Education Newsbytes


Insanely useful apps for students
9 Cool Apps for Teens
35 Fun (and Funny) Texts to Send Your Teen
A boy told his teacher she can't understand him because she's white. Her response is on point
Transforming Teaching and Leading
A plane passenger asked a teacher a kind of rude question about her job. She responded eloquently!
Parents, Teachers Deliver Over 100,000 Signatures To Time Magazine Demanding Apology
Transforming Teaching and Leading
What Will Trump Do on Education? Seeking Clues on Common Core, School Choice, ESSA
Supreme Court Preview: What You Need to Know About the 3 New School Cases at the High Court
U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High



A boy told his teacher she can't understand him because she's white. Her response is on point.

"Be the teacher America's children of color deserve, because we, the teachers, are responsible for instilling empathy and understanding in the hearts of all kids. We are responsible for the future of this country."

Fifth-grade teacher Emily E. Smith is not your ordinary teacher

She founded The Hive Society — a classroom that's all about inspiring children to learn more about their world ... and themselves — by interacting with literature and current events. Students watch TED talks, read Rolling Stone, and analyze infographics. She even has a long-distance running club to encourage students to take care of their minds and bodies.

Smith is such an awesome teacher, in fact, that she recently received the 2015 Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing.

It had always been her dream to work with children in urban areas, so when Smith started teaching, she hit the ground running. She had her students making podcasts, and they had in-depth discussions about their readings on a cozy carpet.

But in her acceptance speech for her award, she made it clear that it took a turning point in her career before she really got it:

"Things changed for me the day when, during a classroom discussion, one of my kids bluntly told me I "couldn't understand because I was a white lady." I had to agree with him. I sat there and tried to speak openly about how I could never fully understand and went home and cried, because my children knew about white privilege before I did. The closest I could ever come was empathy."

Smith knew that just acknowledging her white privilege wasn't enough.

She wanted to move beyond just empathy and find a way to take some real action that would make a difference for her students.

She kept the same innovative and engaging teaching methods, but she totally revamped her curriculum to include works by people who looked like her students. She also carved out more time to discuss issues that her students were facing, such as xenophobia and racism.

And that effort? Absolutely worth it.

As she said in her acceptance speech:

"We studied the works of Sandra Cisneros, Pam Munoz Ryan, and Gary Soto, with the intertwined Spanish language and Latino culture — so fluent and deep in the memories of my kids that I saw light in their eyes I had never seen before."

The changes Smith made in her classroom make a whole lot of sense. And they're easy enough for teachers everywhere to make:

  • They studied the work of historical Latino figures, with some of the original Spanish language included. Many children of color are growing up in bilingual households. In 2007, 55.4 million Americans 5 years of age and older spoke a language other than English at home.
  • They analyzed the vision of America that great writers of color sought to create. And her students realized that our country still isn't quite living up to its ideals. Despite progress toward racial equality with the end of laws that enforced slavery or segregation, we still have a long way to go. Black people still fare worse than white people when it comes to things like wealth , unfair arrests , and health.
  • They read excepts from contemporary writers of color, like Ta-Nehisi Coates who writes about race. Her students are reading and learning from a diverse group of writers. No small thing when they live in a society that overwhelmingly gives more attention to white male writers (and where the number of employees of color in the newspaper industry stagnates at a paltry 12%).
  • They read about the Syrian crisis, and many students wrote about journeys across the border in their family history for class. The opportunity particularly struck one student; the assignment touched him so much that he cried. He never had a teacher honor the journey his family made. And he was proud of his heritage for the first time ever. "One child cried," Smith shared, "and told me he never had a teacher who honored the journey his family took to the United States. He told me he was not ashamed anymore, but instead proud of the sacrifice his parents made for him."

Opportunities like this will only increase as the number of children from immigrant families is steadily increasing. As of 2013, almost 17.4 million children under 18 have at least one immigrant parent.

Smith now identifies not just as an English teacher, but as a social justice teacher.

YES! Now I get why I loved the show as a kid. GIF via "Recess,"

Smith's successful shift in her teaching is an example for teachers everywhere, especially as our schools become increasingly ethnically and racially diverse. About 80% of American teachers are white. But as of last year, the majority of K-12 students in public schools are now children of color.

