You hear it all the time - our schools have gone downhill. But people seem to be 'Waiting for Superman' to fix education - like the 2010 documentary so aptly observed. No need. Here are 7 of the best proposals to fix our schools put forth by a group of up and coming progressive candidates in the 2014 election.
1. Rethink testing (Lucy Flores, Wendy Davis) – It’s impossible to talk about education reform in our post-No Child Left Behind climate without tackling the topic of standardized testing. Currently, students spend up to six weeks of the year testing, and schools and teachers feel intense pressure to “teach to the test” in order to receive adequate funding. Lucy Flores fought for Nevada high school students to be evaluated based on end-of-course exams for classes they actually take, not one-size fits all standardized tests. Wendy Davis wants to actually limit the amount of standardized tests kids take in Texas schools, decreasing test fatigue and freeing up more time for actual instruction.
2 Learn from teachers (Cory Booker) – Very few policy ideas actually turn to teachers as valuable experts in improving education. As mayor of Newark, Cory Booker oversaw the establishment of a “Teacher Innovation Fund,” which encouraged teachers to share ideas and provided funding to pay teachers for the most effective solutions.
3. Help veterans go to college (Wendy Davis) – Veterans return home with serious skills in engineering, medicine, organizational leadership and countless other fields. Yet in many states, it is confusing and difficult for veterans to obtain college credit for their military experience. Wendy Davis plans to give veterans more opportunities to apply their knowledge towards college degrees, and she wants to train more college counselors to help veterans navigate this process.
4. Focus on STEM (Mark Takano, Marc Veasey) – STEM careers are the fastest growing of any other sector, yet U.S. science and math education is ranked 52nd globally by the World Economic Forum. As national focus on alternative energy sources and energy efficiency grows, the prominence of “green collar” jobs in the economy will make STEM readiness even more crucial.To prepare today’s school kids for tomorrow’s jobs, Mark Takano and Marc Veasey want to increase funding and resources for strong science and math programs in their communities, beginning in elementary school.
5. Teach the tykes (Wendy Davis, Cory Booker) – We know the facts – community access to pre-K is statistically linked to far lower rates of crime, school dropout and teen pregnancy. Yet we seem to lack the national political will to implement universal pre-K. It’s going to have to start at the community level, and that’s why we’re proud to support candidates like Wendy Davis and Cory Booker, who are committed to providing early childhood education across the board in their communities.
6. Jump start college in high school (Wendy Davis) – American college students are dropping out at rates much higher than other developed countries, and two-thirds of those who complete their degrees are leaving school with debt. Wendy Davis wants to work with schools to implement more college credit opportunities for high school students. Strong college credit courses pack the one-two punch of making students more prepared for college-level work at the same time as they ease the financial burden of paying for college.
7. Take on truancy (Kamala Harris) – Nearly 700,000 California elementary schoolers were truant at some point last year. Nearly half of all Los Angeles Unified students were truant three or more times in the 2012-2013 school year. It’s not surprising that Kamala Harris thinks California is experiencing a “truancy crisis.” If frequent truancy issues are not addressed in elementary school, students are much more likely to drop out of school, and truancy issues cost California’s school districts $1.4 billion each year. That’s why Kamala is championing a set of bills that would create better truancy intervention resources. She thinks being proactive about school truancy will produce a significant return on investment – and we agree!