Over the course of the past year, we at the Ohio Federation of Teachers have had numerous discussions about our work, our goals and how we accomplish them. Last fall, we re-wrote our mission statement and put together a guiding framework we call our MVP – mission, vision, purpose. In the winter, at convention, we talked about writing the next chapter – telling the positive stories about what we do, putting into words what we think public education can and should be, and defining next steps to strengthen our neighborhood schools, our students and the communities in which we work. We did this knowing that we are the ones who bring ideas to the table and take a lead in carrying them out. We are the solution.
All of this was a prerequisite to Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education.
Our public schools represent our nation’s commitment to helping all children dream their dreams and achieve them. A high-quality public education for all children is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy, a moral imperative and a fundamental civil right, without which none of our other rights can be fully realized. Reclaiming the Promise – a campaign launched this summer by AFT and continued in Ohio by OFT – simply means that we are determined to make public schools what we know they need to be. This is a crucial moment when we must reclaim the promise of public education. Not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as what public education can be to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed.
Our work over the past year set the stage for action now under the driving force of the Reclaiming the Promise campaign in which educators join with parents and community members to lead the way to stronger schools in every neighborhood where students can achieve and thrive to their greatest potential. Now is the time for real action. Now is the time to do what others only talk about. Now is the time for us to follow through on our solutions and reclaim the promise of public education.
Others talk about putting the child first, yet they ignore the emotional, social and health needs of these children by deferring focus and resources to testing, testing, testing.
We actually put the child first and advocate for wraparound services within our schools. By developing and implementing a plan to address the needs that open the door for greater student achievement, we are the solution.
Others talk about improving the quality of education by expanding choice while funding perpetually low-performing charter schools.
We work on improving the quality of education by collaborating with peers, implementing best practices, daily assessing and delivering to meet the needs of our students, pushing for smaller class sizes so that we can meet individual needs, and constantly reflecting on our own practice and our profession to find ways to do the job even better. By taking these steps, we are the solution.
Others talk about a well-rounded education for children, yet they inadequately fund the system which forces districts to cut programs.
We fight to keep a broad range of programs in our schools so that students have exposure to music, art, physical education, and a variety of electives that help them find their true interests and passions in life. By insisting on diverse and vast opportunities for students, we are the solution.
Others talk about the need for engaging classrooms where children learn real-life skills, yet they focus on testing and accountability measures that are more punitive than productive.
We strive to make our classrooms engaging with authentic learning experiences while working within the constraints of the test-driven policies. By teaching in varied and creative ways, we are the solution.
Others talk about needing more rigorous standards, but they jump to accountability measures without providing time and resources for effective implementation.
We embrace rigorous standards that allow us to go deeper into content and do more project-based learning that will also help develop critical thinking skills, communication skills and more. By focusing on how to most effectively apply rigorous standards, we are the solution.
Others talk about improving teacher quality while in reality they focus on punitive measures.
We improve teacher quality by focusing on a reflective process that identifies ways to “take it to the next level,” by providing peer coaches and other supports for teachers and by examining our teacher prep programs to find ways to better prepare teachers coming into the profession. In many cases, we design these program. We are the solution.
Others talk about the importance of having excellent schools in every neighborhood, but then shut down neighborhood schools instead of putting resources into making them effective.
We demand to keep our neighborhood schools and to involve the students, parents, teachers and community members in creating community learning centers that meet the needs of the students, their families and the surrounding neighborhood community. We are the solution.
We know how to give our students the opportunities they deserve. We work and fight every day for safe and welcoming schools, well-prepared and supported teachers, engaging curriculum and wrap-around services. But our voices have been drowned out by those who talk, talk, talk in ever increasingly louder voices the rhetoric of empty promises and false solutions.
It is time for us to reclaim the true promise of public education - the promise that every child will have the opportunity to discover who he or she is and to grow as individuals who are prepared for success in their adult lives. The promise that no matter what happens outside the school walls, within those walls is a safe haven where hunger, illness and emotional problems are managed so that the child can learn, grow and thrive. The promise that we truly care about each child and that we will not only fight against policies that are harmful to children, but also that we will fight even harder to provide solutions that will elevate our children to the highest possible level. The promise of a better future.
We must stand up, link arms with each other as well as with parents and community members to reclaim the promise. Together, we are the solution that will guide and protect our students and the ideal of great public schools for every child. Join us to reclaim the promise of public education. Collectively, we are the solution.
To learn more about the Ohio Federation of Teachers, please visit the OFT website.