While the Public Education Debate Goes on…Learning is in Progress

Every day a teacher makes a connection that works.

Remember that when you read recent comments like, “Public education is failing.” Or, “Common Core State Standards are destroying our country.” Or, “Teachers are lazy.”

By the way, these are real comments. I don’t need to make this stuff up.

While the polarized voices attempt to elbow each other out of the spotlight, teachers and principals are managing small communities that are more highly functioning than the political arena in which they exist.

I have attended a number of events recently where the skill of educators was on display. We hear amazing stories of hard work to find just the right way to reach one child who is not quite getting it:  of principals dealing with severe behavior issues that threaten to put children on the wrong path; of teachers collaborating overtime around how to make that one difficult math concept resonate within students’ ever shorter attention spans.

These small successes are really the big ones. Without these, the significant stories of progress you read about would not be happening.

All this is occurring at the same time educators are being called on to administer more tests than ever to show you that they are being successful.

The downside to all that testing and transparency is that it can take too much energy from that all-important, everyday work of the education of children.

Of course, the upside of assessments is that can grow what’s working, and we can focus strategies on problem areas, as well.

One strategy JCPS has been showcasing is “professional learning communities” – PLCs. These are simply groups of teachers who meet regularly outside the classroom to go over progress of individual students and zero in on ways to help them do better.  Community members visited a PLC meeting at Kammerer Middle last month, and came away impressed with the way the teachers analyzed how to address concepts that students weren’t getting.

Our public school system is full of such excellence. Hite Elementary hosted a group of national math experts this month that viewed a math PLC and observed classroom instruction. Again, the teachers analyzed their students’ performance, and agreed on specific tactics to address concerns.

They are making connections between strategies and results, and at the center of all of this is the student.  And, these educators are the reason for the smooth roll out of the Common Core State Standards.

Watching and listening to educators has been so important to me in understanding how to support schools.  Any person who visits a public school comes away with a positive perspective of the work that is occurring.

In my view, the way to increase progress is to showcase the successes we see.

Educators know this, that’s why they are encouragers. Students respond when their success is acknowledged.

Their communities – and our communities – become dysfunctional when a negative climate takes over.

So, when you hear a negative diatribe about public education, remember that overall, it is working.

Learning is in progress. Resilient teachers and administrators walk into school doors every day with a steady focus on the day’s work, no matter whose hair is on fire in the media or who is promoting a new anti-public education agenda.

Thank goodness they keep it up.  Their work is the work that really matters.

Thank you, Dunn Elementary, for the beautiful bulletin board that provides a perfect blog banner, and for the encouraging message for students, “Spotlight on Success.”

About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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