As we look toward a promising and productive 2015, the staff at Education Post reflect on their educational wishes for the New Year.
More listening, less talking, more hoping, less fearing, more joy, less anger. To honor, respect and elevate those with the most standing on issues of education–the students, parents and teachers–and empower the quietest and most thoughtful among us to set the tone of public discourse.
As a former journalist, I’d like to see fewer shortcuts taken in education reporting, which often veers into editorializing. In fact, I’d like to see more journalists covering education, period. Their numbers, even during the best of times, were never large. Education policy affects a wide swath of the American population but it is still treated as primarily the province of wonks, not worthy of more substantial space in publications aside from the odd controversial story that inflames more than informs. When children and families are involved, policy should go far beyond the academic. One way to arrive there is by building a vibrant, evenhanded corps of reporters who understand education is more than a niche beat, but something that affects the lives of millions.
I yearn for all children—especially our most vulnerable students in our most impoverished neighborhoods—to connect with a teacher who believes in them, who sees their extraordinary potential, who awakens in them a sense of genuine accomplishment and joy of learning. I wish for an end to the crippling funding inequities that grant the most resources and the most sought-after teachers to the most privileged neighborhoods in our nation. And I want teaching to be a career that would attract, challenge and sustain someone like my daughter—twenty-somethings who are ambitious, smart, caring and want to change the world with their life’s work.
Looking back at my K-12 years I always remember what could have been better. Actually, what needed to be better. There were ways my school, teachers and parents could have helped me take my education to the next level and better prepare me for college and career. Even back then I knew what those things were, but, like most students, I didn’t speak up. This new year I hope to see more students standing up for the change they believe in and for the education they deserve. I want more students to recognize that they have the most important voice in a very important fight.
I want to see a focus on charter quality and accountability in state houses and by authorizers. Neither group can fix the issue of charter quality on their own—they need to work together to ensure that only the best schools are staying open to students.
I wish for us all to close the belief gap and to finally internalize the fact that all children can—and should—be developed to their full potential. We know America’s social inequities begin with educational disparities, and we know great schools can make a difference. For me this means every child should have a school with a coherent educational philosophy, a strong instructional leader, and effective educators who form powerful relationships with students. To get there we need a commitment from adults to de-politicize education policy debates and to place the needs of children at the center of all we do.
My wishes are fewer, better tests (with a lot fewer bubbles). Strong and fair teacher support and evaluation programs in more districts. Great schools in every neighborhood and more of our kids’ dreams coming true.
I firmly believe there is no ‘silver bullet’ or single way to prepare all students for success in college or career. In 2015 I hope we embrace multiple approaches for improvement; continue to learn from each other—including listen to students, parents and educators; keep a laser-like focus on progress; and make mid-course corrections along the way. We need to stop forcing each other to pick sides and declare victory or defeat and instead acknowledge that we have a lot of work ahead of all of us. We all have to place the interest of students first.
My word for the year is humanization, and my wish for 2015 is to see more of it in the education world. As the debate over our public schools continues to heat up, I see us increasingly forget that the people on the other side are also human beings. Particularly online—where we can easily hide behind avatars and feel emboldened by the illusory consensus our social media echo chambers create—I hope we can remember that our passionate salvos are aimed not at faceless drones of the opposition but other parents, teachers and students who, like us, want nothing more than a thriving, inspiring and equitable system of public education.