As America's demographics change, we need to work on creating work that reflects the experiences that our students relate to. And a more diverse curriculum isn't just important for students of color. It's vital for everyone.

As Smith put it, "We, the teachers, are responsible for instilling empathy and understanding in the hearts of all kids. We are responsible for the future of this country."

Parents, Teachers Deliver Over 100,000 Signatures To Time Magazine Demanding Apology

Teachers, parents and union leaders gathered in front of Time magazine headquarters on Thursday to protest the publication’s latest cover. According to a press release from the American Federation of Teachers, the cover (pictured below) depicts teachers as "'rotten apples’ needing to be smashed by Silicon Valley millionaires with no experience in education.”

The activists delivered boxes of petitions to the magazine’s editors, asking them to apologize to teachers for the cover. The petitions –- initiated by the American Federation of Teachers -- had over 100,000 signatures, according to AFT President Randi Weingarten, who spoke at the event.

“A cover that suggests that teachers need to be smashed is dead wrong, and that’s why over 100,000 people have signed petitions in less than a week, saying and asking Time to apologize for its cover,” said Weingarten at the event. “Frankly, of those 102,000, over 11,000 are Time subscribers and over 64,000 are people that use Time magazine in schools.”

She continued, “And why is that important? Because in schools we’re trying to help teach kids how to have a respectful, civil discourse with others. So when they see a magazine with a cover that smashes teachers, what is that teaching kids?”

The AFT petition says the actual article associated with Time’s cover is less offensive. The article follows the efforts of California tech moguls who have successfully worked to derail the state’s teacher tenure process.

“The cover was unmistakable: teachers need to be smashed, and that tech millionaires had a way to do that, and that’s just dead wrong,” said Weingarten when speaking with reporters. “We said the article was by and large balanced; in fact the article suggests that what the Silicon Valley techies were doing wasn’t supported by evidence.”

In recent days, activists also worked to protest the cover through a #TIMEfail hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, and some have called on teachers to boycott the magazine.

Time has responded to the controversy in several ways, although these responses have fallen short of an apology. On Monday, published some of the varied responses to the cover online, including a response by Weingarten. They also made the article free for all readers on Wednesday, while it was previously behind a pay wall.

On Thursday afternoon –- just prior to the protest –- the magazine’s website published a letter from Nancy Gibbs, Time’s managing editor. In the letter, Gibbs says that the article has been mischaracterized.

“Union leaders … are charging that by writing about legal efforts to remove bad teachers from classrooms, with the cover line 'Rotten Apples,' TIME has insulted all teachers; some of them have launched protests and petition drives,” says the letter. “In fact, TIME has nothing but admiration for America’s dedicated teachers and their commitment to excellence.”

The letter continues, “Our mission is to spur discussion of important issues, and in the interest of an informed debate, I am making the story free for all readers on … so everyone can judge for themselves.”

Time did not officially respond to the protest, however.

New York parent Natasha Capers told The Huffington Post that she thought the article failed to address the actual issues that plague education. Capers is a coordinator for the parent-led Coalition For Educational Justice, an organization that seeks to alleviate educational inequalities.

“I just feel like the story does not get to the heart of the real issue, like of what are the things that create educational inequity and the lack of resources in classrooms,” said Capers.

She continued, “No one would ever publish anything showing a fire fighter engulfed in flames or being smashed by a hammer, because it does not do anything to elevate the profession, and it’s just disrespectful.”

Transforming Teaching and Leading

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes the great work of teachers throughout the country, who give of themselves to improve educational opportunities for all students. We support the work of teachers through initiatives and resources that lift the profession and help educators and students succeed.

Leading from the Classroom

Teach to Lead is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to advance student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership, particularly those that allow teachers to stay in the classroom.

The initiative seeks to:

  • Highlight existing state and district systems that are working to support teacher leadership;
  • Share resources to create new opportunities for teacher leadership; and
  • Encourage people at all levels to commit to expanding teacher leadership.

Commit to Lead

Commit to Lead is an online platform that makes it easy for educators to share ideas about teacher leadership and collaborate to bring them to life. The community enables educators everywhere to provide feedback and vote on each other’s ideas, allowing the most talked about ideas to rise to the top, so they can gain traction and prominence in the field.

Watch Arne Duncan's speech announcing Teach to Lead and listen to his discussion with teachers at the National Board's Teaching and Learning conference.

