Everyone Deserves Great Schools
I have taught at schools across the country, and what I have learned is that there isn’t only one type of great school, but there is one commonality among them: well-trained teachers with the chance to lead. -Chris Chiang
“A school is its teachers.”
The two most commonly demanded reforms, more funding on one side and firing ineffective teachers on the other, are both wrong. Neither by themselves improve schools. More funding can simply mean more of the same ineffective practices and firing ineffective teachers in no way ensures that the replacement teachers are any better. Nor do those reforms reflect reality:
1. California does not have more money. The smarter goal for education funding is long term stable and reliable funding that is locally controlled.
2. We cannot achieve reform by attacking the teachers union. We simply can’t fix schools without the support of teachers, and the union represents teachers.
The most important reform is both cost effective and supported by all sides of education reform. The way to a world class education system is through training and empowering principals and teachers to build great schools. It hasn’t happened yet because education reform in Sacramento has been completely consumed by the earlier two reforms, despite the fact that the strongest research points to teacher and principal training as the essential first step.
Where does this work?
There are schools here and abroad showing us what does work. In Finland, students go to less school, have less homework, and still come out on top in international measures (PISA). How? Their teachers are trained to use in-class time more effectively.
Singapore shares the top PISA spot, and their schools are polar opposites to Finland, except that both systems make new teacher recruitment and training their number one priority.
High Tech High in San Diego and Yes Prep in Texas offer very different curriculum, but they both send nearly all their low-income students to college. Their commonality: they’ve both developed powerful school-site teacher training. All four examples operate under less bureaucratic regulations and have more empowered teachers than typical Bay Area schools.
We can turn around our entire state’s school system. Chris Chiang proposes the following three reforms that will put us on a path towards great schools for all students. All three can only be enacted by our state legislature. Your vote for state senator will determine the fate of education reform.
Three Reforms to Turn California into a World Class School System
1) Focus on how we prepare teachers and principals
2) Replace shallow, narrow state tests with random sampling in all subjects using tests that require real application
3) Restore school autonomy
1. Priority number one for California’s state education system must be ensuring that effective teacher and principal training is part of the state credentialing process. The state must then identify and recruit the very best in the nation to become our teachers, and then actively select among our teaching force the most talented to become our principals. This will require the state to build a robust teacher and principal database. Every great education system uses its best teachers to train teachers and lead schools. Learn More
2. Randomly sample students annually in each school, coupled with end of school exams for every individual 5th, 8th, and 11th grader. We will be able to have a more accurate picture of what schools achieve and still have individual student data at key junctures. The current state system of measuring rote memorization of unapplied facts is silently undermining public education. We need our children to be analytical, creative, and ethical. We must start measuring for these qualities. Learn More
3. Send more education funding directly into the classroom by allowing school districts to apply for the same education code mega waivers that 912 charter schools already enjoy, thereby giving schools the freedom they had in the 1960s. Excessive regulations from Sacramento have taken away the entrepreneurial drive of our schools. Learn More