It Matters A Lot
If we tell the American people how the education reform movement is impacting them and their public schools, will it matter to them? This is a big unanswered question on the minds of many of our educational leaders. This past Sunday, I learned, once again, that it matters a lot. The setting was the meeting room of the public library in Green Valley, Arizona. Green Valley is a retirement community located 25 miles south of Tucson. The audience included about 30 senior citizens and the discussion which focused on the state of education in Arizona was led by a panel of educators that included two area school superintendents and an elementary building principal. Following overviews of the positive things that are happening in their school systems, the three educational leaders responded to the question: What major challenges are you and your schools facing? Since Arizona is at or near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to financial support of its public schools, initial responses not surprisingly centered around funding-related issues and concerns such as the difficulty of filling open teaching positions due to the state’s low teacher salaries. Then, the discussion turned to one of the hottest topics in education today: the Common Core Standards. Many in the audience wanted to learn how the Common Core is impacting their local schools. One of the superintendent spoke for the entire panel in saying what I’ve been hearing from superintendents throughout the country: “We believe in being accountable and having strong educational standards. We also support the goal of the Common Core to teach our students higher order thinking skills. In fact, for the past four years, we have spent hundred of thousands of dollars in both time and money to help our teachers align their work in the classroom to meet these new standards. Unfortunately, as a result of our recent statewide elections, there is likely to be increased political pressure to abandon these standards.” At that point, you could have heard a pin drop. As I looked around the room, everyone looked as if they were in shock. After a few seconds of silence, one person spoke up and said: “This is appalling. What can we do about it?” Another person then responded: “We need to educate ourselves about what is happening to our schools and let our elected officials know how we feel about it.” In saying this, he hit the bull’s eye because nothing is going to change for our public schools until the American people become aware of both the intended and unintended consequences of education reform and voice their concerns to our education policymakers.