Playing Games with LA’s Future

For more than a year now, we have been hearing about the dire financial state of public education in California.  We’re ridden a roller coaster of threats of massive teacher layoffs and a two-year ban on the purchase of any textbooks or instructional materials.  We’ve viewed district after district struggle to meet the school equity requirements placed on them by the courts.  And we’ve witnessed state officials dance a West Coast two-step to quickly eliminate the barriers to additional federal education funding.  And even though California has spent more of its education stimulus dollars, percentage wise, than any other state in the union, schools in the Golden State are still hurting and are still facing tough decisions and even tougher cuts.

Fortunately, Cali Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has now stepped up to make a major investment in the future of the state, or at least in the future of the greater Los Angeles area.  In the name of creating jobs, growing the economy, and strengthening the community, the guvernator yesterday signed a bill that could deliver upwards of a billion dollars to the City of Angels, money that would be coupled with a $150 million bond pledged by the business community.
Unfortunately, not a dime of these funds will ever see an LA classroom or be used to help an LA teacher improve their craft and meet the new demands being placed on our public schools.  Not a dollar of it is doing to school improvement or innovation.  And not a penny will go to support Los Angeles’ blossoming charter school movement.  No, the entire kitty is designated to go an build a new football stadium for the city, a stadium for an NFL football team that does not exist.  The full story can be found here.
Why does this matter?  In these tough economic times, we have to make choices.  Schwarzenegger signed the controversial spending bill claiming that this stadium investment would generate jobs and bring an economic boost to Los Angeles.  Noble goals, yes.  But there are few facts to back it up.  Even since the renaissance of baseball stadium construction launched two decades ago in Baltimore, we have heard how new sports stadiums result in jobs and economic development.  But in study after study, researchers have found that such impact lasts only as long as the construction cranes are on site.  Once the venue opens to the public, the economic impact is complete.  Jobs are temporary, manifest in the construction itself.  Then the community goes back to normal.  That’s why cities have shied away from paying the tab for such construction projects in recent years, leaving it to the teams that will enjoy the long-term benefits of a shiny new stadium.
In an era where dollars are in short supply in California, if the goal is really to invest in job creation and economic strength, is this really the best investment for the citizens of Los Angeles?  Right now, the state is trying to move heaven and earth to get Race to the Top dollars, following the belief that these dollars can serve as make or break for the future of California education.  If successful, RttT would likely result in a few million dollars a year for four years to LAUSD.  Yes, LAUSD’s cut of a successful RttT grant likely won’t even cover the laundry costs for the school district’s athletic teams. 
Imagine what would be possible if they could muster the strength to move this $1 billion from a stadium that may be used on any given Sunday and instead invest it in LAUSD.  One billion to ensure that LA students are gaining the skills and knowledge they need to hold 21st century jobs.  One billion to improve high school graduation rates.  One billion to demonstrate the relevance of K-12 education to the futures of K-12 students.  One billion to truly innovate and improve.  A $1 billion targeted investment at what LA public schools need the most.  
Football stadiums may be the sexy choice, but they’ll break your hearts and empty your wallets.  If the goal is to create jobs and strengthen the economy, it doesn’t take a Vegas oddsmaker to tell you that the schools are a far better bet than a new stadium.  Years from now, LA will have its new stadium (which may or may not remain empty), but how many area kids will have the high school diplomas, skills, and jobs necessary to enjoy a beautiful LA Sunday afternoon in its friendly confines?

Retraining Teacher Training

Big to-dos this afternoon up at Columbia University, Teachers College.  Speaking before a packed house of students, teacher educators, and reps from the education policy community, EdSec Arne Duncan continued his push for improving teacher preparation in the United States.  Duncan challenged education schools to “make better outcomes for students the overarching mission” of today’s teacher preparation programs.

Clearly, today’s remarks at TC were “good cop,” compared with Duncan’s “bad cop” words a few weeks ago at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education.  Duncan praises AACTE and NCATE for their efforts to improve the quality of teacher preparation and the assessment and evaluation of prospective and new teachers.  He recognized the good works going on in states like Louisiana and New York.  And he applauds the innovations happening at institutions such as Emporia State University, Alverno College, and Black Hills State University.  He honored the good work of teachers, while calling for a common level of quality and effectiveness at schools of education across the United States.  The EdSec’s full remarks can be found here.
As Duncan embarks on his national effort to retrain our models of teacher training, he raises some essential issues.  With so much new money soon funneling into school districts for teacher training, hiring, retention, and reward, teacher quality is a must-discuss topic.  If we want tomorrow’s teachers to succeed (particularly if we are going to measure them based on student assessment data), we need to prepare today’s education students for these new paradigms and expectations.
One of the logical next questions coming out of Duncan’s TC speech is which are the IHEs that are failing to live up to these new expectations?  One would be hard-pressed to find a teacher’s college that would say they are failing at their mission.  This is particularly true when we think about their actual job description.  For decades now, the task before our colleges of education has been simple.  The taught the cores of both content and pedagogy.  They were expected to graduate a significant number of their students (at grad rates similar to the institution as a whole).  Their graduates were expected to pass state licensure exams.  And those graduates were expected to find employment with local school districts (or at least districts somewhere in the state).  These were our expectations of our ed schools, and based on these standards, most were indeed living up to the expectations.
Through his rhetoric, though, Duncan is looking to dramatically change the rubric by which we measure teachers.  Teacher quality measures are all about using student test data to determine teacher effectiveness.  We are no longer seeking “highly qualified” teachers, as mandated in NCLB, but are now seeking highly effective ones.  Clearly, the teaching profession is facing major changes.
But we need to learn to walk before we can truly run this race.  Through years of research, we know the components of effective teacher training, including strong content and pedagogical training, intense clinical experience, and mentoring and ongoing development once one hits the classroom.  This is particularly true of hard-to-staff schools and those being targeted by Duncan for school turnaround efforts, where quick-and-easy, low-impact teacher training efforts simply leave new teachers unprepared for the challenges of the modern-day classroom.
How do we make these components of a high-quality teacher education program the norm, particularly for those schools serving historically disadvantaged communities?  How do we find the balance between the inputs that go into building an effective teacher and the outcomes that prove it?  How do we ensure that teachers are the primary drivers of school innovation and improvement, and not merely stakeholders to whom new changes happen to?
And just as important, how do we build the data systems to prove it?  Across the nation, we have doubts about the power of our current collection methods.  We want to use student data to evaluate and incentivize teachers, but need to make sure we have the collection mechanisms in place to do so.  We need to break down firewalls and strengthen our connections.  But Duncan’s charge forces us to take it a big step further.  We collect student performance data.  We are to use that data to evaluate the performance of current teachers.  And now we want to use that data to determine those teachers colleges and alternative certification programs that are doing the job (along with those who are not).  A noble goal, but not one we are equipped to deal with, at least not with our current data systems.  
Before we start calling out individual schools of education for failing to live up to the expectations set by the EdSec (and Eduflack will admit there are quite a number that would make that list), we need to first set a clear rubric for how we are measuring effective teacher education.  Until then, we will simply be assembling a hit list of “laggard” colleges based on personal opinion, anecdotes, bias, or wild conjecture.  And while that may make good fodder for the blogs and faculty senate meetings, it is hardly the stuff that a new renaissance in teacher education should be based.
The EdSec is definitely on the right track.  But we must be sure we are making decisions based on good data and even better expectations.  We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the quality and effectiveness of teacher preparation.  That means one chance to get it right.  Before we start asking colleges and universities to make changes to drive innovation and improvement, we need to be clear on what we are asking for and how we will measure it.  It is the only way to ensure we are truly improving, and not merely changing.

