To compete in the 21st century, America must invest in schools and communities to ensure that they have the resources to meet the educational needs of all children. Since 90 percent of children attend public schools, our nation must make an investment in public education.
To fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education and provide full equality of educational opportunities, the nation must commit to an agenda for immediate and long-term public education reform:
In The Schools
1. Qualified teachers for all students
Provide state and federal financial incentives to help low-income districts recruit, train, and retain qualified teachers.
2. Smaller classes and schools
Commit the resources necessary to build facilities and hire staff sufficient to ensure that all students are taught in small classes and have adequate supervision during class and during the school day.
3. High expectations and the resources to meet those expectations
Apply the same high expectations for achievement to all students and provide the courses, materials, and any transitional and early childhood programs necessary so all children have the opportunity to meet the raised expectations. Schools should strive to accurately identify children who need special education services and remedial instruction, and provide appropriate services for those children.
4. Challenging curriculum in core subjects
Challenge all students with enrichment opportunities like advanced placement English, math, and science classes and provide federal and state incentives for intensive academic after-school programs for all students, especially those in low-income districts where the need is greatest.
5. Harness the power of technology
Build and re-fit schools, classrooms, and labs with modern technology, including computers, internet, and scientific equipment, and train teachers to use technology as a teaching tool in any subject.
In The Community
6. Parent and community involvement in schools
Support parents’ involvement in their children’s education and community commitment to their schools, including integrating supportive services for families, where social services can help connect parents to their schools.
7. Invest in communities
Implement housing and lending policies that provide homeownership choices and opportunities for people of color; build wealth in the minority community and create better-funded, better-resourced, high quality neighborhood schools.
8. Break the cycle of poverty and poor education
Address the ways neighborhood and family poverty sabotage children’s education. Ensure that low-income neighborhoods get equitable school funding for on-budget education programs and sufficient funds for off-budget capital improvements. Provide nutrition and health services to prevent hunger and illness from undermining a child’s ability to learn. Assist parents who can’t get directly involved in education because they are forced to work day and night jobs and need access to quality day care.
9. Promote diversity
Support integration plans that promote racial diversity in our schools; provide incentives for jurisdictions to design school districts encompassing racially and economically diverse neighborhoods; and encourage affluent districts to enroll students from lower-income areas. Establish public magnet schools and public charter schools inside poor and racially isolated districts to attract students and families into the districts and increase integration.
Keep the Focus on Education
10. Stop using half-measures and quick fixes that divert resources and attention from improving public education
After Brown, discrimination and resistance to integration was so extreme in places like Prince Edward County, Va., that they closed their public schools and used taxpayer money for vouchers to pay for private schools for white children. Vouchers are still a way to abandon public education, increase segregation, and leave millions of children behind; we can’t go back to this shameful tradition. Create disciplinary models that focus on keeping children in school, or provide quality alternative settings rather than pushing them out of school and into jail.
11. Use standardized tests only as diagnostic tools to assess student needs
Employ tests as only one of several measures for evaluating student progress and to direct resources to meet student needs, not to punish under-resourced schools or students who have not had the opportunity to learn the tested material. Reject high-stakes testing as a sole criterion for making major decisions.
12. Ensure that no child is actually left behind
Fully fund the No Child Left Behind law so it provides resources to meet standards, instead of punishing schools and diverting funds from students and schools with the greatest need for help.