We asked prominent voices in education—from policy makers and teachers to activists and parents—to look beyond laws, politics, and funding and imagine a utopian system of learning. They went back to the drawing board—and the chalkboard—to build an educational Garden of Eden. We’ve published their answers to one question each day this week. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Today’s assignment: The Evaluation. How are schools held accountable?
But first, in honor of the series’ final installment, we’re including a brief note from U.S. Education Secretary John King that outlines his vision of the ideal school:
The ideal school wouldn’t need to be fancy but it would be clean and painted, the floors polished, the windows sparkling. The adults would treat it like a temple to learning, communicating to students, teachers, parents, and community members that what goes on there is important and worthy of their best efforts. The school’s leader would teach part-time and spend a lot of time in classrooms observing, to give his colleagues clear, actionable feedback on how to improve their practice. Teachers would write the school’s curriculum, with the goal of preparing all students for success after high school, in college or careers. They would assign their students work worth doing—from reading meaningful literature to stressing problem solving in mathematics to using original documents in social studies and teaching science through experiments. The curriculum would include music, art, dance, and physical education. The students at the ideal school would be racially diverse, speak different languages, and practice different religions. Students from well-off families would study side by side with those from modest circumstances. The teachers would also be diverse, so students would see persons of color in positions of authority. A health clinic, a social worker, and a mental-health counselor would serve students and their families. The ideal school would be a place where students want to show up every day, parents are involved and confident their students are being well served, and the adults in the building enthusiastically embrace their responsibility to do whatever it might take to help students succeed.