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'For Our Children, It's Literally a Matter of Life or Death:' John B. King, Jr. Describes Education Goals for Next Administration

Today, current Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. described a series of goals for the Trump administration to consider while continuing to work towards improving America’s education system.

King asked the Trump administration and all Americans to set aside "old debates and move forward together," citing an opportunity for progress afforded by the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

He discussed his optimism concerning the ESSA, which will go into effect under the next administration:

"ESSA...rightly empowers state and district leaders to develop strategies that address their unique challenges and needs. This exciting new flexibility could usher in a wave of innovation and improvement in education—and we should embrace it. But that doesn't mean every district should go it alone without guardrails for protecting students, guidelines for carrying it out, or the good ideas forged by peers through years of trial and toil," he said.

He asks that ESSA be used to help states develop quality accountability systems that "are rich and varied—that include measures such as chronic absenteeism, access to and success in advanced courses, or new approaches to discipline that help students improve their behavior and their academic achievement."

His speech also mentioned elevating the teacher profession to ensure that teachers get the respect and support they need.

"Here's another false dichotomy: teachers are either exalted as the singular solution to all our education problems, or they are criticized for failing to solve them single-handedly. We can make a better choice: we can recognize that teaching is an incredibly difficult job. Teachers make dozens of decisions every minute, hundreds during a school day and thousands every week. We can invest in teachers' preparation and development and welcome their expertise and leadership in issues that affect their students and classrooms each day," he said.

He asked the next administration to not forget about how important equalizing funding is to ensure that the disadvantaged students are no longer put at a further disadvantage by attending an underfunded school.

"Federal dollars cannot begin to offset these inequalities. Yet, even a modest proposal to ensure that federal funds reach the students they are meant for has faced fierce opposition inside the beltway. But that's just the start of the conversation we need to be having about equitable access to resources," he said.

Finally, he expressed hope that the next administration will continue working to change the segregation that still plagues America’s schools.

"Diverse schools are great preparation for all students. They help more children succeed, help broaden students' perspectives, and help prepare them to participate in a global workforce. And I am convinced that the growing conflicts in this country over race and religion and language would be profoundly reduced if our children were able to learn and play alongside classmates who were different from themselves and if they regularly encountered teachers and leaders of color in their schools."

King admitted that he is unsure of what his next step will be after leaving the Administration but said he will continue working in education to "remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals."

Read his full speech here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

12/14/2016

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