Education Week - October 23, 2013 - (Page 19)
City. Instead of high-stakes tests, students in these public high
schools are judged by another challenging, state-approved system.
To graduate, students must produce in-depth papers in each of
their core subjects and defend that work publicly before panels
of teachers and citizen evaluators. These evaluators are professionals
who are not school parents, who work outside the school,
and who, through this process, contribute their expertise to their
city's educational enterprise. As a principal at one of these schools,
I often heard evaluators say that the process reminded them of a
thesis defense. This is a rigorous accountability system that holds
students to a high standard, brings student and teacher work into
a public forum, and allows tax-paying citizens to help assess the
work their schools produce.
* Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vt. Since joining
this school community three years ago, I've been impressed by the
town's support for public education. "Senior project"-the school's
capstone graduation expectation-is one of the reasons why. Every
year, students must each design an original project that pursues
new learning in collaboration with a mentor in the community.
Additional citizen experts sit on panels that evaluate whether the
projects meet the district's standards. If students don't pass, they
don't graduate. The stakes are high, and the rewards are many
for the students and the community. In a graduating class of 70
students, there are 70 different collaborations every year, with new
citizen engagement and new projects connecting school to community
In short, closing the ownership gap is about building meaning-
ful partnerships in core subject areas with individuals from many
walks of life, particularly those who don't have kids in our classrooms.
Teachers and administrators may worry that this kind of learning
shifts our focus away from test-based accountability measures.
But look, the best protection from a capricious and flawed highstakes
accountability system is to do really good work, make the
work visible, and ensure that it involves many collaborators, including
voters, taxpayers, and citizens outside the school walls.
Teachers often say that they want kids to "feel ownership," to feel
the relevance of what's being learned. Well, if we are to ensure the
future vitality of our public schools, every American must feel this
relevance. Citizens from all walks of life need to be connected to
our schools and finding meaning there, not just footing the bill.n
T. ELIJAH HAWKES is co-principal at Randolph Union Middle/High
School, in Randolph, Vt. He was the founding principal of the James
Baldwin School in New York City.
Famous Public School Alumni
Clockwise from top left: Carlos Santana, Mustafa Quraishi/AP; Annie Leibovitz, Charles Dharapak/AP; Alvin Roth, Darryl Bush/AP;
Alvin Ailey, Paul Burnett/AP; Stephen Spielberg, Francois Mori/AP; Ronald Reagan, Dennis Cook/AP; David J. Wineland, Ed Andrieski/AP;
Jimmy Carter, Paul Sancya/AP; Maya Angelou, Gerald Herbert/AP.
Changing the World, One Student at a Time
By Brian Cleary
dom, intelligence, freedom of thought, creative expression, and
the imagination needed for students to propel our nation to the
center of the world stage.
America's teachers inspired generations of students to become
scientists, engineers, architects, doctors, entrepreneurs,
inventors, artists, poets, and presidents. The guiding hands of
a teacher once helped a young child tie a shoelace and later
that same child set foot on the moon. And yet no monument exists
to thank this teacher or the countless others who held the
hands of children and led them to successful and productive
lives. Our nation's teachers have been responsible for espousing
the belief that education is the foundation of a free people.
The time is long overdue for influential people and powerful
organizations such as the National Education Association,
the American Federation of Teachers, and the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation to use their political clout and philanthropy
to thank America's teachers by creating a National Teacher
Monument in Washington.
I imagine a Norman Rockwell-like image of a teacher hold-
ing a child's hand. The child is holding a stack of books and
looking at the teacher. With his or her free hand, the teacher is
pointing ahead to the future. But perhaps the details are best
left to the imagination of an artist-a person once taught by
Let the voices of America's teachers be heard loud and clear:
A National Teacher Monument would make Washington complete.