"Teacher leadership means having a voice in the policies and decisions that affect your students, your daily work, and the shape of your profession. " — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

The Teachers Edition

The Teachers Edition is a weekly newsletter written by teachers at the Department of Education that celebrates teaching and leading.

The Teachers Edition highlights great teachers and teacher leadership and offers a number of resources, including examples of best practices and links to interesting reading and emerging research that help educators solve problems and answer burning questions.

  • Subscribe to The Teachers Edition.
  • Review back issues to catch up on resources you may have missed.

The RESPECT Initiative to Transform Teaching and Leading

Respect TeachingRESPECT represents a vision to elevate and transform teaching and leading so that our nation's most important profession—educating our young people—becomes its most respected and supported one.

  • Read President Obama's Blueprint for RESPECT [PDF, 4.3MB], a plan developed after two years of conversations with educators. (36 pages)
  • Watch a video of educators discussing the RESPECT vision.
  • Learn more about the RESPECT initiative, including how RESPECT was developed and formed into a plan for the profession.
  • Get involved in and access RESPECT resources.

Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows

The Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellowships are designed to improve education for students by involving teachers and principals in the development and implementation of national education policy.

Teaching and Principal Fellows either take a year's leave of absence to come to Washington, D.C., or they keep their day jobs and work for the Department part time. Learn more.


Finally a Fix to No Child Left Behind”

The Every Child Succeeds Act, the bipartisan bill to revise and revamp No Child Left Behind, passes the House with bipartisan support.

Yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent the message below to the White House email list, telling people about the progress made to revise & replace No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act will reduce over-testing and one-size-fits all mandates for schools across the country.

If you’re like me, you probably dread an overdue notice, whether it’s for registering your car or returning a library book. For nearly a decade, our national K-12 education law has been overdue for revision, and parents, teachers and students across the country have made it clear that it is time for a reboot.

Over that period of time, America’s fourth graders became today’s high school seniors — ready to graduate and embrace a bright future. The students who come behind them deserve a better law focused on one clear goal of fully preparing them for success in college and future careers.

Although well-intended, the No Child Left Behind Act — the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — has long been broken. We can no longer afford that law’s one-size-fits-all approach, uneven standards, and low expectations for our educational system. That’s why, early on, President Obama and I joined educators and families calling on Congress to fix its flaws in this outdated law.

When Congress didn’t act, we did — providing relief from the most onerous elements of the law for states and school districts willing to embrace reform.

But yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives finally answered the overdue notice and took action to revise and replace No Child Left Behind. This bipartisan plan — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — is good news for our nation’s schools. It is a compromise that builds on the work already underway in states to raise expectations for students and to help them graduate college and career-ready. The bill reflects many of the priorities we’ve put forward over the last six and a half years.

See how far we’ve come since 2009

Today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows. And more students are going to college than ever before. That’s thanks to educators across the country.

ESSA will help cement that progress. All students will be taught to high learning standards that will prepare them for success in college and career. More children will have access to high-quality preschool, delivering educational opportunity earlier for our nation’s youngest learners.

Educators will have more flexibility and support to develop their own systems for improving schools. However, ESSA maintains critical guardrails, especially for the schools and groups of students that are furthest behind.

And with new resources for states to review and reduce the burden of standardized testing, ESSA will enable a smarter approach to eliminating unnecessary tests so that teachers can spend more time ensuring that all students are learning, while still following their progress each academic year and providing critical information for parents about their child’s performance.

As the President has said, education is the civil rights issue of our time. Every American deserves an equal opportunity to succeed, so every child in America — regardless of zip code — deserves a fair shot at a great education. I hope the Senate acts swiftly, so we can all move forward on behalf of our nation’s children.

U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High

“The hard work of teachers, administrators, students and their families has made these gains possible and as a result many more students will have a better chance of going to college, getting a good job, owning their own home, and supporting a family. We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color.” – Secretary Arne Duncan

America’s students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, reaching 82 percent in 2013-14!

What’s more, the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students receiving high school diplomas continues to narrow, and traditionally underserved populations like English language learners and students with disabilities continue to make gains, the data show.

Check out the data for yhourself on the NCES website .

