What is your vision for great public education? If you could wave your magic wand today and create the perfect public school in your neighborhood, what would it look like? At the Rally for Public Education last month, over 320 people from our grassroots movement thought about just this as they filled out postcards addressed to Governor Corbett, answering the questions, “I came to the rally today because …” and “If our priorities were in the right place, and everyone paid their fair share, our public schools could/would …”
From those postcards, messages on Facebook, the blog, Twitter, and in conversations with others in our movement, a common vision for public education has begun to emerge. We shared some of our insights with the coalition that produced the Vision Statement for Pittsburgh schools, distributed Monday evening at the PIIN town hall meeting. Today, A+Schools released its own Vision Statement focused on the city school board races. The grassroots vision is broader than these two, more detailed, and includes elements relevant to schools both in and outside the city of Pittsburgh.
Having a vision statement is useful as a framework for guiding our work. It identifies our shared priorities and reminds us of what we are working towards. Here is what our movement’s shared vision for great public schools is starting to look like. What would you add?
A Vision for Great Public Schools
Every child has the right to a great public education. As parents, students, teachers, and community members we are committed to great schools for all children. That means we are focused on equity, on the experience of the whole child, and on the larger role schools serve in our neighborhoods. We seek adequate, equitable, and sustainable public funding as well as public policies that support our public schools. We believe public education is a public good.
Our shared vision for our public schools:
- A rich, engaging, and culturally relevant curriculum for every student with full art, music, library, science, history, and world language programs in addition to reading and math.
- Safe, orderly, respectful and nurturing learning environments.
- Appropriate facilities and adequate books and materials in every school.
- Smaller class sizes (research shows any reduction in class size produces positive learning results and there is no magic threshold that must be reached before students benefit: our goal should be class size reduction, not expansion, as it currently is).
- Meeting the needs of every child with a qualified and high-quality teacher in every classroom, using truly differentiated instruction.
- Restoration of tutoring programs.
- Early childhood learning opportunities and full day Kindergarten so every child has a solid foundation.
- A full-time librarian in every school so that students can use their libraries, learn critical information searching skills, and find support for their classroom learning (new research unequivocally demonstrates the learning benefits for students with a full time librarian).
- The return of rest time and playtime for Kindergartners.
- The return of adequate, daily recess for all students.
- A full and varied athletic program.
- Restoration of student transportation.
- Reducing the focus on and time spent on test prep and high-stakes-testing; changing the culture from “achievement” to “learning.”
- Serving the special education needs of all our children.
- Mental health, community based programs, and wrap around services for children and families.
- Nurses and social workers in our schools every day of the week.
- Bully prevention programs in every school.
- Disciplinary policies applied equitably to all students; the use of alternative / in-school suspensions and positive behavior programs.
- Attracting and retaining excellent teachers by supporting their work with enhanced professional development and paraprofessional staff who help create the best learning environment.
- Support struggling schools most in need without threatening to close them down.
- Recognition and accommodation of school-specific needs (for instance, a parent engagement specialist at one school, a tutor at another).
- Making local schools hubs of community life, in which parents and community members can engage in meaningful dialogue with educators and collaborate to help our children learn and grow. This means an emphasis on preserving neighborhood schools and recognizing that school closures rip the fabric of communities.
- Ensuring all schools have an open-door, welcoming policy that encourages family engagement in student learning.