Honestly, I’m not naturally the most optimistic person. And let’s face it; there hasn’t been much to be optimistic about in Arizona’s approach to education. After all, we are last in the Nation in per pupil funding and almost as bad in performance. We are also hemorrhaging teachers with no fix in sight.
But, yesterday I attended an Arizona Parent Network Summit in Phoenix organized by Support Our Schools AZ. There were at least 75 people attending, including parents, teachers, school administrators, business people, a legislator and concerned citizens. Many in the room were Phoenix residents but some traveled from as far as Safford, Tucson, and Flagstaff.
We discussed what must happen to put Arizona K-12 education back on track. We talked about valuing teachers, ensuring transparency and accountability for tax payer dollars spent for education, ensuring the right type of measurements and that the results of those measurements are used properly to produce the right results. Yes, we also talked about the need for more funding.
None of these ideas were new, but the collaborative light in the room was bright. We talked about the need for a new plan, a new approach and new commitment to doing whatever it takes to forge a new course. We talked about joining forces and leveraging capability.
I can’t begin to guess at the number of combined years of K-12 education experience that was in that room, but let’s just say that these folks know what we are up against; it isn’t there first rodeo. I am sure there are some that are dubious of what we can achieve because they’ve seen similar efforts get derailed.
What is different now though, is that people are beginning to wake up to the fact that if education for Arizona’s students is to improve, it is up to us. We must serve on school boards and run for the legislature. We must advocate and get others to do the same. We must be the force multiplier that brings change.
The tipping point is near and there truly is nowhere for us to go but up. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Yes, I have hope. I have hope not only because as Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I also have hope because to have none would admit defeat and for our students and for our future, failure is not an option.