Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), kicked off the recent, annual AASA National Conference on Education (NCE) with a call for educators to become more active in communicating the strengths of our public education system. One needn’t look far in the popular media to find extensive criticism of America’s public schools. Many educational leaders are so focused on running effective school systems that they don’t devote a lot of time to addressing those critics. In addition to Dr. Domenech, several NCE speakers picked up on that theme of active engagement in this arena.
Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, emphasized the need for unity around that goal among “the family of believers in public education.” She called on all educators to work together to become an army of advocates for public education to change the national conversation from pro-privatization and anti-public education to one of investing in strong neighborhood public schools.
National School Boards Association (NSBA) President David Pickler offered similar comments urging conference attendees to stand up to the well-funded and well-organized critics who seek to undermine public education. Pickler announced an NSBA campaign called Stand Up 4 Public Education (standup4publicschools.org), which is designed to provide that kind of positive voice on a national level. Through this initiative, the NSBA plans to launch a high-visibility campaign across the country. As part of that effort, Sal Kahn, founder of Khan Academy, states “Who I am today began with public education.”
In Washington State, WASA has partnered with the Learning First Alliance in launching the Our Kids Our Future website (http://www.ourkidswa.com), which is hosted by the Washington State School Directors’ Association. This website is designed to bring forward positive information about our public schools. It is already populated with many videos, data sources, and links to stories, but it will hopefully grow over time as school districts share the good work they are doing to help all students succeed.
These initiatives represent a good start toward reversing the negative image frequently promoted about public education. That effort won’t be successful, though, unless public school leaders become “an army of advocates,” sharing the good news about what is right with our public schools.