In order to change the direction of our public schools, I believe we need to do three things. First, get our numbers right. Second, admit that the problems identified 25 years ago in A Nation at Risk are not getting any better. And third, realize that schools cannot fix the problems by themselves. The New York Times opinion piece written yesterday gets at some of this referencing Margaret Spellings announcement of standardized definitions and reporting for dropouts. I won't belabor the first two points because you have heard my thoughts on those before. The Times article reinforced those. It is the third point--broad involvement in school success--where I want to focus today.
There are two culprits here: the public, who for whatever reason, thinks that the success of the public schools does not affect them (what planet are these folks from?) and the school systems themselves who want to be Lone Rangers and Super Heroes at the same time. Too many superintendents and school boards want to "save the day" for the schools which is an impossible task given the challenges. The reason I am so sure: the problems in the schools are not just better teachers, more security, and more parental involvement. They far exceed these kinds of things. They are about under-preparation from day one, ids coming into kindergarten far behind their peers; it is about the poverty and educational level of the family; and it is about disproportionate funding among districts. Those are "public" issues and the public must be front and center in the solution. The smartest superintendents and school boards know this. How is your school leadership reaching out? It is a question worth answering i assure you.