From the Mouths of TFAers

When Eduflack was a very green Capitol Hill staffer, a wise veteran imparted some basic advice that I have not forgotten now going on almost two decades.  Never talk in an elevator.  Capitol Hill is one of those places where people (the unelected, of course) like to make themselves seem far more important than they really are.  They brag to friends and strangers alike about the legislation they’ve “written” their “access” to leadership, and other attributes that make working on the Hill so appealing.

The advice was offered as we were listening to a legislative assistant talk about the counsel they were providing a particular senator.  As we were both intimately familiar with the issue and the senators involved, we knew the story was hogwash.  The lesson to me was simple.  Don’t talk in an elevator.  You never know who is listening, and you never know what life such elevator tales will take on.  And all of this was before the regular use of the Internet and our happy go lucky blogs and tweets.
After a recent flight from Charlotte to Washington, DC, I would add never talk on an airplane to the list.  Typically, I want to be ignored on a plane.  Introvert that I am, I don’t want to engage in conversation, and I don’t want people to engage with me.  I want to be left alone with my readings and perhaps a quick game of Book Worm on my iPhone, using the confines of that flying tube to gain a few free moments where I don’t have to focus exclusively on work and the outlying issues that surround it.  But this flight just wouldn’t let me bury my head in a few newspapers and start thinking about the next day.
For this flight, I was seated directly in front of a regional manager from Teach for America.  As luck would have it, he was a chatter, as was the businessman seated next to him.  TFA was asked what he did for living. He stated he worked for an education non-profit called Teach for America.  The businessman clearly had never heard of the organization, so he inquired as to whether it was a new group and if it was surviving in the current economy.  I think Mr. TFA (who was part of the very first teacher cohort) was surprised that there was someone who had not heard of Teach for America.  So he went on to provide a wealth of interesting tidbits and bragging points to demonstrate that Teach for America was not your average bear education not-profit.
Of course, Eduflack’s ears perked up, interested to hear how this Teach for America executive (I believe he was a regional manager for sites in a number of states in the south and southwest) would begin describing an organization so well known in education circles to someone so unfamiliar with it.  Some of the highlights:
* Teach for America recently embarked on a $142 million fundraising drive, and has already raised more than $149 million
* Teach for America’s new strategy is to reach out to more and more charter schools, seeing them as a quicker point to help close the achievement gap.  “There are a lot of good charter schools and a lot of bad charter schools,” he explained.  The key was to find schools that would buy Teach for America whole cloth.  And in his eyes, KIPP can do no wrong.
* Teach for America is beloved and has never run into any opposition.  In fact, Boston is the first and only school district where any teachers have ever had any problems whatsoever with Teach for America coming in.  And isn’t that just short-sighted of them.
* Teach for America is becoming so selective that it recently determined a student who “wrote” the new University of Virginia financial aid policy was a questionable candidate.  (As an alum of Mr. Jefferson’s alma mater, I won’t get into the number of underlying issues here)
* The ranks of devout Christians joining Teach for America is growing by the day, in large part because the work of a Teach for America teacher is so demanding  that they need the supports that their beliefs provide them to do their secular work well.
What I found most interesting, though, was that the notion of recruiting and placing teachers didn’t come up until nearly 10 minutes into the conversation. Teach for America was about school improvement.  It was about closing the achievement gap.  It was about partnering with schools who couldn’t fix themselves.  It was about the organization serving poor communities and black communities and such.  But the notion of teachers (and teaching for that matter) didn’t come up until deep in the conversation, when Mr. TFA wanted to demonstrate how exclusive and competitive Teach for America slots were.  Then he began discussing how they place only the best college graduates in schools that need their help, making clear they did not want students who attended education schools or formally studied education.
Now I’m not naive, I realize that Mr. TFA was trying to play to his audience (and certainly had no idea that Eduflack was sitting two feet in front of him).  He read his seatmate as a good southern Christian who believed in school choice, so he tried to play up those issues.  But listening to the whole conversation (which ran for almost half of the flight), I was struck by how “off message” Mr. TFA was.  Don’t get me wrong, Eduflack is a Teach for America fan.  I believe that TFA plays an important role in school improvement, both literally and rhetorically.  But this certainly isn’t the way that Wendy Kopp talks about her organization.  This isn’t the way TFA has been positioned in education improvement discussions.  And it certainly isn’t how the org is depicted as it moves into countries like India and Australia.  
Teach for America is an organization that prides its good press (and moves heaven and earth to deal with any media that is just the tiniest bit critical).  It is a group that has an incredible network of alumni and advocates who would do anything and everything to protect the TFA brand and promote the TFA mission.  But as a fly on the wall, it seems that a little message discipline may be in the works for Teach for America.  A cynical listener, unfamiliar with Teach for America, could have listened to this conversation and heard that TFA had just raised $150 million to move smart, motivated devout Christians into public charter schools across the country.  Does that sound like the Teach for America we have all grown to know and love?  
I’d willing to chalk the experience up to a green TFAer excited about the program, but I know he has been part of the TFA family since the beginning, an original corps member who moved into a leadership position (at least this current one) years ago.  If this is what we’re hearing from seasoned TFA vets, what else is being said out there?  Perhaps it is time for Kopp and company to warn their staff about speaking on elevators and airplanes … or at least to only do so once they have the corporate messaging and stump speech down.

