Beginning tomorrow, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will participate in another round of debates - right here in Detroit, Michigan. As K-12 education stakeholders, we know the importance of having elected leaders who understand our daily issues, and who passionately pursue solutions that meet the needs of students, educators and families.
In MI, the stakes are extra high; our data, across the board, demonstrates that we're lagging behind, and that students of color, those with special learning needs, those who live in poverty and those in urban districts are at significantly higher risk of failure. Here's the tea: many of our MI charter school students fit at least one of those categories, if not several. We as a charter movement are more at risk, so we need a national leader who is ready to talk meaningful solutions - right now.
Our shared K-12 education challenges are rooted in historic, systematic inequality, and the blame is multifaceted and complex. But today, our biggest challenge is not holding those parties responsible. It is making sure our students get to class in the morning; finding ways to engage parents and families who know little to no English; creating social/emotional supports inside schools for kids in trauma - the list goes on. That's the conversation we're desperate for.
We know it's a big one - so here are some priorities.
FUNDING FOR STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
True student achievement doesn't have one solution - we know that different learners have different needs. Right now, we aren't equitably supporting different learning styles and models - and we're limiting the growth of innovative new ideas.
Q: How will you create more avenues for passionate people to bring exciting academic ideas to life in the classroom?
PROFESSIONALISM FOR EDUCATORS
Our educators are on the front lines every day, but we don't have nearly enough of them. Many schools are experiencing a teacher crisis, where long-term substitutes are the only option for staffing classrooms - and we know that relationship-building between teachers and students is critical for true success.
Q: How will you shape incentives and professional growth opportunities for K-12 education educators, especially in communities with the greatest need?
ACCESS FOR EVERY COMMUNITY
We know that students of color, those in poverty, and those with special needs are at greatest risk in our K-12 education system. Our educators find that the path to success in these communities begins by creating stronger communication and support channels to not just students, but their entire families.
Q: What strategies would you implement in order to increase engagement between educators and the families of students in these communities?
EDUCATION THAT INNOVATES
The modern challenges of today demand critical thinkers, team players and innovators. If our students are going to be ready for the world, they need K-12 education that excites - but right now, true flexibility to innovate is only encouraged for specialized programs.
Q: How will you cultivate innovation and progress in every classroom - and what do you believe innovative education looks like day-to-day?
To get to the finish line, we have to understand where we're at. Here in MI, we've struggled with consistent accountability metrics - making it very difficult for educators to know what changes really work.
Q: What is your vision for consistent accountability in our country? How do you think those metrics will help us move forward meaningfully?
We're hopeful that these are things we'll hear lots about during the debates, which begin tomorrow, but we'll see.