President’s Corner

Seven ‘Stand Up’ Sound Bites

by John R. Lawrence

I have many friends. The best of them tell me what I need to hear whether I want them to or not. Several months ago one of my closest friends offered, without solicitation, his views of my responsibility to AASA as the association’s president.


In his opinion, it wasn’t all that complex. My job description was simply to:

 

1. serve the members and

2. represent their views even if different from my own.

I have shared this perspective at various AASA venues since assuming the privilege of AASA’s elected leadership. The simplicity of my friend’s suggestion keeps me focused.

Within this backdrop please know that I am struggling a bit with the appropriateness of writing what you will soon read. It’s not because of the first recommendation. Serving AASA’s membership is a cherished honor. It’s that second responsibility, the curtailing of my personal views, that I find difficult. Recognizing professional boundaries on issues of personal passion is not easy for me, but it comes with the turf and I am trying.

Accordingly, I have tip-toed a bit in writing this column, which relates to the truly defining times facing our profession. But from the standpoint of political correctness, it’s probably not enough. When I think of how so many are so anguished by today’s widespread and often crippling reductions in school funding, my statesmanship is challenged. And when I add to that the image of a newly mandated and largely unfunded federal law, I find myself pounding at the innocent keys of my laptop.

In the big picture of our industry I have no argument with the tenets of No Child Left Behind, and I embrace its spirit. How can anyone quibble with the virtues of employing highly qualified teachers and operating safe and still safer schools? As the kids say, I also have “no fear” in holding school leaders, myself included, accountable for student results. Consummate teachers and administrators place more accountability upon themselves for the performance of students than any law can impose. However, I do take issue with demanding much more at a time in which we are provided much less. It just doesn’t seem right.

All that said, and with the spatial limitations of this column, I offer my Top Seven list of “Stand-Up Sound Bites.” AASA’s vow to “Stand Up for Public Education” drives our association and propels us to be the often-lone consistent voice for America’s schools in Washington. I think the list below captures the adrenalin of our initiative. It also reflects my personal perspective. If I am outside of my obligatory boundaries, I ask for your tolerance.

My Seven Stand-Up Sound Bites:

1. It’s all and only about the kids!

2. NCLB’s accountability is exclusively placed at the schoolhouse, but it really does take a village to raise a child.

3. It took 165 years to provide universal access—is it reasonable to expect universal proficiency in 14?

4. Wouldn’t it have been better to have defined universal proficiency before the high-stakes mandate to deliver it?

5. The full funding of IDEA is a broken promise. We teach kids not to do that!

6. Four better words for the abbreviation NCLB—“Nurture Children, Lessen Bureaucracy.”

7. Critics say you can’t throw money at problems, but maybe we ought to try it once.

John Lawrence is president of AASA.