Public Schools and “Philanthropy”

What role should philanthropy and fundraising play in the operations of our public schools?  We like to believe that, through local taxes and state taxes and a little help from our friends in Washington, we have more than enough to fund a high-quality public education.  Yet in an era of school improvement and school turnarounds, we hear more and more about the need for corporate and philanthropic support for our public schools.  We listen to calls for alternative funding for teacher salaries and instructional interventions and new school models.  We know of virtually every major public school districts clamoring for moneys from the Gates Foundation, and Broad, and Wallace, and just about anyone else who is willing to invest in K-12 school improvement.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran a column by Robert McCarthy talking about the current struggles DCPS is enduring to secure those much needed private funds.  As the legend goes, DCPS Chancellor is asking many a deep pocket for funding to help pay for her turnaround of the schools in our nation’s capital.  Some money, particularly that being raised by the recently established DC Public Education Fund, is still on the ledger sheet (important since much of this money is intended to pay for Rhee’s new teacher pay system, whereby we eliminate tenure and boost salaries for high-performing teachers).  But much of the typical philanthropy that has flowed into DC appears to be in doubt, with traditional DC philanthropists concerned about how their money is being spent and how DCPS will be held accountable as responsible stewards of the dollars.  The full story can be found here.
While issues of accountability are important, and surely donors should know specifically how their education dollars are being spent, the issue in Washington, DC raises a significantly more important concern.  In an era where our urban school districts are spending between $15,000 and $20,000 per student for public education, why is that not adequate resources for an effective public education?  Should the success of our struggling school districts really require the kindness of strangers to provide a core education to every student?
Perhaps I am naive here, but it seems that school budgets should be constructed so they are addressing all of the necessary expenditures of operating a school district — salaries, buildings, transportation, textbooks and instructional materials, technology, breakfasts and lunches, athletics and extracurriculars, even afterschool programs.  Such funds should be constant each and every year.  If a district hits a patch where the committed dollars coming in from federal, state, and local sources are inadequate for meeting the educational needs of the students, then we have a problem.  Then (as we are experiencing now) we tap emergency funding, make difficult decisions, and try to carry on.  Rarely does the acceptance of a grant (along with the oversight, redtape, and additional accountability provisions attached to it) allow one to backfill such cuts.  And that shouldn’t be their intention.
Third-party donations, be they from philanthropies, corporations, or one-time federal grant programs, are meant to supplement and provide value-add to the core instructional day.  They are used to bring in a new program designed to help a segment of the student population.  They are used to provide targeted professional development and support to teachers.  They are used to jumpstart a new effort or say bring in a new computer lab.  But they are not designed to be funds to support the ongoing operations nor are they dollars guaranteed to continue for the perpetuity of a school’s existence. 
And that really becomes the danger with the path some are now pursuing.  Yes, philanthropy plays an essential role in education reform and school improvement.  Targeted dollars can be used to spearhead specific initiatives, act where action was previously impossible, and generally goose a school into change and reform it may have previously ignored.  But it is not a continuous spigot of funds designed to supplement the dedicated moneys coming from the government.  Philanthropic support is designed to have a specific beginning and a specific end.  It falls to states and school districts to use a grant period well, build the reform into their core operating structure, and carry on — both financially and operationally — well after the third-party support is gone.  Otherwise, we simply move from one latest and greatest idea to the next, with nothing taking hold and nothing having real impact.
We are running a real danger here when we expect that philanthropic support for our schools is intended to help fund core operations in our classrooms.  Such supports are intended to innovate and spur action where it otherwise may not be possible.  But if we are extending a hand out to ensure adequate funding of per-pupil expenditures and core instruction, we have a much larger issue to address.  We should be strengthening our schools to improve based on the resources available.  Outside funding then helps us accelerate the process.    

Calculating Meaning in the Latest NAEP

Yesterday, the National Assessment Governing Board released the latest numbers with regard to student math proficiency (at least proficiency as measured by NAEP).  The headlines seem simple, yet troublesome, enough.  Fourth grade math scores were stagnant.  Eighth grade score saw a slight uptick.  The math achievement gaps between white and black students and white and Hispanic students have remained relatively unchanged.