Such a monument would tell a story, too-the story of
our nation-and every good teacher would represent a chapter
in this most remarkable story we call America.n
ANTHONY J. MULLEN is a special education teacher at the ARCH
School in Greenwich, Conn. He was the 2009 National Teacher of the
Year, the 2009 Connecticut State Teacher of the Year, and the 2008
Greenwich School District Distinguished Teacher of the Year. He has
blogged for Education Week Teacher and written numerous articles about
education for books and magazines. He is also a special consultant to the
dean of Mercy College, in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
hen I hear someone
the public school
system, I feel like a
parent listening to a
rant by a 15-yearold.
They tell me
that I am terrible at
my job and that I don't listen. In angry frustration,
they tell me that I don't understand the problems,
and that I care about the wrong things and should
be doing more.
As a parent and as a teacher, I sit and listen,
trying not to provoke. These rebukes are not
news, and they are not right, but they do offend.
I don't really understand the psychology that
makes teachers and parents the scapegoats for
so many problems, but in both cases I know the
truth: We stand and face the challenges daily.
We have become the faces associated with the
I am not a perfect parent; far from it. But my
kids are happy and successful. I see evidence of
their growth constantly, even when they are blind
The public education system is also far from
perfect. But our kids are doing better every year.
I see evidence of that too, even when those complaining
* About 90 percent of the kids in the United
States go through the public school system.
* The dropout rate has fallen consistently over
the past 40 years.
* The literacy rate in the United States is 99
percent for those age 15 and older.
* Most of our recent presidents-from both parties-were
largely products of public education,
including Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy
Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon.
* Four of the five Americans who won a Nobel
Prize last year attended public schools. Those winners
are David J. Wineland (physics), Robert K.
Lefkowitz (chemistry), Brian Kobilka (chemistry),
and Alvin Roth (economics). Roth attended a New
York City high school, but went to college without
graduating from high school.
* Musicians Wynton Marsalis and Carlos Santana,
writer Maya Angelou, artist Andy Warhol,
director Steven Spielberg, dancer and choreographer
Alvin Ailey, and photographer Annie Liebovitz
all graduated from public schools.
The public school system is not broken. Just
like the parents of most 15-year-olds, it is overwhelmed
and overworked. It is also underrated
and underfunded. But still our school system is
pushing the world forward. We are as responsible
for our successes as for our failures.
So when I read that we are not competitive, or
when they tell us that our students will not be
prepared to lead us into the future, I choose to
ignore the insults. The same holds true when I
hear that our students have no critical-thinking
skills, and that they are weak in science and are
I respond the same way I would to my 15-year-
old. After the rant has ended, I respond that I
care, and that I will continue to work every day to
create the best possible outcome.
Some of that work will mean fixing the problems
I helped create. More of that work will require
taking the situation that has been handed to
us and making it work. Either way, I will continue
to be the very best teacher I can possibly be.
I am not trying to keep up with the pace of
change in the world.
I am trying to prepare students for a world of
I will continue to change the world one student
at a time.n
BRIAN CLEARY is an instructional coach at Hearthwood
Elementary School in Vancouver, Wash.
EDUCATION WEEK | October 23, 2013 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary | 19
I don't really
for so many
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 23, 2013
Education Week - October 23, 2013
Colorado Tax Boosting K-12 Up to Voters
Paddling Persists in U.S. Schools
Health-Care Law Raises Questions For Districts
K12 Inc. Learning Difficult Lessons This School Year
News in Brief
New Student Majority in South and West: Poor Children
School Poverty Said to Hurt College Access
Media Group Calls on Companies To Protect Students’ Personal Data
D.C. Teachers Improved After Overhaul Of Evaluations, Pay
Blogs of the Week
K-12 Advocates Remain Braced For Fiscal Fight
Illinois Among Outliers With No NCLB Waiver
Appeal Argued on Affirmative-Action Ban
The Public School Ownership Gap
We Need a National Monument to Teachers
Changing the World, One Student at a Time
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Common Core’s Power for Disadvantaged Students
Education Week - October 23, 2013