Curry County Public Schools


OAKS, avg







Total students (2010)

Student/ Teacher Ratio

Math** (2011)

Reading **


Rank Change From 2010

721 Oregon Elementary Schools Ranked

Driftwood Elementary

School District 2cj

Port Orford

135 -

Kalmiopsis Elementary

School District 17c


125 -

Riley Creek Elementary

Central Curry District1

Gold Beach

114 -
376 Oregon Middle Schools Ranked

Driftwood Elementary

School District 2cj

Port Orford

41 -

Riley Creek Elementary

Central Curry District1

Gold Beach

42 -

Azalea Middle School

School District 17c


84 +
311 Oregon High Schools Ranked

Pacific HS

School District 2cj

Port Orford

97 +

Brookings-Harbor HS

School District 17c


55 -

Gold Beach HS

Central Curry District1

Gold Beach

5 +

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept of Education, and Oregon Department of Education
* Rank is determined by adding each school's average OAKS Math score with the average OAKS Reading score to form a combined average score. The school with the highest combined score is ranked #1.
** The values used in the OAKS columns are % met standard.

What Will Trump Do on Education? Seeking Clues on Common Core, School Choice, ESSA

Americans are taking stock of what Donald Trump’s election as president and the accompanying tectonic political shift means for the country going forward. In education, the best bet may be to examine known quantities — officials already in charge and those likely to join a Trump administration.

Rick Hess, education policy director at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote this morning that Trump’s early priorities are likely to lie outside education: in health care, foreign treaties and trade agreements, tax cuts and the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

“When education does come up, who really knows what a Trump administration would actually try to do on schooling?” Hess wrote. “Sure, Trump’s said some things. … As I’ve noted before, ‘There’s no reason to believe that Trump necessarily means what he’s said on any issue. In truth, he seems to regard policy declarations as performance art.’ So we’ll see if he devises a clear agenda on school choice or higher education, and whether he pushes it.”

Those “things” have included advocating for expanding school choice, ending the Common Core, instituting some reforms in higher education and doing away with gun-free school zones — the latter of which would require Congress to overturn an existing law and probably doesn’t have enough support outside a very limited, very conservative wing of the Republican Party.

During his victory speech Tuesday night, Trump said that “we are going to fix our inner cities” and rebuild schools, along with other infrastructure projects.

In the past, he has talked about abolishing the Education Department – probably unlikely, given the sheer complexity of doing so and the fact that the department is the primary conduit for issuing student loans. More likely is a scaled-back agency, one that could well halt the Obama administration’s active work in areas like school discipline disparities and Title IX enforcement regarding sexual assault on college campuses and protections for transgender students.

Far-reaching regulatory proposals implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, like the controversial “supplement not supplant” rule on school funding, will probably be gone too.

Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, wrote in a blog post Wednesday morning that Trump’s election “is going to throw a huge wrench into the implementation timeline” for ESSA. He urged Education Secretary John King and the department to pull their proposals and work with Trump’s transition team to keep implementation on track.

For all the questions that remain, there are some people in power, either in Congress or who have Trump’s ear, whose views are well-known. For a President Trump, who has indicated he isn’t particularly interested in the machinations of policy, looking to those loyalists may provide a better preview.

• Vice President–Elect Mike Pence: The Indiana governor was a hero to school choice advocates in his home state, where he pushed for charter schools and expanded voucher programs. He also signed the first bill pulling a state out of the Common Core.

• Sen. Lamar Alexander: The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has pushed back against the department’s ESSA regulatory proposals. (Read The 74’s interview with Alexander from this summer.)

• Rep. Virginia Foxx: The likely next chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee has a background in higher education and generally holds mainstream conservative views that value limited federal regulation and intervention in education.

• House Speaker Paul Ryan: In a speech Wednesday morning, Ryan again touted his “Better Way” agenda that calls for the kind of school voucher program Trump has supported.

• New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: The leader of Trump’s transition team made headlines for his fights with teachers unions – groups sure to have diminished influence going forward.

• Dr. Ben Carson: Trump’s former political rival has been rumored to be among the possibilities for education secretary. He’s a fan of school choice — including homeschooling — and against the Common Core.

Supreme Court Preview: What You Need to Know About the 3 New School Cases at the High Court

The Supreme Court returned Monday for its fall term, one justice down but with several potentially pivotal education-related cases on the docket.