As to be expected with such numbers, we can wring our hands, look for conspiracy theories, and listen for things that go bump in the night.  Many a critic will likely take these latest numbers as yet the latest indictment of No Child Left Behind, pointing to all of the time and money that has been invested in elementary instruction over the last decade and the lack of return in recent years.  The continued struggles to close the achievement gap remain incredibly troublesome.  Yes, we should acknowledge that eighth grade math numbers rose slightly across the board.  But it provides little comfort when we think about all of the interventions and programs that are in place to specifically close the achievement gap, and that chasm remains as large as it has always been, with little sign of narrowing.
In the global sense, EdTrust President Kati Haycock has it right.  Mixing both optimism and concern, Haycock concludes, “It’s clear from the data at both grade levels that we still have a long way to go to effectively prepare all of our elementary and middle school students for the world that awaits them in high school and beyond.”  Yes, we have miles to go before we sleep, and we cannot be content with where the latest numbers leave us.  We also can’t assume that the common core standards, once they are developed and adopted, will immediately translate into gains in student proficiency.  Such standards are goals.  The real rub is in the interventions and assessments meant to align with such goals.
But perhaps the most interesting remarks regarding the latest NAEP scores come from David Driscoll, the new NAGB chairman and the former education commissioner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  According to Education Week, in overseeing the release of this latest batch of data, Driscoll remarked that the flatlining in fourth grade scores was the result of “shaky math content knowledge among teachers.”  Eighth graders did better because they “were taught by teachers with math majors.”  The full EdWeek article can be found here.
Driscoll’s remarks clearly play into the current debates on teacher quality, as well as EdSec Arne Duncan’s upcoming teacher recruitment campaign.  Rhetorically, all of the “cool” ed reform kids are pointing to alternative certification, mid-career transitions, Teach for America, and other such efforts as the magic bullets to fix what is ailing the American classroom.  The pendulum is swinging back to a belief that content knowledge is king, and pedagogy is overrated in the grand scheme of all things teaching. 
As part of the argument, we’ve tagged our teachers’ colleges as part of the problem.  The attacks can get tiresome.  “Ed schools are the cash cows of the higher education system.  As such, they favor quantity over quality, seeking to turn out as many education majors as possible.  They worship at the altar of process, rather than results, and thus are focused exclusively on pedagogy and not worrying about the end game of student performance.  And worse, there is little consistency in traditional teacher prep programs, particularly when some of the lower-quality ed schools are those serving the highest-need communities.”
Driscoll is probably right.  Teachers with a strong understanding of the content knowledge are more effective than the average bears.  But does that mean we scrap our ed schools and expect that math majors will give up their plans for corporate or research jobs to become middle school teachers?  Of course not.  The issue should be how we strengthen our teacher ed programs with such content knowledge, not how we work around our ed schools to get prospective teachers in through the back doors, particularly if those back doors neglect the pedagogy, clinical training, mentoring, and other efforts that go into effectively preparing a teacher for the rigors of the 21st century classroom.
We seem to forget that upwards of 90 percent of our K-12 teachers come from traditional schools of education.  We can hand Teach for America the Gates Foundation’s entire endowment, and TFA will still be unable to get to scale and serve as the primary teacher provider for our public schools.  We can make major shifts in emergency certifications and licensures to move mid-career shifters into high-need areas like math and science, and it will still be a minor ripple in a very large pool.  We can break down the barriers to get ABCTE in every state and let every mom-and-pop alternative certification program serve the local school district, and it would still be but a hiccup in the larger scheme of things.
Don’t get Eduflack wrong.  Programs like TFA can be a wonderful value-add for school districts, injecting new energy into a school and bringing a fresh take to the classroom and the faculty lounge.  But such efforts don’t get at the heart of the issue.  If the end game is to improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers and teaching, that fight begins and ends with our schools of education.  If we are to truly improve teacher quality for the long term, it requires focusing on our colleges of education and ensuring all accredited programs are of the highest quality and greatest impact.  It’s about making sure prospective teachers are trained in the latest research and understand how to use data to improve the quality and impact of their instruction.  It is about offering a strong clinical training, so new teachers understand exactly what they are in for in the classroom and have the supports and knowhow to deal with the challenges they face.  And yes, it is about calling out those schools that are not up to snuff, holding them accountable if they do not meet our expectations.
A century ago, the Carnegie Corporation rocked the medical community with its Flexner Commission, a comprehensive look at medical education in the United States.  In its report, Flexner found that the majority of medical colleges in the United States were lacking, doing a poor job preparing prospective doctors.  As a result, huge numbers of medical colleges were shut down and those remaining redoubled their efforts to focus on quality, research-based practice, and outcomes.  Since then, U.S. medical education has stood as the gold standard for the world.
If Duncan et al are truly serious about improving the quality of teaching, the time has come for a Flexner-style study of teacher preparation in the United States.  Instead of throwing all of our federal stimulus dollars at teacher incentives and alternative certification efforts, let’s actually get under the hood of good teacher preparation.  Put our traditional education colleges up against alternative programs and recent teacher recruitment interventions and really study what is working … and what is not.  What programs are producing the most effective teachers?  What institutions are responsible for the teachers who are boosting student achievement?  And what are those institutions teaching and offering that results in those outcomes?  Then we come up with the formula for the most effective teacher preparation.  What pedagogy, content knowledge, clinical training, mentoring, and ongoing support is necessary to improve teacher quality?  What is the gold standard for teacher preparation?  And most importantly, what should tea
chers know and be able to do in order to boost student learning and achievement?  
Until we have the answers to such questions, we will never be able to truly have the systemic impact on student achievement that we seek.  And we certainly shouldn’t be making decisions on this teacher prep path versus that teacher prep path without strong data analyzing both inputs and outcomes.  I’m all for following one’s gut, but this is just too important an issue to decide based on anecdotal evidence or through a buffet-style approach to simply choose whatever looks most appealing.  

It Still Takes a Village

A decade ago, the notion that “it took a village to raise a child” quickly became a political punchline, used by critics to demonstrate that the big bad government was somehow deflecting its responsibility for the education, healthcare, and general social services it takes to help prepare a young person for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

