American Education Week gives us a formal opportunity to thank the educators who serve our nation's children and reflect back on the important impact our own teachers have had on our lives. Educators today are charged with helping to ensure that students leave our schools ready to go to college, have successful careers, and compete in a global economy. Indeed, my guess is that every educator you know wants every child to succeed, and invests tremendous time and energy into making sure that happens. Absent an occasional disagreement, I suspect that most of you are extremely happy with the education that your children are earning in our local schools.
Like all of you, I will take this week to formally and informally acknowledge my fellow educators. My hope, however, is that none of us wait for American Education Week to involve ourselves in our local school districts and acknowledge the important work happening inside. Educating students today is more challenging than ever, and educators can't do it alone. Consider how much schools have changed just in the last 15 years. What has been added to mission of our schools? Hopefully, important programs such as the expansion of preschool education, health and nutrition supports, and dual-credit course offerings are among just a few of the initiatives that jump to your mind. There can be interesting discussion and possible disagreement that these initiatives have taxed educational resources beyond their current funding, but there should be no disagreement that valuable programs such as these need to be done somewhere, and the schools are the best place to do them.
Just as interesting to consider - what has been removed from the mission of the schools? Certainly, all schools have evolved and are approaching their mission differently and even better than in the past, but I am hard-pressed to come up with anything that has been moved from the oversight of the schools to some other entity. Leading education reformer Jaymie Vollmer, a former Iowa CEO and one-time critic of public schools has researched the history of responsibilities added to America's public schools since their inception in the 1600s and documented it as part of his efforts to engage communities in what he calls a "great conversation" about the support schools need today. I encourage you to review his findings at www.jamievollmer.com/. It will be an eye-opener for you to see the great changes in expectations for schools over time.
Why do we depend on and demand so much of our schools? in my opinion, it is because not only are schools the most logical place to advance what is best for children, they are the best place to do that. Time and time again, as the mission has expanded, schools have risen to the challenge. They are filled with people dedicated to improving the lives and futures of children, and supported by people like you that have the same aspirations and goals. Educators today have a lengthy list of responsibilities and students need all of us-teachers, parents and communities-working together on their behalf. Please consider partnering with your local school district not just this week, but every day.
Dr. Roark Horn is the Chief Administrator of Area Education Agency 267, based in Cedar Falls. He can be reached at 319-273-8204. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency's service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.