The 2014-15 school year has just begun and rapid change is the new constant. The mantra of "wait a few years and the pendulum will swing back" no longer holds true. Change is occurring at a speed that was impossible to imagine just five years ago. And there is no going back.
Today there is too much corporate interest in the results of public education for our schools to languish in the status quo. Rumblings throughout public education will keep school board members, union leaders, superintendents and teachers all on their proverbial toes for years to come. It will require enormous political will and foresight to avoid pitfalls.
The national change agenda had many of its roots in the Race To The Top initiative engineered by the U.S. Department of Education in the first term of President Obama's administration. In Sacramento, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and its assessment system, titled the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), are two legislative pieces crafted by Gov. Jerry Brown that must be artfully implemented.
I have compiled a list of the top 10 issues that will determine if we accomplish our mission. For me, that mission is a high quality education for each and every one of America's children. (The list is not in any particular order since the role one has changes priorities.)
- Increase funding for public education, from kindergarten through college. By 2018, all of the temporary taxes collected by Proposition 30 will sunset. Prop. 30, passed in 2012, did not help CSUs or UCs and only got state school districts to their 2007 level of funding. In the next several years school districts will need to place a larger percentage of their general fund dollars into the State Teacher Retirement System to make it balanced.
- Fund universal access for high quality early learning programs for all 3 and 4 year olds.
- Successfully implement Common Core and Smarter Balance assessments.
- Reform teacher evaluation systems that allow for innovative instructional models, not just standardized teacher evaluation systems. Install evaluations that lead to a pay-for-performance model, where some teachers can earn up to $150,000 for a full year of work.
- Thoughtfully plan, collaborate and share best practices that lead us closer to more high-quality charter schools and traditional public schools/districts. The traditional public model cannot get to the destination without help from others with similar goals.
- If NEA/CTA and AFT/CFT teachers are successful in unionizing, the whole paradigm could shift. Thus far, charter school teachers have shown little interest in organizing.
- Redefine tenure laws through the courts or legislature.
- Refine digital learning in blended learning environments.
- Groom school and district leaders who can successfully navigate the treacherous waters of the changing educational landscape.
- End the contentious partisanship of the times.
In order to effectively carry out these priorities, elected officials, professional educators and union leaders must come together. Doing so will produce great schools and learning experiences for all.