A Few Thoughts on Education Reform

I was recently invited to be among 8 leading legislative candidates from across California to attend a two-day symposium on reforming public education. Our discussion with education policy experts affirmed my belief that we need a new generation of reformers in the Legislature to upend the habits of failure that define governance in Sacramento.

As a former 10th-grade English teacher at an underserved high school, tackling the challenges facing our education system – and assuring all kids can get a top-notch education – is central to why I’m running for the Assembly. Consider:

  • California ranks 47th in the country for elementary school test scores.
  • California is among the worst states in the nation, on par with Alabama and South Dakota, when it comes to using data to improve student outcomes.
  • The LCAPs hailed by Governor Brown as an instrument of local control, transparency, and accountability have become bureaucratic tomes. Meanwhile, we have a limited understanding of how money is actually being spent.
  • An exclusive focus on math and English test scores as a measure of school performance has led to neglect of other subjects and less well-rounded students.

Our challenges are considerable. Yet at this moment, they are matched by a once-in-a-generation opportunity for reform. Here’s why:

Congress has overhauled No Child Left Behind to return control to states. As a consequence, the California Legislature will have the opportunity to craft its own goals and accountability standards. California should seize this opportunity to bring our education system into the 21st Century. Here are a few guiding principles:

  • Research confirms what we all know from experience: effective teachers are what matter most when it comes to student achievement. We must attract the best and brightest to the classroom, give teachers the resources they need to succeed, and provide compensation to retain outstanding educators.
  • Parents should be given reliable, accessible data on the performance of schools, so that they can select a school that best fits the needs of their child.
  • Preparation for a 21st century economy includes a wide variety of skills and disciplines; math and English are crucial, but so are history, science, art, and music. Success in the modern workforce also requires a mastery of technology that should be fostered in our schools.
  • Our tax dollars should be spent at schools in service of students. They should not be spent to expand bureaucracies that are not student-centered.

California is at a crossroads, with much at stake: namely, the kind of state our kids and grandkids will grow up in. Real change will take hard work, innovative thinking, and constructive cooperation. That is why we cannot afford a representative who will simply show up to work and vote yay or nay. We need a reformer who will fight for our area, fight for results, fight for our future.

California was once home to the best schools in the country. And so it can be again. Please join me, and together we can work to renew our state’s greatness for the next generation.