President’s Corner

The Future Is in Good Hands

by BILL HILL

 Public education in this country never has been better. Smart kids are smarter. SAT scores are at a 30-year high. Opportunities are provided for all children, even special education students. Gains are being made in mathematics and science. School violence has declined for the last 12 years.

Sometimes, the message of what is good about public education becomes obscured.

Public schools provide opportunities for all students, not just the academically talented and grant equal access to the tools needed for the future, be it higher education or the workforce.

The FBI calls schools safer than the homes of many students and, despite the news headlines, school violence is on the decline. In many communities, schools are still a safe haven for students, a place where the dangers of the world cease.

It has been estimated that about 30 percent of students in this country receive their only hot meal of the day at school.

The dropout rate nationally hovers around 10 percent. More high school graduates than ever before are attending and graduating from colleges or universities.

Critics who assail public schools look past these facts. Public schools do good every day and for every student.

Most other countries ignore the needs of special education students. Public schools welcome the 5.5 million special-needs kids in this country and work to provide the same experiences and opportunities as other students. In a public school, no student is a castaway—all students have potential awaiting discovery.

Pundits suggest that failing schools should be shut down. Just the opposite is true. Schools that lag behind need additional support to fix the problems in an effort to serve children and the community. Schools are the foundation of each community. Taking that away will accomplish little.

Branding a school as “failing” is troubling. Test scores alone cannot determine success or failure. In fact, the success of a school needs to take into account how the needs of students are being met and students are growing as young adults.

There is no test to measure the impact of drama, music or athletic programs on students. No standards can rate schools based on how many kids are sent home on a winter day with a new jacket, how many cases of head lice are detected, how many incidents of child abuse reported or how many kids have their only balanced meal of the day while on campus.

Schools are about more than the core curriculum.

Every student has a different gift. Some are academically talented. Others are musicians or writers, athletes or dancers, actors or humanitarians and the only recognition or applause they may receive for those talents is while at school. Kids can try new activities regardless of their race, religion, upbringing or level of talent because public schools are a place where children are free to be children, and opportunities are equal.

No test can measure that impact.

Rather than criticizing our public schools and using education as a platform for political maneuvering, schools should be supported and encouraged.

Public schools all too often are the target of condemnation. No school is perfect, but more community leaders, parents, students and politicians need to proclaim that public schools do good work, everyday and for all students.

The future of this country is being forged daily in the classrooms of public schools, where more than 90 percent of our children attend. We should feel comfort that the future is, indeed, in good hands.

Bill Hill is president of AASA.