Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Teachers are My Heroes

I was sent a link to a blog this morning that I spent an inordinate amount of time perusing. While doing that I came across a website of Democrats for Education Reform (www.dfer.org), which listed their heroes in education

Most of the Heroes in the Democrats for Education Reform group were folks who champion charter schools. As someone who lives in the charter school capitol of North America, I understand that they are not vanishing from the landscape anytime soon. However, to believe that the only champions of education reform are those “daring enough” to be in the charter school movement is naive.

While charter schools will always have a place in education discussions, school districts will not be vanishing anytime soon either. School districts will continue to educate the majority of America’s children for a long, long time. In fact, I would argue that peering into the myriad of practices and school choice within a school district (let’s take mine, for example) will reveal some of the most promising educational practices of this century at the practitioner and school building level.

I would argue, with the St. Paul School District’s comprehensive city-wide district options, with St. Paul as the cradle of charter school law, and with our affordable parochial school system that there isn’t a better incubator of school choice in the country. Yet, an overwhelming majority of parents still choose St. Paul Public Schools. Why? Because we still do the best job of educating children. We are comprehensive enough to meet every child’s needs. We are small enough to be light on our feet to innovate. We tend to attract high quality, experienced teachers. We have smart, dedicated educational assistants.

Perhaps, no school district can truly meet every families needs, and so I will admit that the mother looking for the music-based, Montessori, Russian-immersion, 4 day week elementary school experience for her child will sadly be out of luck in St. Paul (for now), the students who stay with St. Paul Public Schools truly will graduate to something great.

Our high quality teaching force is a major reason for that success, and our teaching force is also first to reflect on what could be done better. Why else, with a pressure-cooker atmosphere and magnifying glass accountability, would I run in to teacher after teacher this opening week saying things to me like, “I’m ready” or “I’m excited” or “I can’t wait to start”?

These teachers are union members, they are my heroes, and I am honored to represent them.

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