What Role Will You Play?
This was the crucial question at last weekend’s Teach For America’s 20th Anniversary Summit. 11,000 people with the same agenda in one room—past, current, and future leaders in urban and rural classrooms now in advocacy roles infiltrating the leadership and ideology of every possible profession from teaching to leading the IRS!
The panels were electrifying with discussions on poverty, change as revolution, movements, turnarounds, and, most importantly, how to move forward given what has been learned in the past 20 years about changing the life trajectories of children born into the “wrong” zip code. This fight to change lives through equal opportunity in education is a war that will not be won in a few years. Whitney Tilson, urgent school reform advocate, said this is a “Journey of a 1000 miles and we are only a short way into it.”
Joel Klein, former chancellor of NYC Schools, said that he guarantees that if he told any parent their only choice was to attend the public school in their district they’d become a revolutionary. Why advocate? Why tell stories of students’ lives, why spread the statistics of failure? Because it is the right thing to do. Right here in Delaware, only 1/3 of our public school students meet national standards as proficient in 4th and 8th grade reading and math.
What educator, parent, teacher, union leader, republican, democrat, etc., could argue that this is just fine? It is not. There is too much evidence now to allow ignorance, too much urgency to allow apathy.
Delaware has a unique shot at being the nation’s example of what an effective school system looks like. We are a state of strong leaders and visible networks of unusually accessible people. We need to create our own groundswell of advocates—parents who want more for their children, children who want more from their schools.
I went to the summit as full-time believer, part-time advocate for education reform. I left with the conviction that I will commit a career to advancing this fundamental right.
Laurisa Schutt is a member of the Rodel Advisory Council.