As I enter my 34th year in education, I hope 2014 will bring significant changes for public education in our country. Behind the five items on my “wish list” is a single fervent hope: that we come together as a community and as a country to make sure every student has the opportunity to become a productive citizen.
1. Leaders at the national, state, and local levels will stop making education a partisan issue. They will work together to transform, not just reform public education in our country, and will begin to think about how to meaningfully redesign our education systems both structurally and in in terms of how we teach in the classroom. Accountability through standardized testing has helped, but we need to make substantive changes that go beyond accountability measures and will make a greater difference for students.
2. Leaders and citizens will see that investing in education is critical for our economic future and for our nation’s security, prosperity and success. We will begin to spend more on educating our children than on incarcerating our young adults.
3. Our culture will honor and value teachers in such a way that we purposefully recruit our top students to enter the field and pay them accordingly. We will celebrate our young adults who become teachers as much as we celebrate those who become doctors or professional athletes.
4. Eliminating poverty will become a national priority and a truly collaborative effort. Schools will play a critical role in ending the cycle of poverty for families in need, but all public and private institutions will share in the work.
5. Parents and local community members will engage with local school systems to support education efforts. Strong communities will build and maintain strong schools.
If they came true, these five wishes for the New Year would dramatically change public education for the better. It can’t be a race, but a journey. Let’s begin to take the first small steps together! Join me in advocating to protect the promise of public education.
Theresa R. Alban
is superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools