Principles for Public Education

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  1. Free, universal, high-quality education provided within a strong public education system that intentionally incorporates ethnic, racial, and economic diversity is a fundamental right of all children and adolescents in the United States—from early childhood through college. 
    Legislation, policies, and practices have allowed privatization (vouchers, charter schools) and curriculum censorship to erode this fundamental right. Achievement gaps widen as school environments become more racially and economically segregated. 
  • “Universal, high quality” for all means that ethnic, racial, and economic diversity is a primary goal and characteristic of public education.
  • All educational policies, organizational structures, operations, and professional practices must reflect this fundamental goal. 

    2. Ensuring a strong, unfragmented public education system focused on the common good is the responsibility of all members of a community.
    Teaching is a human profession, not a factory turning out workers and consumers.
  • Public schools should be humane environments. Schools have value when they develop diverse talents in all students, and when they encourage sense of purpose, responsibility, and well-being that equip students for complex and unpredictable futures.
  • Americans must have confidence in their public education system for it to succeed 
  1. Public education must have visionary leadership
    Leaders—students, teachers, parents, administrators, and public officials—must proceed from a vision and purpose that are well understood and embraced by all participants in the system to which they are responsible. 
  • Leaders must understand that excessive testing and regulations at the classroom level extinguish the creativity and innovation that both teachers and students need to realize the promise of education.
  • Teachers should be recognized as leaders in a system that balances external pressures with creativity, innovation, and decision-making aligned to the system’s vision and purpose. 
  • School, district, state, and national leaders must recognize and promote experimentation, creativity, and innovation at the classroom level. This is the key to public school systems that flourish and meet the educational needs of students and teachers.
  • Educational leaders at the school, district, state, and national levels should be skilled in spotting promising innovations and developing them into widespread practices.
  • Educational leaders must hold themselves and their organizations accountable by continually reflecting upon their progress toward achieving their shared vision and purpose. 
  1. Equity and sufficiency of state and federal funding for public education must be addressed in order to meet the imperative to provide high-quality education for all
  • The source of funding for ensuring free, universal, and accessible high-quality education must be equitable and sufficient and, therefore, cannot rely on local/state property taxes.
  • Public moneys must be used to fund only schools that operate under publicly elected school boards that are transparent and accountable to taxpayers. State and local tax moneys belong to districts rather than to individuals and should never follow the student. Therefore, vouchers given to students and/or parents for use in private schools should be illegal. 
  • Neither individuals nor private companies or organizations should profit from charter school operations. 

    5. Creative, engaging, and effective program choices must be offered within the public education system. Parents and students must have free and open access to public school options and alternatives that do not disadvantage other students or programs within the system.
  • To the extent that charter schools exist at all, they must be governed as part of public school districts, subject to financial reporting, accountability measures, teacher qualifications, and basic laws and regulations required of all public schools.
  • School district tax funding should in no way be directed to private schools, religious schools, charter schools, or their management companies via vouchers, scholarships, or other general fund transfers. 

    6. School curricula must prepare students for a future of complexity and accelerating change. It must be infused with the kind of creativity, engagement, and experimentation that preserves the human spirit and teaches students how to anticipate and meet future challenges. 
  • Public education must also help students grow their intelligence by developing habits of deep thinking, analytical skills, decision-making skills, and enduring understandings. 
  • Academic freedom is paramount in that it allows school districts and staffs to acknowledge individual learner development, to provoke critical thought, to provide diverse perspectives, and to address controversial topics.
  • Curriculum content should be informed by standards developed by learned educational societies and national professional organizations. 
  • Curricula for all students should include diverse cultures, the natural and physical world, the sciences, mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, the humanities, literature, history, world languages, and the arts.
  • Our society and past must be viewed from many perspectives. No one owns history or the social studies, and they are clearly too important to leave to politicians and demagogues. Teachers, schools, and districts must be trusted to offer evidence-based curricula that seek to understand how we arrived at this place and time and that allows all students to see themselves in the story of our nation and of the world.
  • All students need curricular experiences that develop individual and social responsibility with respect to social justice and human rights through unbiased examinations of history and current events. 
  • At an appropriate age and across the curriculum, students must become aware of and objectively examine the intersections of race, gender, and ethnicity in American society, both historically and currently.
  • Selection of resources and materials should be governed by a district-wide selection policy, including a process for considering challenged materials. 
  1. Twenty-First Century learning environments must be designed to grow potential in every student. 

    Everyone with whom students interact in a public school setting must help students develop their identities as positive and productive citizens, constantly open to new learning. Intelligence is not set at birth but grows and develops over time. Helping students develop into resilient, intelligent, resourceful, ethical, and compassionate human beings is a more important goal than raising test scores or standardizing curriculum content. 
  • Providing programs and services to students when needed, not waiting until they are in crisis or labeled failures, is an essential responsibility of public education. Early childhood learning opportunities and high-quality, timely interventions by qualified individuals are essential in helping all learners succeed.
  • Student learning experiences should promote and encourage persistence, curiosity, creativity, exploration, and intellectual risk taking through hands-on, real world applications.
  • Educational psychology research has established the concept of “zone of proximal development” where a student can be both challenged and moved forward by what is to be learned. This is a powerful process that should be used to accelerate learning for all students. Personalized learning should target this “zone,” connect with students’ current level of understanding, and help them work through the challenge of acquiring and consolidating the next level of understanding. Well-designed instruction incorporates direct teaching, exploratory activities, and peer interactions into this process.
  • Teachers must capitalize on the human brain’s own reward systems and make learning compelling by addressing each student’s strengths and interests.
  • Time, an invaluable resource in the teaching/learning process, should be used equitably to ensure that all students learn successfully.
  • Alternatives to grouping by chronological age and ability must be incorporated into the organizational structure of schools at all levels. 
  1. Assessment practices must support optimal progress for all students by collecting and studying evidence of learning in its many forms and using that evidence to make decisions about future learning needs. 

    That is the very purpose of assessment. Student assessment based upon the results of standardized, high-stakes tests should never be used to make decisions about promotion or graduation, or to evaluate teachers, administrators, programs, schools, or districts. Moreover, assessments must be designed in ways to assist students in their pursuit of divergent interests.
  • The assessment process must focus on understanding what and how students are learning, diagnosing learning needs, making decisions about curriculum and instruction, designing appropriate professional development, using evidence to illustrate trends in learning, and directing resource allocation.
  • Teachers should engage in frequent conversations about student work and evidence of student understanding.
  • High-stakes testing should be eliminated in favor of authentic assessment for which students cannot be submitted to mindless memorization of trivial information, i.e., test prep.
  • Assessment practice is subject to Campbell’s Law: The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor. That is, when a measure (i.e., a particular item or test) becomes the focus or target of instruction, it loses validity as a measure. 
  1. The public’s right to understand and guide the education system must be central to equitable, reasonable, and accurate accountability methods. 

    These methods should address the responsibilities and impact of all components and participants in the public education system, including students, parents, teachers, administrators, schools, school boards, districts, communities, state education agencies, and state and federal legislatures.
  • The vision, purpose, and identity of a local school district should determine its accountability processes. State report cards based upon standardized achievement tests do not constitute an equitable or accurate accountability system.
  • Results of high stakes standardized assessment must never be a part of any system of teacher evaluation.
  • Both outcomes and supports must be addressed in the accountability systems. 
  1. Teachers must be thoughtfully educated, highly regarded, valued, and respected members of a professional community and compensated commensurate with their responsibilities, preparation, experience, and accomplishments. 
  • Teachers must have the authority and flexibility to address individual needs as well as practice in accordance with professional standards to ensure that all students succeed at the highest levels possible.
  • Professional educators must have the authority and responsibility to develop in-depth learning experiences that develop students’ critical thinking abilities and creativity.
  • Professional educators, especially teachers, should be responsible for selecting a wide range of engaging, student-centered materials without the constraints of censorship.
  • Teachers must be provided with adequate time and organizational support to plan, prepare, collaborate, confer, and develop professionally. 
  • Teachers must prepare students for meaningful participation in our democracy.
  1. Teacher preparation programs must be designed as clinically based models of collaboration between teacher education and public preK-12 institutions. 
  • Teacher preparation programs must include strong research and development agendas that feature systematic gathering and use of data to support continuous improvement.
  • Dispositions and values of teacher candidates must be important considerations in acceptance to and retention in teacher preparation programs. 
  • Teacher preparation programs must emphasize to aspiring teachers their tremendous influence on students and the responsibility they have to support the development of student identity as a learner.

