For some reason, those who have concerns or disagree with something are painted as whiners and complainers by many people. There is no better example of this than the current debate about the A-F grading system scheduled to be implemented in 2017-2018. For some time now, many have been expressing concerns about the system and whether it serves the needs of a cross section of stakeholders. So it should not be surprising that school administrators, trustees and public education advocates across the state are now voicing their concerns about the "preliminary" grades released on January 6.
What is surprising is that those who support the system are quick to label districts as not being willing to take an objective look at their district's performance. Why is it that they feel qualified to speak for the districts? Perhaps because we have not been vocal enough about the successes and accomplishments of our schools and our students? Contrary to what some have said, my interactions with trustees across the state suggest that there is support for accountability. But what trustees and administrators choose not to do is to focus on the grades as much as they do on how grades will impact all stakeholders, including the students they serve. So why is it that a concern for students is viewed in a negative light?
I guess the most logical explanation is that opponents of the public education system are trying to change the discussion from a focus on students and accomplishments to focusing on the negatives relating to a small minority of campuses and districts. Their goal is to shift the debate about public education away from the students and their needs. It has evolved to a point where those who seek to undo the educational system in place for more than 200 years are now driven by a profit motive. And these individuals see an opportunity to use the campus and district grades as evidence that all is not right with our public education system.
What truly galls me is their failure to acknowledge evidence documenting the failures of privatization and non-public school choice in cities and states across the country; that just doesn’t seem to matter to proponents of privatization since it’s not in their best interests to do so. In fairness, advocates for public education could have probably done more to parry the threat of privatization before now. But that doesn’t mean all is lost. The increased attention and focus on public education may yet play to the benefit of our students. But we must act fast and with strong conviction in support of the needs of the more than 5.4 million public education students in Texas.
The commencement of the 85th legislative session on January 10 should serve as the impetus for all of us to engage our elected officials in a discussion about the needs and value of a quality public education system. We can no longer sit back and try to play defense. Defense may win Super Bowls but the reality is that a strong offense will go a long way toward ensuring that we make education a priority.