and support each child needs to meet those expectations. That’s the promise of public education and the right of every child.
We have a responsibility to set a high bar for every teacher. The teacher has the most direct impact on a child’s success in the classroom.
Accountability means holding everyone with responsibilities to high standards of performance.
We look to school districts and states to invest in classroom resources and support teachers — set clear expectations, help teachers develop their craft, provide meaningful support that is tailored to the teacher’s needs, and then provide a fair, multi-faceted review of how well teachers are serving the educational needs of our students. We also look to districts and states to drive improvements in schools that fall short year after year.
We look to principals to establish a safe, welcoming and rigorous school culture with a coherent and compelling vision for learning and growth. We look to principals to foster excellence by recognizing top teachers, providing support to help struggling teachers improve, and replacing those who aren’t showing improvement.
We look to teachers to help every student learn — not just those students who are self-motivated learners. We look to teachers to model that love of learning — learn new ways to engage students, master their subject matter, seek advice and accept critical feedback, and get better at their craft every year.
We look to parents to partner in their child’s education — make learning a priority at home, advocate for their child, and understand how they can help make things better in their children’s classrooms and schools.
And we should all look in the mirror and ask: What more can I do to improve educational opportunities for our kids?
What About Testing?
We need tests. They are one way to answer the question: Is my child learning?
Tests need to be fair, reflective of high standards, and done in moderation. They will tell parents and teachers if a child is learning the basics, while also developing critical-thinking skills. Tests should be used to help identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses, so that learning can improve for that child.
We need to be accountable for the quality of public education, which also means we shouldn’t over-test our children or devote excessive learning time to test prep.
What About Teacher Evaluation?
We need fair, balanced and regular teacher evaluations that allow parents to trust that their child has a teacher who is passionate about his or her craft, knows how to engage students with creative lessons, and connects with students as individual learners.
Test results that show how students are learning should be one measure of a teacher’s overall performance, along with classroom observation, student surveys, and other indicators.
We need to stop fighting this common-sense change to teacher support and evaluation. We can’t return to the past — when there were no clear expectations for teachers, no meaningful training and support, and 97 percent of teachers in America were rated “satisfactory,” largely based on cursory classroom visits and superficial checklists.
We know what is possible when we devote less energy to what separates us and focus more on what binds us together: belief in our kids; hope for a brighter future.
Coffee Break: CEO of NOLA’s Urban League on Empowering Communities and Doing What’s Good for Kids
Erika McConduit is the second female to serve as president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans in its 75-year history. Under…
Small Enough to Manage, Big Enough to Matter: Kansas City’s Latest Attempt at School Reform
Some education reform efforts in America’s larger cities struggle to go to scale. Think Los Angeles and laptops, New York City and school turnarounds, or…
Opting Out of a Third-Grade Test Is Bad But Passing Third-Graders Who Can’t Read Is Worse
If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on in the case of the opt-out moms versus the state of Florida, it’s that Michelle Rhea’s…
The Hidden Costs of Our Tutoring Epidemic
There’s a tutoring epidemic. It goes beyond four-year-olds prepping to ace gifted and talented screenings, and teens cramming for the Specialized High School Admissions Test.…
This Parent-Friendly Tool for Checking School Grades Could Go National
Do your kids go to a good school? “Good” depends on who you ask, of course, but if you’re interested in knowing how well a…
Colorado’s ESSA Plan Doesn’t Quite Get All Kids Across the Goal Line
As Colorado updates its accountability system to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we have the opportunity to rethink how it provides both…
Touchdown, Colorado! A School Rating System That Gets the Basics Right
So far, watching state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans roll in has been a bit like rooting for the Washington Redskins (or, if you…
Is Politics the Problem in Education or the Solution?
Politics is at the heart of so much that is wrong with public education. On the left, education politics is often about increasing funding while…
A Lack of Funding at This Rural School Is Leaving English Learners Lost in Translation
When junior high students move to Beardstown, Illinois from places such as the Congo, they need basic “survival skills” as part of the adjustment to…
Power, Policy and Prayer: My Eye-Opening Phone Call With Betsy DeVos
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog expressing my exasperation with my children’s public school education and my attraction to school vouchers. To my…