    12. Vision and purpose should inform the kind of learning in which education professionals engage. 

    The shared vision, purpose, and identity of each school, district, or learning organization must guide its professional development efforts. 
  • Professional development should support educators at various stages in their careers in their efforts to ensure that all students succeed in school and are prepared for the future.
  • Teachers must be supported in becoming part of a community of practice that values professional research as well as experience.
  • Professional development should be planned and led by educators as they engage in on-going conversations, meetings, and exchanges embedded in their daily work.

    13. To meet the evolving needs of students and families in a rapidly changing world, public education must identify and nurture innovation and creativity that occur naturally within any complex organization. 
  • Networks of practitioners that share successful innovations should drive the evolution of public education. These networks should include individuals and groups at every level of the system so that they can respond to current and ongoing needs of society.
  • Policymakers should look to professional networks and communities of practice for direction, data, and expertise. 
  1. Because of the essential role of human interactions in learning, technology will never replace professional educators. 

Educators at all levels should embrace emerging technologies that support the teaching profession, lead to improved student learning, follow ethical guidelines regarding privacy and possible monetization of data collected, and are properly implemented by qualified teachers to enhance the learning process. Properly used, technology should enhance the interactions among students, parents, educators, and support staff. 

  • To date, meta-analyses conducted in literacy and mathematics have not found that computer assisted tutoring programs increase student learning on standardized measures.
  • Adequate high-speed internet connectivity and devices must be affordable and available to ALL students to ensure equity and adequacy and to combat the digital divide.
  • Students and families must be protected from harassment and online bullying within the district’s electronic environments.
  • A comprehensive technology planning process should include teachers and other staff, and relevant experts.
  • A comprehensive technology plan should include training for students and staff, universal design features, evidence of effectiveness, and privacy protections.
  • Remote learning is not optimum, but when circumstances require it, teachers and other staff must have adequate time and resources to plan high quality instruction that includes how to ensure participation by groups of diverse learners as well as types of interactions and assignments that foster collaboration, creativity, civility, student choice, and problem solving.
  • Technology must be used only as another way to enhance teaching, never to reduce faculty numbers or increase class size.
  • Public education should not be viewed as a lucrative business opportunity for technology companies to exploit.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) cannot replace the many important one-on-one relationships students need to advance in school and in life, nor can AI teach many life lessons that help students grow, succeed, and become active citizens.
  • Programs powered by artificial intelligence (AI) depend on the intelligence and integrity of the humans who design them. They are only as good as the models of learning and assumptions embedded in the programs and the data sets used to train the AI.
  • Technology that is used to replace qualified educators does not increase student achievement nor advance the social-emotional well-being of students.
  • Educators—not for-profit corporations—must take the lead in policy, design, and training for technological educational innovation.
  • Integrate relevant, reliable, and proven technologies in classrooms only when the technologies help students’ learning.
  • We must oppose government officials, for-profit corporations, and policymakers who allow runaway enthusiasm for new technology to overwhelm intelligent, research-based pedagogy.
  • Effective measures and continued support regarding technology must be provided to ensure equitable and adequate instruction for all students, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, income, location, age, or special needs.