As we speed into 2021, we should not forget some lessons of the past year. 2020 allowed many of us to refocus, and in 2021, those areas we focused on remain. Please make no mistake about it: Improving education must be a top priority. We have no more time to waste. 2020 taught us how valuable time is. Here are the three areas I believe should be an education focus.
A Focus on People: Students, Staff, and Parents
In the next year, in particular, our students must be our priority. We have to look at how we are supporting students. 2020 showed us there are skills not necessarily tested on a state exam relevant to the development of our children. We must continue to ask the question, “How are the children?” We must also continue to search for an answer.
Our staff must be a focus. Many of us would not be where we are without a teacher. Teachers are essential to improvements in education. We have to focus on the universities and programs that train teachers to ensure they are ready for the classroom on day one. We need to work together to increase compensation. We must seek out the best research-based practices to ensure teachers can make the gains we all want, and our children deserve.
The staff in schools are the frontline workers, and they must be respected as such. Parents are the heartbeat. For far too long, they have been on the outside. Parents have been on a need-to-know basis instead of a right-to-know basis. Parent involvement, parent empowerment, and parent activism are needed for education to improve in 2021 and beyond.
A Focus on Teaching and Learning
2020 showed us quickly the old way of conducting school would not cut it any longer. There are minimum requirements when it comes to teaching and learning. Too many of our classrooms look as though they did 30 or 40 years ago. Today’s children are far different from the children of yesterday, and they will be far different from the children of tomorrow.
We must refocus on quality teaching and learning. The approach many scientists take in medicine must be the same approach with teaching and learning. We have to innovate.
Let me tell you something: Words like “teaching” and “learning” are not buzzwords. Our focus should not be on discovering the latest quick fix, but we should re-establish the foundation of what teaching and learning looks like. One-to-one technology is a must for all schools. We have been a technological society for far too long where every child in a classroom does not have access to a computer. Accountability to all schools on the learning of students should be a must. It should not matter whether the school is a charter school or a traditional school: Quality teaching and learning matters.
A Focus on Community
The focus on the community goes both ways. We must do a better job of reaching for community support. The community must do a better job of extending the hand into the school.
We saw a glimpse of this in November with the overwhelming attention paid to school board races. Now that the school board races are over, I want to see the community’s focus remain on school and remain on the impact those candidates turned board members will have on the school.
I want to see schools create a community advisory board made up of community members near the school that can provide insight on ways of improvement. I want to see the community include more teachers on their boards to provide those organizations insights on how they can impact the school. Regardless of the community, the school can be a beacon of the best and worst that the community offers. Regardless of the school, you cannot succeed without some support from the community. A focus on community means all hands on deck when it comes to improving education.