Last year, the eyes of the education world were on the Supreme Court when the justices heard the blockbuster-that-wasn’t Friedrichs case, which would have decided whether states could force teachers who aren’t union members to pay dues. Justice Antonin Scalia died before the court could release its decision, resulting in a 4–4 tie that left intact a lower court ruling allowing states to impose mandatory dues if they so chose.

This year, the court will hear at least three education-related cases: two involving special education and one that could have an impact on vouchers granted to religious institutions.

Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools: What rights do disabled students have under various disability laws?

The case concerns E.F., a girl with cerebral palsy, whose Michigan school district refused to let her bring her service dog to class to assist with tasks such as using the bathroom, opening and closing doors and picking up dropped objects. The district cited concerns that the dog, a goldendoodle named Wonder, would cause allergies and distractions among other students and instead provided E.F. with an adult human aide. E.F.’s parents, Stacy and Brent Fry, homeschooled her for two years before moving her to another district.

Her parents claim that the district’s refusal to allow Wonder at school violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, laws that guarantee appropriate accommodations — including the use of service animals — to people with disabilities. The school district countered that providing E.F. with a one-on-one human aide satisfied its obligations under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires schools to provide a free, appropriate public education to students with disabilities.

The Frys filed a complaint with the federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, which ruled that even though the district didn’t cause E.F. any educational harm by banning Wonder from the school, it still violated her rights. OCR said failing to allow Wonder would be akin to requiring a student in a wheelchair to be carried, or mandating that a blind student be guided by a teacher instead of using a cane or service animal.

The Frys then sued the district under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, which, unlike IDEA, allow plaintiffs to collect monetary damages when their rights have been violated.

But a district court threw out the lawsuit because under the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986, students must exhaust their legal options under IDEA before they can bring a lawsuit under other disability rights laws.

The Frys say their case is different — that they never claimed the district didn’t provide a free, appropriate public education as required under IDEA, but rather that the district violated other federal laws. The Handicapped Children’s Protection Act, they argue, restricts only claims that could also be addressed under IDEA.

A panel of judges from the Sixth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision. In their view, simply asking for damages doesn’t excuse plaintiffs from having to exhaust their options under IDEA.

For the Frys’ appeal to the Supreme Court, the U.S. government has filed a brief siding with the family, as have the states of Illinois and Minnesota. A coalition of disability rights groups wrote in a brief supporting the Frys that requiring children with disabilities to exhaust IDEA requirements “contravenes national values” and can cause significant harm, potentially in the form of lost years of education benefits while families fight for particular therapies. The groups also pointed to a half-dozen cases around the country of children with various disabilities in similar circumstances.

The justices will hear arguments in the case on October 31.

Endrew F. v. Douglas County Schools: What level of education must schools provide for students with disabilities?

Endrew, a student with autism, attended public schools in Douglas County, Colo., from pre-K through fourth grade. In second and third grade, he began having behavioral problems, such as yelling and crying. By fourth grade, his behavioral problems got so bad that he regularly had to be removed from the classroom and could not make progress toward the goals in his individualized education plan, his parents, Joseph F. and Jennifer F., wrote in their brief urging the court to hear the case.

The family decided to place Endrew in a private school and sought reimbursement for tuition from the Douglas County schools.

An administrative judge denied the claim, saying that Endrew had received “some” educational benefit in the Douglas County schools. The U.S. District Court in Colorado upheld the administrative law judge’s ruling, saying the intent of IDEA was “more to open the door of public education to handicapped children on appropriate terms than to guarantee any particular level of education once inside,” and that since Endrew had shown some progress, his parents weren’t entitled to tuition reimbursement. A circuit court sided with the district.

The problem, the lawsuit says, is that courts of appeals around the country are “in disarray” over what constitutes an appropriate education for children with disabilities. The Supreme Court in a 1982 case specifically declined to set a standard, saying, “We do not attempt today to establish any one test for determining the adequacy of educational benefits conferred upon all children covered by [IDEA].”

Because of this, Endrew’s parents wrote, in two district court circuits, the level of educational benefit must be “meaningful”; in five, the standard is “just-above-trivial,” and in the other five, the standard is unclear.

“Resolving the conflict among the circuits will ensure that millions of children with disabilities receive a consistent level of education, while providing parents and educators much-needed guidance regarding their rights and obligations,” Endrew’s parents wrote.

