According to John King, “the best ideas come from classrooms not from conference rooms.” I couldn’t agree more, nor could I be more confident in King as the next United States secretary of education.
It takes a special person to meet the demands of working in highly impacted schools. The challenges and situations facing students are often unimaginable. Kids walk through the door with more than just a little baggage; usually it is an 18-wheeler loaded to the brim. They lack the basic necessities of their more affluent peers, and often are burdened with issues that make it truly difficult to prioritize learning.
But, thanks to a core of highly-dedicated, visionary educators around the country, even the most impacted schools are figuring out how to be highly successful in spite of the nearly insurmountable challenges they face. Most importantly, these schools are coming up with ideas, visions and action plans, not on Capitol Hill, but in the library, lunch room, staff lounge and the classroom.
In 2015, with wealth and achievement gaps ever widening, we need a leader who not only has set foot into these schools, but has personally facilitated systemic change from the ground-up and who can scale that work to schools and districts around the country. King has explained that “there is a tremendous amount of work in turning the big ideas into real change,” and I appreciate that he sees value in staying committed to improving our schools.
The Right Skills and Vision
King endured raucous attacks by unions in New York state, but his uncompromising commitment to ensuring higher standards for students and improved accountability in schools means that he is respected by teachers sharing his core educational values.
In response to concerns about a drop in test scores in New York, he confidently stated that, “It’s frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity.”
King’s work with Uncommon Schools is another example of why he is the right person with the right skills and vision to lead our school system. He has demonstrated that he is focused on supporting teachers as they learn, develop and accelerate their teaching practice, while actually meeting the needs of all students. Few leaders can say this, and more importantly have the support to prove it.
Brett Peiser of Uncommon Schools said it best:
John taught us that in order to change kids’ lives, schools needed to be designed so teachers had the time, tools, and resources to effectively teach. John knew that great teaching was made, not born.
As John goes about the work of improving the lives of children across America, he will do that with the deep understanding that raising student achievement is only possible when teachers feel successful.
John knows that teachers are the key in any school—and the more they feel supported, secure, and inspired, the more our students will learn.
The idea that such an ardent supporter of teachers will be leading us from Washington gives me great hope for the future.
Kids, Not Politics
In a recent speech, King said:
Children have been waiting for too long for the education they desperately need, while the adults have become paralyzed by the politics of education. We can’t get back a single day stolen from our children because we could not find common ground.
John King knows that the common ground is our students. He has the real, authentic experience of effectively driving student growth and achievement in spite of extenuating circumstances such as poverty, language barriers and other factors of socioeconomic status.
The simple fact that King’s confirmation hearings were so uneventful, in a time where Congress isn’t even willing to conduct the initial conversations about potential Supreme Court candidates, is impressive in itself, and further evidence that he will be effective in this role. King has proven to be someone who works hard to avoid the political game, favoring instead a focus directly on students and teachers.
Most importantly, his focus has always been on the students and on supporting teachers as they learn and grow their practice. He not only has the right experience, he has the results to support his policies and his vision for our students in 2016 and beyond.
Hooray for John King!