In reading the draft guidance for both Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation, one could get the sense that the schools themselves are the only entities who can truly guide improvement and innovation in the schools.  While i3 offers a tip of the cap to the role that not-for-profits can play in the new push for innovation, both grant programs are still very much a systems-based approach, with new dollars going to the old systems that have long failed to take the specific actions necessary to boost student achievement and close the achievement gap.
That shouldn’t be surprising.  Like it or not, if we are going to improve our public school offerings for all students, we must start inside the system.  While public/private partnerships, afterschool programs, enrichment centers, SES providers, and a host of other actors can play a part in improvement, if you don’t get to the root of the system — the school itself — you will never make the lasting, systemic change that RttT and i3 are seeking.  You’re simply tinkering around the edges, hoping an effort a step or two removes from the core academic day can have real impact on student learning.
But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t take a village to for those improvements and innovations to take hold and stick around well after the federal funding is gone.  The burden is not simply on the classroom teacher to boost those achievement scores, it is also on parents and families, community leaders, ministers and church leaders, local businesses, and everyone else who touches the lives of today’s young people (and their families).  It is about recognizing that education does not happen in a vacuum, but rather is intrinsically linked to each and every corner of our lives, from our earliest memories to our latest actions.
Don’t believe Eduflack?  Think this just sounds like more of the typical status quo rhetoric to distract us from the issues of assessments, student performance, and test scores?  Take a look at the cover story of the latest American School Board Journal, written by EdSec Arne Duncan.
In his piece on “The Importance of Board and Mayoral Partnerships,” Duncan speaks of the conditions necessary for positive impact from mayoral control of the schools.  Noting a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors report stating that “if schools don’t work, the city does not work,” Duncan opines on the value of elected school boards, a strong mayor, a commitment to accountability, and a focused goal  He does some of it through the lens of his Chicago experience, but hits on mayoral successes like Boston as well.  The full article can be found here.
But perhaps the most interesting line written by Duncan is the following: “It takes more than a school to educate a student.  it takes a city that can provide support from the parks department, health services, law enforcement, social services, after-school programs, nonprofits, businesses, and churches.”
Yes, if the schools don’t work, the city doesn’t work.  But the responsibility is not purely on the schools themselves to self-repair.  Yes, it requires investment from all of the stakeholders articulated by Duncan.  But the good EdSec has left out an essential component to the school success equation — the family.  Schools also need engaged parents, family members who take an interest in the day-to-day learning of their children.  Families who do more than come in when their is a discipline problem or a desire to complain to a teacher about the workload or the “stress” on a child.  Parents who are engaging their children after the school house doors are closed, through afterschool programs, weekend and summer learning, and even family reading time at home.  Families who make sure the homework is done, the children are fed, and everything is being done to maximize the school day.  Parents who know that nothing is more important than their children’s education and they will do anything necessary to ensure their kids have access to the best teachers, the best curriculum, and the best resources possible.
Earlier this week, the Pew Hispanic Center surveyed Hispanic youth ages 16-25.  They found that nine in 10 surveyed believed a college education is “necessary” to get ahead in life.  So educators are getting the importance of a good education across.  Disturbingly, though, fewer than half of Hispanic students say they will earn a bachelor’s degree (compared with more than 60 percent of all students), and only 24 percent of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 are actually enrolled in postsecondary education.  USA Today has the full story here.
It is up to that village to bridge the gap between understanding the importance of postsecondary education and actually acting on that understanding.  It falls on the nonprofits, businesses, churches, and government agencies Duncan speaks of — along with the families — to ensure students are graduating from high school and enrolling in college.  Our teachers can offer the pathways, but it is up to all of the other actors in a young person’s life to ensure that they pursue all that is available to them and actually do what is necessary to get ahead in life.  A high school diploma should be a non-negotiable in every family, with no one seeing dropping out as a viable alternative.  And those high school experiences should be used to show all students that college is possible and is an achievable goal for any student with the right commitment, work ethic, and attitude.
If our schools don’t work, the city does not work.  If our kids are not educated, our kids do not work.  And if our kids do not work, our nation cannot succeed.  It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out the correlations there.

How Does Education Really Rank?

For as long as Eduflack can remember, we have always cited that “education” is a top three issue in the eyes of the American people.  While we may debate whether it is a subject on which we cast our votes (and there is little to show that education policy has any effect on national campaigns), it is supposedly an issue that we hold near and dear.  So much so that just last year the Gates and Broad Foundations used Ed in 08/Stronger American Schools to try and push education through the win/place/show list to make it THE major driver in the 2008 presidential elections.

Funny how quickly things can change.  Education may have long been a top-three concern, but according to a recent national poll, it is now barely making the top 10.  Rasmussen recently surveyed Americans on their priorities, asking the question, “How important is it for the nation to face these issues …”  One could answer “very important” to any and all of the categories.  Following are those issues that scored very important (and how many of those surveyed thought so):
* Government ethics and corruption — 83 percent
* Economy — 82 percent
* Health care — 73 percent
* National security — 67 percent
* Social Security — 65 percent
* Taxes — 62 percent
* Education — 59 percent
* War in Iraq — 49 percent
* Immigration — 49 percent
That’s right, education now comes in seventh place.  Fewer than six in 10 people believe that education is a very important issue for our nation to face.  Makes you wonder about the 23 percent of those surveyed who are worried about the economy, but don’t see that a strong public education is a primary driver to economic improvement.  Or the 14 percent who fail to understand the correlations between healthcare (and healthcare costs) and education.  (Of course, Eduflack is even more startled that government ethics and corruption comes in at the top of the list, when we haven’t had a truly good scandal to rock the United States’ perception of those pulling the levers and writing the checks.  I suppose this is in response to the banking crisis and the bailout dollars).
If these numbers tell us anything, it is we cannot perceive education as an activity that occurs in a vacuum.  The quality of and access to a strong preK, K-12, and postsecondary education links virtually everything in our lives.  it effects jobs, tax revenues, and the economy at large.  It impacts healthcare, justice systems, and the environment.  It effects every American, regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, or zip code.  But somehow, it is an “also ran” when it comes to the important issues our nation faces.
If we are to make real, lasting change to our educational systems, we need to build a sense of urgency and demand for such improvements.  Without that demand, it is going to be hard to move audiences to change their thinking, change their behaviors, and change our spending priorities.  Moreover, it will be harder for some to make the intellectual investment in education, particularly when they have five or six issues that are viewed as more important in the grand scheme of things.
With all of the time, effort, and money spent on education debates and school improvement efforts, why aren’t we breaking through?  Is it the message or the messenger?  Clearly, we are missing something.

Hold On, ESEA Reauth is Coming

Likely one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington, DC, the U.S. Department of Education is now hard at work on draft language for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  EdSec Arne Duncan started the ball bouncing last week, bringing together the education blob to talk about his reauth priorities, including increasing funding for key NCLB components, taking some of the nastiness out of the current law, and codifying some of the policies that have been moved forward under the stimulus package.