The federal government filed a brief urging the court to take the case, arguing that “there is no justification for providing children with disabilities different degrees of protection under federal law depending on where they happen to live.” The government also said the court should set a higher standard for educational benefit.

The school district, in a brief urging justices not to take the case, argued that any split among circuits was, basically, semantics, and that any changes to the standard should come from Congress.

The justices agreed to hear the case but haven’t yet scheduled arguments.

Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley: Can states exclude religious institutions from aid programs, and what is the possible impact on vouchers?

Trinity Lutheran Church operates a preschool in Missouri. It had applied for a state program that provides refunds for nonprofits that replace playground surfaces using material made from recycled tires. The program is funded through a tax on sales of new tires.

The state collects applications annually and ranks them, then awards as many refunds as possible, depending on the amount of tax collected. In 2012, Trinity Lutheran’s application was ranked No. 5 out of 44, but Missouri did not provide a refund, arguing that doing so would violate a prohibition in the state constitution against public funding of religious activities. The church sued Sarah Parker Pauley, director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which administered the program.

The church argued that this action violates its rights under the U.S. Constitution — free exercise of religion and the right to equal application of the law. Missouri says its refusal to fund the new playground doesn’t prevent the church or its members from exercising their religious rights.

Lower courts sided with the state, primarily citing a 2004 Supreme Court decision that upheld Washington State’s decision not to give scholarships to students pursuing theology degrees.

Trinity Lutheran has the backing of a group of states, several religious liberty groups and a collection of conservative Republican members of Congress. Missouri is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, groups arguing for the separation of church and state, and the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union.

Upholding the lower courts’ ruling would jeopardize state programs that provide medical services, gifted and special education, transportation, lab equipment, security upgrades and other benefits to religiously affiliated schools, the Association of Christian Schools International wrote in a brief. A change “could also prevent lower-income students from attending religiously affiliated primary schools” by barring tuition vouchers or scholarships, it said.

By the group’s count, 13 states offer vouchers or scholarships for private schools, and 14 offer tax credits to companies that donate to similar scholarship programs. All of them, the group claims, could be in jeopardy.

The justices have not yet scheduled arguments. The court agreed to hear the case before Scalia died, and since rulings involving religion are likely to be close, the justices may be waiting to see if a ninth member will be confirmed to avoid a probable tie.

Flashcards Understanding the Common Core: What it Is, What it Isn’t

A plane passenger asked a teacher a kind of rude question about her job. She responded eloquently!

It's annoying when people mistakenly think your job is really simple.

Most people's lines of work are more intricate and multilayered than those who don't do that work would guess. So most of us can think of a time someone reductively assumed that our jobs are very simple (whether it's writer, janitor, stay-at-home parent, or any job really).

That's what happened when teacher Lily Eskelsen García, who now works with the National Education Association, boarded a plane and found herself next to a passenger who, like many, was confused about what's going on with public schools in America and wanted her to boil down the problems too simplistically. What he said would have thrown me for a loop, too.

"Darlin... I'm a businessman, I want you to bottom-line it for me. I want you to tell me right now. What is the one single thing that would solve all of our problems in public schools?"

The fact is, the "bottom line" when it comes to public schools right now seems a maelstrom of many things:

  • Political power plays
  • Reduced funding, which makes them less able to meet student needs
  • Juxtaposition against voucher and charter schools that siphon away some of that very funding and can cherry-pick the top students (which artificially inflates the perception of their comparative success)
  • Increased focus on testing rather than teaching and supporting
  • More students than ever needing stability at school that they may not be getting at home

Phew! There is a LOT to unpack in what's going on with public schools.

So it's hella fulfilling to hear how García swiftly handled her fellow passenger's rudely phrased question:

García turned his words right back at him, making it clear that fixing education will take a lot more than a single buzzword. Even better, she named around 25 different services teachers and schools provide in addition to academics, like breakfasts and teaching children to brush their teeth properly. She also made a really great point about how confused people aren't the enemy, but folks we need to educate more fully about the reality of public schools.

Whether you're a teacher, a student who supports teachers, or someone who feels invested in the success of public schools and kids, you know that schools are a complicated undertaking. They're not going to be fixed with a quick gimmick or one bright idea. We expect public schools to do a whole heckuva lot, and the least we can do is understand and provide support for all of that hard work.