Folks, I’m no policy expert or “super teacher”, but I was raised by teachers, I’m a public school teacher myself at a priority school in Kentucky, and I’ve been thinking a long time about the problems in American public education. And as much as we need to vigilantly defend the public systems we already have from political threats, we’ve also got a lot of work to do to make them better.
Today, my school district — Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), the 30th largest school district in the nation — had to cancel school for the fifth time in the last two weeks due to a teacher “sick out” primarily organized through activist teacher groups on social media. Teachers in Kentucky are rightfully frustrated about a number of public education-damaging bills currently being considered by Kentucky state legislators, as well as a general culture of distrust and contempt that has developed between teachers and lawmakers under the current governor, Republican Matt Bevin.
While my fellow teachers were in the state capitol again today fighting the good fight, I decided to stay home and come up with a list of policy changes that I think can help “fix” public education. It’s a lot, but we’ve got a lot to fix!
Before I get to the list I do just want to say: our systems as they currently stands are certainly not completely “broken”. Teachers and other public school staff already do enormous good despite enormous barriers. In fact, the greatest changes needed in the U.S. surrounding public education are cultural ones rather than policy ones. As a whole, Americans simply don’t sufficiently value the public education systems they have, and that, first and foremost, is the greatest barrier to improving them.
With that background in mind, here’s my personal list of policy and program solutions for what is ailing American public education:
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