As Eduflack has heard from many folks this week, the plan is to introduce ESEA reauthorization in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House in January 2010.  The goal will be final passage of the federal ed law before the Memorial Day recess.  House Education Committee Chairman George Miller (CA) will likely serve as the lead dog moving the bill through Congress in Q1 of next year.
Why is this significant?  For months now, those opposed to NCLB have been wishing, hoping, and projecting that reauthorization wouldn’t move until 2011.  They offered up a host of reasons for this misguided belief, most of which aren’t worthy of dissection here.  The simple fact is that NCLB opponents need reauthorization to be put off until 2011 because they simply aren’t ready to fight the good fight on federal ed policy in a few months.  The “loyal opposition” is not gathered around a few key points.  They haven’t adopted a common language of change.  They don’t necessarily have reccs on how to improve the law to meet their needs.  They know they don’t like NCLB, and likely won’t like NCLB 2.0.  They know what they are opposed to, but don’t necessarily know what to stand for … at least not yet.
Most presume that the new ESEA will not be a major change from the current law.  The new bill will still emphasize accountability and student achievement, but will provide greater flexibility to SEAs and LEAs to achieve it.  The stick of AYP will be whittled down to a nub before all is said and done.  Highly Qualified Teachers (HQTs) will be redefined, focusing on the effective teachers emphasized in Race to the Top and de-emphasizing the checklist of what is needed simply to enter a classroom.  New Senate Education Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (IA) will ensure that special education, RtI, and IDEA will get greater attention than in the previous iteration.  Charter schools will continue to remain strong.  Teacher incentives will see increased funding.  And we may even see Reading First transformed from an elementary grades program to a more comprehensive effort focused on middle and secondary students.  While the law will most likely be bucketed around the priorities of standards, assessments/data systems, teacher quality, and school turnaround, the details will be a reorganization of NCLB components, not a reinvention.
When the EdSec outlined these priorities (and emphasized the need for equity in public education) his remarks were well-received in most corners of the education community.  The strongest voice of opposition came from the Forum for Education and Democracy, who took Duncan to task for seeking to narrow the curriculum, lacking details on real teacher quality, and staying true to current accountability provisions.  The comments from Forum head Sam Chaltain were even distributed under the header, “you can’t just invoke MLK, Jr. – you have to really address fairness and equity.”  So it is clear where they shake out with regard to the future of ESEA.  And at the end of the day, the Forum speaks for more than itself (at least in terms of philosophy).
National Education Association’s strong response to the draft Race to the Top RFP guidance still serves as the best primer for those who want to make significant change to ESEA, particularly if they want to move the law back to where it stood in the 1990s.  In fact, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel upped the ante yesterday when he testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, where he called for a better distribution of exemplary teachers in struggling schools (with additional pay for such moves likely to be the second shoe to drop in his noble pursuits).
Barring the completely unforeseen, Chairman Miller is going to get this reauthorization through before this time next year.  And if I were taking bets, the current line is that the draft legislation dropped in January is going to be pretty darned close to the final that will be passed (with some additional dollars thrown into the mix for some to swallow the policy priorities).  If folks think they are truly going to influence ESEA and shape federal education policy for the next decade, now is the time to act.  Now is the time to have voices heard at ED and on the Hill about priorities and lines in the sand.  Now is the time to make clear what support or opposition will be based on.  Now is the time to form those alliances and determine what the truly make-or-break issues may be.
ESEA reauthorization is going to be a fast-tracked affair.  The first five months of 2010 are going to be spent winning folks over to the proposed law, not looking for alterations, changes, and overhauls to months of work at ED and in Chairman Miller’s office.  Those waiting to engage after the draft legislation is introduced will likely miss the show before the curtain is even raised.

Digging Deeper into Deep Dive

While it has taken a back seat to Race to the Top talk (and is shouldn’t since it is worth far more to the winning school districts than any RttT or i3 innovation), folks are still waiting to see who the Gates Foundation will award their Deep Dive teacher improvement grants to.  Earlier this fall, the pool was narrowed down to five — Pittsburgh, Memphis, Hillsborough County (FL), Oklahoma City, and a consortium of charter schools in Los Angeles.  The talk has long been the four winners will split the $500 million Gates is committing to the project.

On several occasions, Eduflack has asked why we continue to refer to an unnamed consortium of charter schools in the City of Angels, and just come out and say Green Dot.  Seems the logical choice, based on Gates’ ongoing support for Green Dot, current plans to expand the charter network on the East Coast, and the favor with which Green Dot is held by Duncan and his crew at ED.
But an Eduflack reader has recently pointed out that Green Dot is but part of the teacher quality petri dish that Gates is looking for in Los Angeles.  They are using the consortium of charter schools language to describe plans to invest in a group of charter school organizations out on the left coast.  Should LA win, the likely recipients of Deep Dive dollars would include LA-area schools led by the Alliance for College Ready Public Schools, Aspire, the Inner City Education Foundation, Partnership to Uplift Communities, and, yes, Green Dot.
And how much will these trailblazing charters have to spend on the identification, cultivation, instruction, and incentivization of effective teaching?  That still seems to be up in the air.  Since the Deep Dive plan was first discussed earlier this year, we’ve been hearing four districts, $500 million.  Dear ole Eduflack did fairly well on the math portion of his SATs way back when, and my abacus tells me that works out to about $125 million per Deep Dive district.
In yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there is an interesting story about how Pittsburgh is working to provide a new contract for whiz superintendent Mark Roosevelt, whose contract is set to expire in a year and a half.  The full piece can be found here, but the article cites that Pittsburgh is being fast-tracked for Gates Deep Dive money, and has requested $50 million for its teacher efforts.
So it begs the question.  If the finalists are requesting a specific amount of dollars for their plan, instead of working under the assumption of an equal allocation of the pot, what will happen to the excess money in the fund?  Will the four winners go back for additional rounds of funding?  Will Gates open up a phase two to other districts who try to model what the first cohort is doing?  Will some districts, like Pittsburgh seek $50 million while others look for $150 or $200 million for their ideas? 
Regardless, this is A LOT of money going into a few districts to focus on teacher quality.  And it is far, far more than even the best district can hope to gain through RttT or other federal programs.  Significant eyes will be on the winners and their plans, with many a reformer (and a status quoer) expecting to see immediate results.  Unfair?  Yes.  But in our rush for broad and immediate school improvement, we don’t have time for programs to mature and develop.  We need our results now.  Pittsburgh, Green Dot, and others are going to have high expectations to reach with those oversized Gates checks.

NCLB 2: This Time We Mean It

With all of the focus and gossip on Races to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and state education budget shortfalls, we’ve almost forgotten that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is past due for renewal.  Currently operating under the brand of No Child Left Behind, ESEA has governed K-12 federal education policy for a half century now.  And every five to 10 years, we actually refresh the law and make changes (as was done in the 2002 with the current iteration).  

