This is the week we celebrate American Education Week. I can’t help but notice the irony in writing about our nation celebrating education. We live in a society that loves to sensationalize the not so positive – a world where car crashes, traffic jams, homicides, and all sorts of ugliness always seem to lead the evening news. Lately there has been much in the news about what is wrong with America’s public education. Yet those of us who are in the work every day have a much different view of the state of education. There is so much that is right with the education we are providing our children. Yes, every day we are striving to improve; we are on a journey, and we have not yet arrived. Yet every day, I see staff who are willing to accept nothing less than the very best, from themselves and from their students.
I wish you could be with me to experience the work happening in our classrooms. If you were, you would see classrooms that are highly focused on teaching for learning. In class after class, students are talking about what they are learning, solving problems, working in teams, creating solutions, and producing work that demonstrates a depth of understanding of the content.
Teachers are working incredibly hard, spending hours discussing what students need to know, developing classroom assessments, and planning the work. Every four weeks, the District is giving formative assessments we call “Checkpoints” to affirm what our students are learning, and to allow us to adjust our instruction by revisiting, revising, and re-teaching. The commitment of our teachers and staff is clear. Our work is to ensure every student is learning, moving those forward who are ready, and providing additional support to those who need it.
Last week I was in an elementary building that had visitors from the business community. The principal shared with me the visitors’ comments of surprise that our classrooms were so engaging and that our students were learning the same things their children were learning in schools located outside of the urban area. Hmm, I wonder why this was a surprise?
I encourage each of us to take time this week, American Education Week, to determine for ourselves what is happening in our public schools. I know there are classrooms, and likely even entire schools, who are failing to meet the needs of our children. I am so grateful that here in Kansas City, Kansas there is hope for our future. I am so grateful for the grownups who are committed to the pursuit of excellence. I want to echo the words of Shirley Garcia and David Cottrell, who said “Listen Up Teacher! You are making a difference!” Thank you teachers, principals and staff of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools for realizing that “it’s up to us” to make a real difference, and who go to work every day to do just that.