For many families, there are rules, spoken and unspoken, that govern the gatherings. In my family, we have a list of spoken rules: we will not discuss politics (local, state, national or international) or the fate of Boston and New York sports teams. It’s limiting, for sure, but after some near-disastrous meals and gatherings, a peace agreement was struck and peace outweighs interesting banter.
That’s why last week, I was surprised to find myself debating education policy with two family members at our Thanksgiving gathering. Surprised because I no doubt should know better, but also because this is what I do for work and it is certainly not something I want to debate on my free time with my family. I think we can all agree that there is no winning in such a scenario. However, as we debated the pros and cons of charter schools – yes, charter schools – I was struck once again by how remarkable this coalition is.
Without being completely self-serving, I do want to take a moment to bring us back to that moment when we launched the coalition and brought together a broad and diverse group of signatories in support of one idea: expanding learning time in high-poverty schools. These leaders – numbering over 100 at that time –may vigorously disagree on other issues in education and beyond, but they all agree that students living in areas of concentrated poverty need more time in school.
Spending more time in school is not a novel idea. We know it goes back to the 1930’s, and in recent times, since the release of A Nation At Risk in 1983. However, it was with the evolution of charter schools as well as some district school models that expanding the school day and year started to enter into the mainstream. And now, over 1,500 schools across the country are expanding opportunities for their students, and many more are exploring the possibility.
That type of growth would not be possible, though, without the agreement that this coalition represents: the agreement that every student, regardless of their socioeconomic status, needs a strong education personalized to his or her academic needs as well as a well-rounded education. Equally as important is providing teachers with time to collaborate with peers, review data, and plan for their lessons. Because we cannot simply add time, it must be better time.
And the final agreement this coalition reached is that now is time. Today’s students cannot wait another 30 years nor another 5 years. We must spur our stakeholders to take action on expanding learning time now.
As for my family discussions, after last week, education policy may end up on the list of forbidden topics. Or I may show up at the next gathering in a Red Sox t-shirt. There’s no telling…