No one has quite figured out when the clock starts on the current reauthorization efforts.  Some thought it would be an immediate priority of the Obama Administration, with Arne Duncan moving this year to change the law.  But the language coming out of Maryland Avenue has been fairly supportive of NCLB since the start of the year.  While ED officials don’t use the terms NCLB or AYP anymore, they have indicated general support for the standards, accountability, and priorities placed in NCLB, albeit with additional dollars and a crisper focus on the priorities identified in the four policy pillars offered up by Duncan and company.
Today, Duncan addressed the education blob, officially sounding the starting gun on reauthorization.  Talking about Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letters from Birmingham Jail and the continued need to provide all students a high-quality education, particularly those we were failing more than 50 years ago at the time of the Brown v. Board decision.  He continued to call for a strong, yet focused, federal role.  Greater flexibility for states and school districts.  Continued need to use data effectively.  All of the accountability and standards of the original, with more respect and reflection from those who are left to implement the law.
The remarks are well worth the read, and follow here.  For those who thought that reauthorization wouldn’t move until 2011, Eduflack thinks they may be sorely mistaken.  Duncan’s charge to the education community makes me think this is moving in the spring of 2010, at the earliest.  Just in time to provide a stronger infrastructure for those anticipated RttT and i3 grants.
And without further ado, the EdSec’s remarks from this morning:

“Good morning and thank you so much for coming today.

As you know, this is the first of a series of public conversations our department is holding here in DC on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

This is the next phase of our Listening and Learning tour that has taken me to about 30 states and scores of schools. I have spoken with students, parents and educators all across America.

I heard their voices—their expectations, hopes and dreams for themselves and their kids. They were candid about their fears and frustrations. They did not always understand why some schools struggle while others thrive. They understood profoundly that great teaching and school leadership is the key to a great education for their kids.

Whether it’s in rural Alaska or inner-city Detroit, everyone everywhere shares a common belief that education is America’s economic salvation.

They see education as the one true path out of poverty—the great equalizer that overcomes differences in background, culture and privilege. It’s the only way to secure our common future in a competitive global economy.

Everyone wants the best for their children and they are willing to take greater responsibility. Nobody questions our purpose.

But when it comes to defining the federal role in an education system that has evolved over a century-and-a-half—from isolated one-room schoolhouses to urban mega districts—there’s a lot of confusion, uncertainty, and division.

People want support from Washington but not interference. They want accountability but not oversight. They want national leadership but not at the expense of local control.

As a former superintendent, I can tell you that I rarely looked forward to calls from Washington.

And now that I’m here I’m even more convinced that the best solutions begin with parents and teachers working together in the home and the classroom.

Our role in Washington is to support reform by encouraging high standards, bold approaches to helping struggling schools, closing the achievement gap, strengthening the field of education, reducing the dropout rate and boosting college access. All of this must lead to more students completing college.

ESEA dates back to 1965 and it has undergone a lot of changes over the years, though none as dramatic as the 2002 version known as No Child Left Behind.

Few laws have generated more debate. Few subjects divide educators so intensely.

Many teachers complain bitterly about NCLB’s emphasis on testing. Principals hate being labeled as failures. Superintendents say it wasn’t adequately funded.

And many parents just view it as a toxic brand that isn’t helping children learn.

Some people accuse NCLB of over-reaching while others say that it doesn’t go far enough in holding people accountable for results.

I will always give NCLB credit for exposing achievement gaps, and for requiring that we measure our efforts to improve education by looking at outcomes, rather than inputs.

NCLB helped expand the standards and accountability movement. Today, we expect districts, principals and teachers to take responsibility for the academic performance of their schools and students. We can never let up on holding everyone accountable for student success. That is what we are all striving for.

Until states develop better assessments—which we will support and fund through Race to the Top—we must rely on standardized tests to monitor progress—but th
is is an important area for reform and an important conversation to have.

I also agree with some NCLB critics: it unfairly labeled many schools as failures even when they were making real progress—it places too much emphasis on absolute test scores rather than student growth—and it is overly prescriptive in some ways while it is too blunt an instrument of reform in others.

But the biggest problem with NCLB is that it doesn’t encourage high learning standards. In fact, it inadvertently encourages states to lower them. The net effect is that we are lying to children and parents by telling kids they are succeeding when, in fact, they are not.

We have to tell the truth, and we have to raise the bar. Our failure to do that is one reason our schools produce millions of young people who aren’t completing college. They are simply not ready for college-level work when they leave high school.

Low standards also contribute to the nation’s staggeringly high dropout rate. When kids aren’t challenged they are bored—and when they are bored they quit. Students everywhere echo what 9th grader Teton Magpie told me on a reservation in Montana—adults simply don’t expect enough of him and his peers.

In my view, we should be tight on the goals—with clear standards set by states that truly prepare young people for college and careers—but we should be loose on the means for meeting those goals.

We must be flexible and accommodating as states and districts—working with parents, non-profits and other external partners—develop educational solutions. We should be open to new ideas, encourage innovation, and build on what we know works.

We don’t believe that local educators need a prescription for success. But they do need a common definition of success—focused on student achievement, high school graduation and success and attainment in college.

We need to agree on what’s important and how to measure it or we will continue to have the same old adult arguments—while ignoring children.

So there’s a lot about NCLB and American education, more broadly,that needs to change.

Over the coming months the administration will be developing its proposal for reauthorization. Before we do, however, we want to hear from you. We want your input.

Many of you represent key stakeholders. Many of you have expertise. And I know that you all have opinions. Now’s the time to voice them.

You also share our commitment to children and to ensuring that when they grow up they are able to compete in the global economy of the future.

As I’ve travelled, there’s a real and growing concern I’ve heard from parents that their children will be worse off than they are. The only way to address their concern is by improving education. We must educate our way to a better economy.

A few statistics tell the story:

  • 27% of America’s young people drop out of high school. That means 1.2 million teenagers are leaving our schools for the streets.
  • Recent international tests in math and science show our students trail their peers in other countries. For 15-year-olds in math, the United States ranks 31st.
  • 17-year olds today are performing at the exact same levels in math and reading as they were in the early 1970’s on the NAEP test.
  • And just 40% of young people earn a two-year or four-year college degree.
  • The US now ranks 10th in the world in the rate of college completion for 25- to 34-year-olds. A generation ago, we were first in the world but we’re falling behind. The global achievement gap is growing.

We don’t need another study. We must stop simply admiring the problem. We need action.

The president has challenged us to boost our college completion rate to 60% by the end of the next decade.

We want to be first in the world again and to get there we cannot waste a minute. Every year counts. Every class counts. Every child counts.

