Create and adequately fund systems of quality schools requiring professional responsibility for results through providing equitable support for all students and teachers that provide quality choices for parents and their children.
We all know, and research confirms, that having an effective teacher in every classroom and a principal in every building who creates a safe, caring, inclusive, and equitable environment are essential elements to a student and any school’s success. However, these two factors are not sufficient. Their reliable existence depends upon rethinking how we align the funding, policy making, and governance of our public schools, especially in urban areas.
We need a new 21st Century Promise / Vision that will guide the making of educational policies, funding formulas, and public school models of governance that are truly congruent with this new mission/vision of public education for all students. This 21st Century Promise will outline the necessary community supports that will enable educators, families, and students to create sustainable, effective schools for all students that have as their primary focus Effective Teaching and Student Learning. The new 21st Century Promise will offer direction on the “what” and “how-tos” for the engagement of business, post-secondary, and community partners to:
Redesign the senior year to more congruently support college and career readiness, including trade and technical occupations.
All of the above must be supported by a funding system for public education that is adequate, equitable, accountable, efficient, and predictable.
Key components of the 21st Century Promise at the district, school, and classroom levels that are necessary to support the focus on Teacher Effectiveness and Student Learning will include innovative and doable designs in the areas of Organization, Environment, Leadership, and Teaching and Assessment.
The 21st Century Promise will require a rethinking of educational policy-making, funding, and governance that challenges adults more than our students. For example, a tip of a very deep education policy “iceberg” is the fact that, now, any student may graduate from most public high schools in the state with the grade of “D” in all courses. Is this policy serving anyone well?
However, moving to change this policy to a real “C” as passing at the high school level will not be sufficient if “success is the only option” for our youth who attend public schools. This type of policy change must also be accompanied by the planning and funding of equitable supports at the school, district, and community levels for students and their families to make “C” or better a high probability outcome for all students.
We need a new 21st Century Promise for public education and the political will to do so, just like we did in the last century that placed a human on the moon. Let’s get busy with the opportunities and challenges that face us in how we create consistent and congruent educational policies, funding formulas, and governance structures to accomplish this most important of all missions our society has for its youth and collective future.
The accompanying graphic representation was created by the author in 2012 as the 21st Century Promise was first shared with Beaver County Pennsylvania school districts when he was Superintendent of the Freedom Area School District. Currently, the author, as a member of the Commonwealth Education Blueprint Steering Committee hosted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, is infusing the 21st Century Promise into the development of a compelling and relevant vision of education in our state over the next 30 years.
H.E.L.P. Human Engagement for Learning & Productivity