Later this morning, Eduwife and I will board a plane in Guatemala City with our new 13-month-old daughter, Anna Patricia. At 10:35 a.m., we will touch down in Houston. Once we deplane and pass through Customs, our first order of business it taking little Anna to the Homeland Security Office in Bush International Airport and have her sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Before lunch time today, Anna will be part of the American dream, gaining access to the greatest public education system one can find on the planet.
All week, I’ve been down in Guatemala thinking about family, thinking about what is possible, and thinking about what may have been. I do so knowing that we did not adopt Anna to give her a better life. No, we did it because my wife and I are selfish and we wanted a better life for ourselves and a bigger family. Anna provides us both.
But I can’t help but think about the educational path now before her, and the opportunities to which she will be exposed. I spend so much time railing against the problems in the current system, advocating for the issues that may be unpopular to some, and generally agitating the system in hopes that such agitation will ultimately result in change and improvement.
I watch my two-and-a-half year old son, and Anna’s full birth brother, soak up every educational opportunity made available to him. He wants to be read to and he models reading behavior. He is growing more and more computer literate by the day. He is passionate about art and music and athletics. He is now working on counting and beginning math skills. He is putting together full sentences (lots of them declarative), using subjects and verbs. And he is bilingual to boot.
I am expecting Anna to follow down the same path, modeling herself after her brother. Yes, she’ll be interested in playing the Wii, but she’ll also embrace the written word. She’ll enjoy watching Franklin or Little Bear on TV, but she’ll also figure out the puzzles that are recommended for those far beyond her age. I expect both my children to take full advantage of the educational opportunities available to them, and I expect to do all I can to offer a clear path to high-quality learning.
What is my vision for my children? Let me nail Eduflack’s 10 tenets to the electronic wall:
* I want every kid, particularly mine, reading proficient before the start of the fourth grade. Without reading proficiency, it is near impossible to keep up in the other academic subjects. And to get there, we need high-quality, academically focused early childhood education offerings for all.
* I want proven-effective instruction, the sort of math, reading, and science teaching that has worked in schools like those in my neighborhood with kids just like mine.
* I want teachers who understand research and know how to use it. And I want teachers to be empowered to use that research to provide the specific interventions a specific student may need.
* I want clear and easily accessible state, district, school, and student data. I want to know how my kids stack up by comparison.
* I want relevant education, providing clear building blocks for future success. That means strong math and technology classes. It means courses that provide the soft skills needed to succeed in both college and career through interesting instruction. And it means art and music right alongside math and reading.
* I want national standards, so if my family relocates (as mine did many times when I was a child), I am guaranteed the same high-quality education regardless of the state’s capitol.
* I want educational options, be they charter schools or magnet schools, after-school or summer enrichment programs. And these options should be available for all kids, not just those struggling to keep up.
* I want schools that encourage bilingual education, without stigmatizing those students for whom English is a second language. Our nation is changing, and our approach to English instruction must change too.
* I want a high-quality, effective teacher in every classroom. Teaching is really, really hard. Not everyone is cut out for it. We need the best educators in the classroom, and we need to properly reward them for their performance.
* I want access to postsecondary education for all. If a student graduates from high school and meets national performance standards, they should gain access to an institution of higher education. And if they can’t afford it, we have a collective obligation to provide the aid, grants, and work study to ensure that no student is denied college because of finances.
Is that asking to much? I’d like to think not. I’d like to believe we are there on some points, and getting there on others. But I recognize we have many roads to travel on quite a few.
If we’ve learned anything from this blog, we know that empty rhetoric is often worse than no rhetoric at all. If we believe in these principles, we need to do something about it. We need to move to public action. I am committed to building a public engagement campaign around these principles, helping parents, families, and communities throughout the nation take these on for themselves and demand them of their local schools. I am ready to lend a voice to such an effort and do what I can to promote these tenets. I’m ready to do my part.
The question that remains is who is ready to take up the cause and build a national commitment to such principles? Who will call on a new president and a new U.S. Department of Education to embrace these ideas? Who will pick up the flag?
In many ways, this is the sort of thing that a group like Ed in 08 could have embraced. Maybe the Gates and Broad Foundations are willing to lend a little of their cost savings to building true national understanding and commitment to high-quality education in this country.
I yield the soapbox. Welcome home, Anna!