Leveling the playing field for our kids

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In her latest column appearing in the New York Times, AFT President Randi Weingarten talks about the vital role a high-quality education system can play in giving students much-needed skills and knowledge as well as stabilizing our communities and strengthening the economy.

Randi Weingarten with Baltimore studentsAs Congress debates the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, originally signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his War on Poverty, this is the time to ensure that the law refocuses on its original purpose: leveling the playing field for kids. "The law's most recent iteration, No Child Left Behind, in emphasizing testing, pulled us away from the focus on kids, especially those who are poor," Weingarten writes.

Part of that renewed focus, she stresses, has to be on narrowing the achievement gap. "We narrow that gap through supporting, not sanctioning, kids, teachers and schools. We narrow that gap through teaching kids how to work with their hands, to work in teams, to solve problems—not just how to ace a test. We narrow that gap by providing early childhood education and helping all third-graders read at grade level. We narrow that gap when we give all kids, not just kids from wealthier families, access to art and music, librarians and nurses. We narrow that gap by focusing on high-poverty schools that struggle and helping these schools through interventions like wraparound services that combat the impact of poverty."

The result is a high-quality public education system that can unlock children's potential, s[Dhe says. Such a system can bring communities together and ensure a top-notch workforce for our economy and an engaged citizenry for our democracy.

"We have an opportunity with the ESEA reauthorization to help reclaim the promise of public education," Weingarten concludes. "Now, let's work across the aisle to reclaim it."

Read the full column.

[Dan Gursky/John Harrington photo]