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.
Betsy DeVos Says Discrimination Isn’t Her Problem. And She’s Dead Wrong.
Give Education Secretary Betsy DeVos points for ideological consistency. In a budget hearing yesterday, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) pressed DeVos on whether her plan for…
Here’s What I Learned When I Sat Down for All the Standardized Tests My Students Take
Many people—not just students—cringe when they hear the word test because it triggers fear in some and anger in others. Educators know that tests are…
Here’s Some Suggested Reading for Our Trash-Talking Secretary of Education
You hear a lot these days—especially in the Trump era—about how broken, antiquated and just generally messed up public education is in our country. Just…
Statement on President Trump’s Proposed Education Budget
Critics of the Obama administration's Department of Education repeatedly targeted what they saw as federal "overreach" into…
3 Lessons From the Los Angeles School Board Race for Pro-Equity Advocates
When the ballots were finally tallied in the early morning hours on Wednesday, those of us who work for educational equity in California’s public schools…
Let’s Stop With the Handcuffs and Train Teachers to Deal With Special Needs
I couldn’t watch the video of the Florida child being handcuffed in the principal’s office. As a writer and a policy wonk, I am not supposed…
Parents Can’t Just Use Test Scores to Choose a School. They Need the Whole Story.
Whenever parents would get into a discussion about “good schools” and “bad schools,” I would urge them to look beyond the simple rankings of test…
A Parent’s Guide to the Changes Coming to Florida Schools
Let’s just start with the bottom line: Florida lawmakers passed a big education bill Monday that is mostly good for kids: It protects recess for…
Arts Education Isn’t Taking a Backseat in Chicago Public Schools
In the midst of a financial crisis, Chicago’s public schools have continued to strengthen their commitment to arts education. So says a new report from the…
Kentucky’s School Accountability Plan Lacks Parent Voice
At first glance, it would appear Kentucky’s plan for tracking school performance, and stepping in when needed, is pretty…‘agreeable.’ In a survey from each of…