Education is the pathway to opportunity, if not the key linchpin of a country that works for everyone. It is through these institutions that we as parents and as a country prepare our younger generations to build their futures and to take on the responsibility of steering America toward its full potential. Here in our District and across our country, our elementary and secondary schools are failing on multiple fronts in fulfilling this mission.
Our schools are overcrowded; curriculums and teaching practices vary not only between school districts but even between schools in the same District; our teachers lack the support they need to fully develop the potential of each and every student, and they are grossly underpaid for what they do. Our children and their teachers are overburdened with standardized tests that distract from learning.
We need to provide the support network all students need to focus on learning and to grow, but that some students lack. That means providing social services either at the school or in poorly performing communities as well as taking extra steps to ensure students are safe at school, in their neighborhoods and at home.
Money alone will not generate the outcomes we want for our children. Though our schools may come equipped with the latest technology and our teachers are trying out the latest techniques, the fundamental model of teaching – children all in one building, divided up into different classrooms where they sit in their chairs listening to teachers lecture – has not changed since the 19th century.
We need to re-consider the model we are using. With what we know about how children learn, about how their brains work, and the new technology that is available to us I am sure there is a model out there that is more likely to deliver what we want for our children.
The focus of the educational system should not be on preparing our children for existing jobs. By the time our children graduate from the system, 65% of the jobs available to them will not have existed when they entered the educational system. We want our children to control their futures, to be able to prosper regardless of how the economy as whole performs or which industries come and go. We want them to be confident, skilled, reasoned and savvy enough to chart their own course regardless of whether as an employee or entrepreneur or in the private, public or non-profit sector.
To build an elementary and secondary school system that acts effectively as a springboard to opportunity and prosperity for every student I am fully committed to the following measures:
- Professionalize teaching corps:
- Competitive base salary
- Non-discretionary performance bonuses
- Pre-defined supplementary pay for additional services such as teaching the teachers, mentoring other teachers, teaching reluctant or problem students, teaching slower learners and designing curriculum.
- Paid training or relevant coursework during summer
- Well defined administrative, teaching and support staff career paths
- Mental health counseling and mentoring for teachers available on site
- National curriculum guidelines:
- Core knowledge base
- Practical training in workplace and other “real world” skills: personal finance, writing a business plan, designing a prototype and getting it built, how to behave in the workplace, career planning, etc.
- Partnerships and collaborative projects with commercial enterprises, research institutes and social services to familiarize students with current problems on which people are working, cutting edge technology, problem-solving techniques and pride access o equipment.
- Tracks for both vocational-training and college-bound students
- Project-based learning
- Federal funding for social services – physical care, mental health services, family counseling, parent and student mentoring, tutoring services – either on school site or in low-performing neighborhoods
- Safe spaces in schools for after school:
- Federal funding to ensure minimum necessary endowment of instructional supplies and equipment for all public schools
- Federal funding to research and develop new models of teaching that fit better with the exigencies of modern living, perennial budget constraints, improving learning outcomes, and diverse student populations.