Elections and Education: What difference does it make? 
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 8:17AM
Jim Nelson

Two weeks ago, we watched Americans again vote for change, only two short years after an historic election. But can Washington and our state governments really change, and if they do, what does that mean for those of us in education? I doubt that any of us know the answers at this point, but we must remain engaged in the process if we are to fulfill our mission---to close the achievement gap by preparing ALL students for college readiness and success in a global society.

Having spent time as Commissioner of Education in Texas, as superintendent of a large near urban district, and now as Executive Director of AVID Center, I know firsthand that elections matter when it comes to education policy. As I write this blog, new and experienced legislators in Washington and all around the country are preparing for very difficult legislative sessions. In California and Texas alone, the combined budget shortfalls facing state policy makers appear to approach $50 Billion (yes that’s with a B). As education is always one of the largest elements of state funding, cuts have to be expected. So, yes, elections clearly matter to education as laws are passed regarding school funding.

Our responsibility is to ensure that the focus remains on students and the elements essential to their success. As a nation, we have seen our relative performance slip when compared to students around the globe, and I would suggest that no one, regardless of political philosophy, should find that acceptable. Ultimately, this will cause great harm to our economic and social well being as a nation. Is it acceptable for the next generation of Americans, for the first time in our history, to have less opportunity than their parents? Of course not.

So I would suggest that in these difficult and interesting times, AVID has never been more important. As we speak with policy makers in legislative arenas in states and in DC, we should remind them of the common precepts that make AVID so important: 1) putting students’ needs first; 2) using data effectively; 3) knowing, understanding, and utilizing the relevant research; 4) listening to those on the frontlines, our teachers and students; 5) avoiding shortcuts as fidelity of implementation is critical; and 6) providing quality professional development is essential. These precepts must drive our educational priorities at all times, but especially in these times when budgets are so stretched.

As I remind some of my education friends who are particularly disheartened by these impending budget woes, students will still show up at the schoolhouse door every day. Our job is to make sure they are challenged and engaged while they are there. That mission will always be our calling. All the best.

Article originally appeared on AVID Adventures in College & Career Readiness (http://avidcollegeready.org/).
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