Last night during the #oklaed weekly chat, this question was bantered around and a challenge made: blog your answer in 600 words or less. Here is my contribution.
As a parent looking for a new school district for my daughter, I have looked into private schools. As a public school educator and advocate, I am ashamed that I have seriously considered private school. My reason, as a kindergarten, my daughter is just starting her school career. She has an amazing teacher at an amazing school, but she asks me every day to take her temperature to she is she can stay home. I know many factors go into her not wanting to go to school, but in as a 6 year old, school should be the most fun thing she can do with her time. I want her experiences in k12 to be as profound and impactful as mine were, but if something doesn’t give in #oklaed, I am fearful that she will always have to deal with this mess we have allowed to be created in our schools.
So… If I Were Queen of Education, I would
ONE: Call for an immediate cease and desist on every unfunded and underfunded mandate that is in our state statues. Along with this, I would pull together a think tank of parents, students, teachers, administrators, university professors, child welfare experts, child psychologists, pediatricians, and politicians (from both sides of the aisle) to critically and honestly look at all mandates, requirements, and overall structures of schools in Oklahoma along with research, the stories behind the numbers, and the implications of poverty/home life on learning. They would be expected to look outside the classroom into communities to see what is working and why, but we have to be holistic in our analysis, public school doesn’t live in a vacuum.
TWO: Ramp up the campaign to bring renewed respect to the professionals that teach our children: Educators. No more lip service praise. No more berating and blaming. Like our new Superintendent has said: Every mandate ends up on a teacher’s desk. When things don’t work out, they also get the blame. When we as a state, including parents, press, politicians, begin to change the landscape of how teachers and schools are perceived, then #oklaed will be able to recruit and retain the best teachers in the nation.
THREE: Dismantle and delete TLE, ACE, A/F, and anything related to high stakes testing. This is included in number one, but I felt it needed repeating. Research does not support these reforms, at all. In fact, most research shows that these reforms are harmful.
FOUR: Have a serious discussion about funding, budgets, tax cuts, tax breaks, and money management with politicians… with facts. Politicians have to acknowledge their biases and principles and be open to hearing the biases and opinions of those they disagree with. We have to come to a middle ground, to balance conservative ideals with liberal ones. It has to be possible. Money isn’t everything. But lack of money can be.
FIVE: Make sure we all have consistent definitions. Words matter. In education policy, it seems like people often argue different sides of the same issue they both agree with simply because they are defining terms differently.
SIX: Open the doors of communication between Higher Ed/College of Educations and Common Education. For some reason, the communication between stakeholders in OK is stilted at best. We are all in this together, we need to be collaborating in meaningful ways.
SEVEN: Give every child a pony… (totally kidding….)
We need a paradigm shift in education. We need all stakeholders to have a voice, but also make sure their story is heard so we have common ground.
If I were Queen of Education…