Photo courtesy of the Hartford Courant.

As Dropout Nation made clear in yesterday’s podcast, we can no longer wait for Sputnik moments and periods of clarity to spur school reform. Our kids only get one shot and we only get this time now to make it happen. Families and communities must be part of the reform efforts and ultimately, the leading players in American public education. Yet the status quo and even some reformers remain resistant to bringing these two groups to the table. This must end.

Gwen Samuel, who helped pass the nation’s second Parent Trigger law last year, offers her thoughts on what must be done to spur Parent Power and bring communities to the table in this Voices of the Dropout Nation. Read, consider and take action:

The expert-driven approach to education does not work. It hasn’t worked. And it won’t work into the future, especially in an age in which our fiscal crises is forcing everyone to spend smartly.

We know that degrees and certifications don’t equal better education for kids. We know that “experts” haven’t figured out what works in communities and in schools. Our public policymakers haven’t done a good job of communicating with everyone who is a stakeholder in education — including parents, guardians, students, small businessmen and other taxpayer. And  America’s children have suffered as a result.

It is time to move away from one sided certified, degreed and  experts only approach towards improving educational outcomes for America’s children. We must embrace a model of shared responsibility for reforming education that realizes that schools are part of villages of learning — and validates all players in education  as value-added.

It begins by looking at the fiscal crisis that is helping to bring school reform to the fore, acknowledging the fact that America’s fiscal crisis is a man-made storm and thus, one whose course we have the power to change. It also means accepting the fact that we cannot reform education through an island mentality.

It means all of us — including policymakers — must communicate and work with communities outside of their “comfort” zone. This will help make communities key players in what I call the village concept of education and end the conceit that schools should be the sole providers of educational experiences.

We must reinforce the attitude that educating America’s children is a shared responsibility. This means parents and guardians are as much a part of education decisions as schools. It also means that we must teach every parent to know their child, know their school and know their community, what I call the K3 curriculum.

For parents, it means holding everyone accountable for education — and being held accountable by others as well. Along this journey towards a village of education, we will need to develop a tough skin and be prepared to hold each other accountable towards the building of a strong educational system and economically viable country.

As parents and taxpayers, we must demand more of a shared leadership role. We must also ask more questions like these:

  • How are schools funded and held accountable for effective spending?
  • How do we align resources between home, school and community?
  • How do we ensure that students are empowered to learn?
  • How are we ensuring that schools are safe, nurturing and welcoming environments?
  • How do we ensure that our fellow parents and guardians are engaged within the education process without being judged because of their zip code and socioeconomic status?
  • How do we ensure teachers are respected, prepared for teaching and valued, yet held accountable for effective teaching and student learning?
  • How do we hold administrators, superintendents and school boards accountable for effective leadership?
  • How do we craft public policy that clearly states that they can be removed if they fail  to effectively lead their school, their staff and themselves?
  • How do we ensure recall laws are embedded in public policy?

Once we begin to embrace this attitude adjustment in education, we will see a major turning point in the 21st century. America will be back on track when it comes to education.

This attitude adjustment process will not be easy. but it is necessary. We must improve education. And we must stabilize our economy.