The State of the Union Address, 1 Principal’s Response
Each year, after the President of the United States meets his Constitutional requirement to inform the Congress on the state of the union, someone representing the opposition political party offers a response. In that spirit, tonight, I offer “One Principal’s Response” to what President Obama had to say about education. A summary of a point made by the President is in italics, my thoughts will be found below.
Teachers matter, a good teacher can increase lifetime income by $250,000, and each member gathered in the capitol this evening can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.
Mr. President, I could not agree more. I work with some of the most talented, dedicated, creative, intelligent professionals in our business. They are in early, they stay late, and they go above and beyond each day to engage, challenge or remediate the students that go to our school. While you words “teachers matter” are inspiring, it is time for action. Work with Congress to make teachers partners in developing education policy. Allow them to be the researchers, direct the Department of Education to make efforts to engage classroom educators when developing initiatives. When making investments, find ways to have some of our best teachers free up some time during their day to promote collaboration and professional learning.
We must make a law that students must graduate or remain in school until age 18.
Mr. President, your intention is good here. We need students to graduate. Dropouts are a huge drag on the economy, and the world we live in today needs an educated workforce more than any other time in human history. Having said that, forcing young people to do anything is not the answer. We must, as professionals, but schools that engage children. These environments will offer many options, from college prep to vocational education. From blended learning, to online classes, to flexible hours, to traditional learning, let’s engaging teachers in building policy and make our schools places that students want to graduate from.
Stop teaching to the test.
Mr. President, I agree. Let’s not teach to the test. Let’s have a flexible curriculum that allows professionals in classrooms to do their jobs. I’d ask you to direct Secretary Duncan to keep this in mind as the Common Core Standards are rolled out. We need a curriculum; however, that curriculum should not be so prescriptive that it removes creativity from our classrooms.
Higher education cannot be a luxury.
Mr. President, America is a country founded on the idea of hard work paying off. No one who is willing to put in the hours and earn a degree should leave school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. Pell grants and money to higher education is an investment. While some opine against “government spending” and point out some wasteful projects, it’s vital to distinguish between “spending” and “investing.” Our top universities should be the sites for teacher preparation programs that feed directly into our K-12 classrooms.
To conclude, Mr. President, I thank you for making education a priority. I thank you for the respect I think you have for teachers, and I appreciate you including this important work in a speech so vital. As you said “teachers matter,” they touch the future each and every day.