The most important thing to ensure the success of every student in our county is to have the best teacher possible with every student every minute they are in school. This should be the No. 1 job for everyone who works in schools.
Having said this, there are two opportunities this year that give an unusual boost to help us do our No. 1 job. The nationwide implementation of world-class standards for all students and a significantly improved state funding method make this a school year of great possibilities.
World-class standards for the future
Our schools have a clear obligation to prepare all students with the skills and knowledge to enable them to be successful in the future. And as Yogi Berra said: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Our students will need to know and be able to demonstrate higher-order thinking skills, a clarity of thinking and purpose that strong literacy and writing can provide, a deep understanding of how math and science work and can be applied to problems, how to collaborate and work with others, and an expanded global awareness, just for starters.
A first step in preparing our students is to have high academic standards that are relevant and reflect what is needed for success in college and careers. These standards give our teachers and students clear targets to aim for, and the measurements needed to know how we are doing.
California took a big first step on this path in 1997 with the statewide adoption of academic standards in English-language arts and math. Standards for other subjects have followed.
Now, our state has joined 44 other states in voluntarily adopting revised and more relevant standards on a national basis. This means that virtually all of our nation’s students now have the same academic targets recognizing that high-quality education is a national interest. This adoption is another step in preparing all students, no matter where they live, to be competitive locally and internationally. Our local districts are in the process of implementing these standards in all grades, with full implementation and student assessments scheduled for 2014-15.
An Aug. 21 Tribune report outlines the work we have in front of us to prepare students for college and the workplace. I believe our state’s participation in this national effort is a good start. We know that the skills and knowledge that will be required by our students to be successful in the global society of the future cannot be left to chance, but must be intentionally designed and taught.
Improved funding for schools
Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s leadership, California has significantly improved how we fund our schools this year. This change will also help us in our No. 1 job because it gives local school districts more money and more flexibility in how to spend it.
We know that providing quality professional development for teachers, intervention with struggling students and supportive learning environments contribute to effective teaching. Now, our local governing boards can begin to allocate money to these areas that have been neglected.
The new funding correctly recognizes that certain groups of students require more resources to close the achievement gap that exists between them and their peers. There is additional money for students living in poverty, students who are English learners and students who are in foster care. The relaxed restrictions on this funding will now allow local decisions to be made for how to use this money. This is a good thing.
As another school year begins, we have some exciting opportunities to do our job of providing quality teachers for all students. We have improved academic standards that teachers know will be needed for the future success of students and a brighter financial future to deliver on these standards.