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Vision for American Public Education

Adopted 2015

(Replaces “Challenges to Quality Elementary and Secondary Education” No 161)

For over 200 years, public education has been the cornerstone of our nation's economic vitality, national security, and its social, cultural and political institutions. It has provided generations of American children and adults with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind and body that prepared them for lives of active and productive citizenship. Our nation’s future depends on well-supported higher quality public education at all levels. A quality education provides the foundational skills that students need to become productive citizens capable of civic engagement and sustaining competitive employment.

However, in recent years, certain organizations, investors, and public officials–acting under banners of “reform, choice, competition, accountability, and higher standards”– have aimed to privatize and undermine this essential keystone of our nation’s structure for progress and development. Their well-financed, professionally coordinated local and national efforts have reduced significantly in many states financial support to schools and lowered the importance, autonomy, compensation, standing, creativity and pivotal roles of teachers. The first step in countering this assault on public education is a renewed commitment to what American public education is intended to be.

Americans for Democratic Action, Inc. renews its commitment to equity and excellence in American public education and calls for meaningful actions at the national, state, and local community levels to ensure equal access to high quality education for all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, economic status, parental status and place of residence.

ADA is committed to achieving the following vision of what public education in our nation must be if Americans are to strengthen our democratic society, provide an equal, equitable, accessible high quality education for all students, and improve the economic, ethical and intellectual prosperity our citizens expect and the world envies.

Free, Universal, High-Quality Public Education: From early in our nation’s history, free, universal, high quality public education has been widely recognized as a pillar of a democratic society and essential to its economic and cultural growth. Free, universal, high quality education is, therefore, a fundamental right of all children and adolescents – from early childhood through college – in the United States and its territories.

National Learning Outcomes: During their public school experience, ALL students should be provided the opportunities and are expected to:
• Know and understand human cultures and the natural and physical world, through studies grounded in the sciences, mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, histories, languages and the arts.
• Acquire intellectual and practical skills for applying knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to changing settings and challenging questions.
• Develop individual and social responsibility.

State and Federal Funding: The source of funding for free, universal, and accessible high quality education (pre-kindergarten through college) must be equitable and sufficient, and, therefore must not rely on local/state property taxes, and should come from graduated income, corporate, estate and other taxes.

21st Century Organization and Scheduling: Time is an invaluable resource in the teaching/learning process. It must be used wisely and equitably to ensure that all students learn successfully.
• Sufficient time must be provided for teachers to plan, prepare, collaborate, confer, and develop professionally.
• Alternatives to grouping by chronological age and ability are incorporated into the organizational structure of schools at all levels.
• Ethnic, racial, and economic diversity should be a fundamental goal of public education. All educational policies, organizational structures, operations, and professional practices must reflect this fundamental goal.

All schools must be safe and secure, and have effective reasonable rules and regulations consistent with creating and maintaining a positive learning environment including sufficient space in accessible modern school buildings.

Charter Schools: To the extent that charter schools exist at all, they should be public schools regulated by appropriate state education agencies as parts of public school districts, subject to the financial reporting, accountability measures, teacher qualifications, and basic laws and regulations required of all public schools.

Public monies must fund only schools that operate under public school boards that are transparent and accountable to tax payers. Neither individuals nor private companies or organizations should profit from charter school operations.

Vouchers, tax deductions and tax credits that enable public school students to attend private and parochial schools should end.

Student Assessment: The primary goal of assessment should be to affect student outcomes– that is, to understand what and how students are learning, to diagnose learning needs, to inform instruction, to positively impact curriculum development, to guide professional development, to illustrate trends in learning, and to direct resource allocations.

High stakes student testing is detrimental to the learning process and should be eliminated. Only tests, multiple measures and testing instruments that have been carefully developed with teachers particularly for diagnostic and prescriptive purposes should be required.

Curriculum and Learning Experiences: Curriculum and learning experiences must provide content knowledge, habits of thinking deeply, analytical skills, enduring understandings, learning dispositions, and decision-making skills.

Student learning experiences must promote and encourage persistence, curiosity, creativity, exploration, and intellectual risk taking through hands-on, real world applications.

Teachers: Status, Roles, and Responsibilities: Teachers should be highly regarded, valued, respected, and must be compensated with salaries and benefits reflective of their responsibilities, preparation, experience, and accomplishments.

Teachers should have the authority and flexibility to address individual needs as well as practice in accordance with state and national standards in order to ensure that all students succeed at the highest levels possible.

Educator and District Accountability: The public has a right to know that the education system it supports does what it is intended to do. Accountability systems, therefore, should address all components of that public education system, including students, teachers, administrators, board members, schools, districts and states, and should use fair, scientifically tested measurements, developed with teacher involvement.

Professional Development for Educators: The underlying reason for professional development should be to support educators in their endeavors to ensure that all students are prepared to succeed in school and in life.

Educators must perceive themselves as lifelong learners and continually engage in significant learning opportunities.

Effective professional development is an on-going, interactive conversation embedded in daily work that includes reflection on student work and evidence of student understanding.

Teacher Education and Preparation: Teacher preparation programs should be designed to create clinically based models of collaboration between the teacher education and public PreK-12 institutions.

Teachers should be afforded opportunities to serve as clinical instructors for pre-service teachers as part of university training.

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 remain as important considerations in acceptance to and retention in teacher preparation programs.

Only federal judges who are committed to civil rights in education and the integrated communities that are the necessary underpinning of racially and ethnically integrated schools should be named by Presidents and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

ADA adopts this vision of public education. ADA urges citizens, businesses, communities, public officials and organizations to adopt this vision, and to use it in allocating resources and making decisions about public education in America.