Our View

Pardon the Disruption

Betsy DeVos is hailed as a “disrupter” in public education. She is an advocate of parent rights, taxpayer-funded vouchers and school choice.

This concept of a disrupter in education is music to school leaders’ ears — as we all think education needs to be disrupted. We believe an education that engages parents results in positive outcomes for students. We also believe that schools should have choice, freedom from the regulations and foundations that do not support optimum learning and growth. We also oppose regulations that work against providing the best learning experiences for students.

We think school leaders already are disrupting education in places. Our public schools are doing an outstanding job considering that in many communities they also serve as health clinics, food pantries, libraries, recreation facilities and one of the few safe places in the community. Schools currently enjoy the highest graduation rate in our nation’s history, the largest number of students of all races attending college and the lowest dropout rates.

Yet even with all of these positives, we expect even more from our schools. School leaders are leading the charge to make improvements that will contribute to more students becoming the next computer scientists, programmers, manufacturers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bakers and organization leaders.

Spreading Excellence
In the U.S., more than 8,000 schools have earned the honor of the National Blue Ribbon excellence in education award since 1982. What is significant about this time frame is that the modern “reform era” is said to have begun in 1983 with the “A Nation at Risk” report from President Reagan’s Commission on Excellence in Education.

Recently, through partnerships with groups such as AASA, school leaders are implementing successful digital conversions, personalized learning and computer science instruction to meet the needs of today’s students. Excellence in education is alive and well in our schools. Of course, there are public schools in need of help and transformation. We believe in replicating excellence everywhere it is needed.

We want Secretary DeVos to know we wish to work with her and to disrupt together. Rather than having our federal government support charter schools, the focus should be on removing mandates and barriers to allow all of our nation’s public schools to become hubs of innovation.

The models of where this already is working in public education can be found around the country. Elementary schools are becoming personalized learning centers where students’ individual academic needs are met daily. Robotics, coding and engineering are being introduced and supported to inspire some of our youngest students.

High schools are helping students earn job-ready certifications so they can pursue advanced degrees in college or enter the workforce. These programs are supporting the workforce in high-need fields such as advanced manufacturing, technology and nursing. The renewed emphasis on high-quality career and technical education is positioning our nation for competition and success. All students deserve high-quality, life-focused education.

With charters and vouchers, we would be using public money to bolster opportunity for a few while depleting opportunities for the many.

A Combined Campaign
Let’s disrupt education together. We don’t think it’s an option — we believe it is a matter of national economic survival. Let’s combine the experts who have devoted their professional lives to learning, unlearning and relearning and the government officials charged with policy and regulation so we can lead and disrupt together. Let’s act together as if our future is at stake — because it is!
Brian Creasman is superintendent of Fleming County Schools in Flemingsburg, Ky. E-mail: brian.creasman@fleming.kyschools.us. Twitter: @FCSSuper. Nicholas Polyak is superintendent of Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park, Ill. Michael Lubelfeld is superintendent of Deerfield Public Schools District 109 in Deerfield, Ill.