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Monday, August 08, 2016

The New Public School: Foundation of Democracy

In a sense, this election represents a turning point in our democracy.

We have one candidate who is challenging the basic tenets of our Constitution--our democracy as we know it, and we have another candidate who is utilizing the current tenets of our democracy as a path to betterment.

In my own state, our schools are in jeopardy as the state looks to add charter schools by supporting private ownership of our public schools. This money will support privately run schools for some with public money. To me, after much thought and learning, I see this as giving away our public schools and the potential our public schools hold for better lives, stronger communities, and a democratic country.

Yet, for some, public schools have not done the job well. We do have schools that don't have what they need to serve children well, yet in many places, the public schools are doing a great job.

How can we reinvigorate public schools so that our schools are serving every child well? What can we do to make things better?

Our state has done a lot to uplift teacher quality. To teach today, you have to meet rigorous expectations. Most new teachers are well prepared to become apprentice educators. The fact that a brand new teacher has the same expectations as a seasoned veteran does not seem right, however, and I'd like to see more variation with regard to expectations and roles in school. It seems only right that there should be entry educational positions and positions for more seasoned teachers. This might be a good change as we develop schools.

Our state also has a strong evaluation system in place, a system based on worthy elements. The system is not always implemented well, and this remains a problem, but when implemented well, the system has value and can serve to help educators set goals and work with others to reach those goals through professional learning and careful attention to student needs and interests.

Our systems in schools, in many ways, have not kept pace with the changing culture. Many systems still mirror old time teaching/learning models. There's room for change here, and it seems like our state is beginning to promote that change. Further the new ESSA law adopted by the federal government demonstrates a movement towards modern systems too.

Structures too need to change--too many schools are outdated, need repair, and sit a far distance from the modern technology, systems, and structure that organizations outside of education demonstrate today. It's a crime in our wealthy country to send students to outdated institutions.

We don't have to rely on private industry to better schools. We can still use public funds and public organizations to build strong schools. To give away public money to private industry is not in keeping with our democratic principals. Instead it's important to allow the public to move its schools ahead with decisions that match community needs and potential.

Massachusetts has terrific public schools. We have enjoyed great leadership from our union and our state in this regard. We can continue to move our public schools ahead so that they continue to support a strong democracy in our state and beyond. We don't need to give up on public schools, and we don't need to give our schools away to private industry--not now when we're doing really good work overall and have the potential to even do better work together.