In the late 2000s – when I was on a team leading authorizing and education change work for the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office – I had the incredible opportunity to meet Mayor Mike Bloomberg at a National League of Cities meeting. Although our meeting was brief, it left a lasting impact and reinforced what I knew to be right about creating schools that work for all students.
As a young education reformer, hearing Mr. Bloomberg encourage me to, “Keep quality at the forefront” of my work, and remind me that, “…everything else is secondary,” was profoundly influential and continues to be so today as I now lead NACSA. Hearing about Mr. Bloomberg’s historic investment in quality charter schools earlier this week, reminded me of that advice that shaped my actions and career in education.
As I’ve continued to lead NACSA with quality at the forefront of our work, we too are energized to tackle the deep inequities our students are facing because of the pandemic (and many that existed long before). We also are aligned that public education should be, “based on evidence, centered on children, and built around achievement, excellence and accountability for all.”
The time for bold action is most definitely now. But the work of creating great schools for students must evolve if education is to live up to the high aspirations communities are rightly demanding in these new times. Communities, particularly communities of color and those in lower-income areas, are clearly telling us they desire and need new, different, and more effective educational opportunities that allow all students to navigate this increasingly complex world.
Authorizing is a key lever in creating excellent educational opportunities for all students, and must also evolve to meet these new opportunities. When done well, it can ensure that we embrace smarter and more effective ways of organizing school and learning, centering around students, and really listening to what communities are telling us they need. It can accelerate the drive for more leaders of color and those with deep ties to the lived experiences of students entering education and thriving. Authorizing principles and practices can ensure schools are operated properly, while maximizing educators’ time advancing student achievement and wellness in charter schooling and beyond.
And the best way we can make this change, living up to Mayor Bloomberg’s call to high-quality education, is to listen to communities and act from their aspirations for students. Communities hold critical answers to how we build high-quality learning for all students. They want nothing but the absolute best for children. We must join and act with them – now.