So, how do we fight for education reform?
If you have concluded that our public schools are in trouble, you may be asking yourself, “So, what am I supposed to do about it?”
We must work together to bring change to our nation’s education system through education reform.
So, how do we do this?
After much thought, I believe the proper path forward is to replicate the State of Maryland’s just completed school reform master plan. They commissioned a team to take a comprehensive look at their entire public school system. The Maryland legislature established the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education in 2016. The Commission is comprised of 25 individuals appointed by various policymakers and education organizations.
Why this path?
Our public school systems are huge and very complex. One of the advantages of the study team approach is that it educates itself as it performs its duties. It gradually learns about the real performance of schools and how they need to be changed to solve many of the problems. For example, Maryland discovered that only 40% of their high school graduates were college and career-ready (CCR). Given that they have always been one of the highly-rated state school systems, how can this number be so low? One of the important things about the study team approach is they get to define what CCR means. They can insist it is based on assessment test scores and has not been corrupted with attendance performance and any other metrics that are selected to make measurements look better. They set a goal of raising this number to 80% at some future point in time.
As a study team, they brought in experts in the field of education reform and gradually built up their expertise in what it takes to be internationally competitive. They commissioned a financial company out of Baltimore to conduct a return-on-investment analysis of the costs and rewards for their proposed reforms. The return to the state treasury was quite satisfactory.
How do we get leaders to take action?
First, DON’T write your congressman either state or national; they cannot deal with your request in a satisfactory way. Write to your local and state Chamber of Commerce. This is the organization that has a high vested interest in seeing education improve; after all the graduates of the state schools are a major source for their employees. Once they decide that educational reform is needed, they have plenty of influence on the legislature to set up a study commission.
Here is an example letter that may help guide your own:
I am writing to you as a concerned citizen who is perplexed by the never-ending stream of bad news about the performance of our public schools. Each year we see state test scores (Indiana) that are deplorable. On the US assessment tests, scores on the 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2019, found that barely 3 in 10 students are proficient in both math and reading. Our international rankings are unacceptable, and some are getting worse. We see no apparent action to correct the problems. Why do we tolerate such poor performance? As a nation we have always prided ourselves on the quality of our K-12 educational system. This is certainly not the case today.
We are entering a period of severe reductions in graduates of educational programs. The more recent forecasts predict a dramatic shortage of approximately 200,000 out of a need of 300,000. We must take actions that will redirect graduates into teaching; we are already too late but begin we must.
Why am I writing to you? The Chamber has a deep vested interest in the quality of the state’s K-12 education system. I am hoping I can motivate you to action. Basically, I am recommending that the state replicate the study team approach used by the state of Maryland. They commissioned a team to take a comprehensive look at their entire public school system. The Maryland legislature established the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education in 2016. The study team was comprised of 25 individuals appointed by various policymakers and education organizations. They were not pleased with their findings; their schools have many problems, for example only 40% of their high school graduates were college or career ready. This was a shock since they are in the top tier of states re school quality. This reform proposal was passed by the Maryland legislature in 2021 with a veto-proof majority. To learn more about what Maryland did, go to my website: elevateteachers.org and click on Lessons then click on Lesson 19.
By the way, a group of Massachusetts businessmen initiated a similar study in the 1990s and Mass. ended up as the number one state for K-12 public education.
An old high school teacher hammered this into all of us: education is the Bulwark of Democracy. Just as our education is slipping badly so is our democracy.