And so the work of reauthorizing ESEA begins in states and districts across America—among educators and policy makers, parents and community leaders. This work is as urgent as it is important.

Our task is to unite education stakeholders behind a national school reform movement that reaches into every town and city—and we need your help to do it.

In the coming weeks, two people who are developing our proposal will convene these conversations—Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development Carmel Martin—and Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez. I will attend as often as possible as will other members of our team.

To begin to frame the conversation, I want to take you back to two years before the original ESEA was passed in 1965.

I want to take you back to 1963—to a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama where a courageous young Black preacher fighting to end segregation was illegally confined for three days after being arrested for leading non-violent protests in the city.

He had nothing to pass the time except for local newspapers—one of which ran an open letter from several White clergymen urging patience and faith and encouraging Blacks to take their fight for integration out of the streets and into the courts.

That preacher wrote a response to those White clergymen in the margins of that newspaper. It was Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail—one of t
he most powerful and moving pieces of writing I have ever read.

It ran almost 7000 words and eloquently made the case for non-violent civil disobedience—precisely because state and local governments continued to drag their feet in integrating schools and communities and the judicial path would take too long.

This was nine years after the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools violated the constitution, but most minorities were still isolated in their own classrooms. Many still are today and we must work together to change that.

The Birmingham letter explained why Blacks could not wait for judges across America to hear their cases and issues their rulings.

Blacks had been waiting for centuries and—with Dr. King’s leadership—they would wait no longer.

Even many of King’s allies in the civil rights movement—like Roy Wilkins of the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall who would later serve on the Supreme Court—were urging the legal route—in part to avoid confrontations for fear that they would lead to violence—as they eventually did in Birmingham.

King had to convince them as well, that they could not wait. As he told them, justice too long delayed is justice denied. Opportunity too long delayed is opportunity denied. Quality education too long delayed is education denied.

Now I mention this because we are now in our fifth decade of ESEA—nearly half a century of education reform and direct federal involvement in this state and local issue.

We’ve had five decades of reforms, countless studies, watershed reports like A Nation At Risk, and repeated affirmations and commitments from the body politic to finally make education a national priority.

And yet we are still waiting for the day when every child in America has a high quality education that prepares him or her for the future.

We’re still waiting to get a critical mass of great teachers and principals into underperforming schools located in underserved communities, where our failure to educate has in fact perpetuated cycles of poverty and social failure.

We’re still waiting for a testing and accountability system that accurately and fairly measures student growth and uses data to drive instruction and teacher evaluation.

We’re still waiting for America to replace an agrarian 19th century school calendar with an information age calendar that increases learning time on a par with other countries.

We’re still waiting and we cannot wait any longer.

Despite some measurable progress in narrowing achievement gaps, boosting college enrollment and developing innovative learning models, we are still waiting for the day when we can take success to scale in poor as well as wealthy communities—in rural, urban and suburban communities.

For too many of our children—the promise of an excellent education has never materialized. We remain complacent about education reform—distracted by tired arguments and divided by the politics of the moment.

We can’t let that happen. In this new century and in this global economy, it is not only unacceptable to delay and defer needed reforms—it’s self-destructive. We can’t allow so much as one more day to go by without advancing our education agenda.

Our shared goals are clear: higher quality schools; improved student achievement; more students going to college; closing the achievement gap; and more opportunities for children to learn and succeed.

We need to bring a greater sense of urgency to this task—built around our collective understanding that there is no more important work in society than educating children and nothing should stand in our way—not adult dysfunction, not politics, and not fear of change. We must have the courage to do the right thing.

And to those who say that we can’t do this right now—we need more time to prepare and study the problem—or the timing and the politics isn’t right—I say that our kids can’t wait and our future won’t wait.

When the ministers in Birmingham told King his protests were untimely King responded: “I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well-timed.'”

This is our responsibility and our opportunity and we can’t let it slip away. We have to get this done and we have to get it right.

The President has talked a lot about responsibility. He’s challenged parents and students to step up and do more. He’s challenged teachers and principals to step up and do more.

He’s called on business and community leaders and elected officials at every level of government to step up and do more.

Education is everyone’s responsibility—and you who represent millions of people across this country with a direct stake in the outcome of reauthorization—have a responsibility as well—to step up and do more.

It’s not enough to define the problem. We’ve had that for 50 years. We need to find solutions—based on the very best evidence and the very best ideas.

So today I am calling on all of you to join with us to build a transformative education law that offers every child the education they want and need—a law that recognizes and reinforces the proper role of the federal government to support and drive reform at the state and local level.

Let’s build a law that respects the honored, noble status of educators—who should be valued as skilled professionals rather than mere practitioners and compensated accordingly.

Let us end the culture of blame, self-interest and disrespect that has demeaned the field of education. Instead, let’s encourage, recognize, and reward excellence in teaching and be honest with each other when it is absent.

Let us build a law that demands real accountability tied to growth and gain both in the individual classroom and in the entire school—rather than utopian goals—a law that encourages educators to work with children at every level, the gifted and the struggling—and not just the tiny percent near the middle who can be lifted over mediocre bar of proficiency with minimal effort. That’s not education. That’s game-playing tied to bad tests with the wrong goals.

Let us build a law that discourages a narrowing of curriculum and promotes a well-rounded education that draws children into sciences and history, languages and the arts in order to build a society distinguished by both intellectual and economic prowess. Our children must be allowed to develop their unique skills, interests, and talents. Let’s give them that opportunity.

Let us build a law that brings equity and opportunity to those who are economically disadvantaged, or challenged by disabilities or background—a law that finally responds to King’s inspiring call for equality and justice from the Birmingham jail and the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Let us build an education law that is worthy of a great nation—a law that our children and their children will point to as a decisive moment in America’s history—a law that inspires a new generation of young people to go into teaching—and inspires all America to shoulder responsibility for building a new foundation of growth and possibility.

I ask all of us here today—and in school buildings and communities across America—to roll up our sleeves and work together and get beyond differences of party, politics and philosophy.

Let us finally and fully devote ourselves to meeting the promises embedded in our founding documents—of equality, opportunity, liberty—and above all—the pursuit of happiness.

More than any other issue, education is the civil rights issue of our generation and it can’t wait—because tomorrow won’t wait—the world won’t wait—and our children won’t wait.

Thank you.”