Leading on Education

I can tell you from the time I served as Superintendent of Denver Public Schools that parents, students, and teachers all want schools to be community centers -- places where families and entire communities come together to learn, and raise the bar on achievement.

Unfortunately, too often this doesn't happen and our schools fail our kids.

I believe there's not a harder job in the world than being a teacher, and there isn't a job with a more direct impact on the performance of our students.

So how do we attract the best talent to work in our classrooms?

We need to update our theory of human capital. Put simply, our education system was designed around a labor market that hasn't existed for at least a half-century, so the way we attract and retain talent in our classrooms must change as well. If teaching isn't rewarding and challenging, we're going to continue to lose our best teachers to work in other fields.

From my time as superintendent, I know the leadership that principals provide on a daily basis is key to retaining talented teachers. This is especially true in high-need and rural schools.

That's why I've introduced the Lead Act to create more opportunity for our best principals and make sure more of them end up in the schools where they're needed most. My bill will:

  • Establish Regional School Leadership Centers of Excellence to train principals to lead turnarounds by partnering them with non-profits, institutions of higher learning, and state or local agencies;
  • Establish a School Leadership Academy to empower principals with a framework for leading successful transformations; and,
  • Provide principals with access to research and statistics to assess the effectiveness of their programs.

To me the burden of proof isn't on people looking for ways to improve our schools; it's on people who want to keep things the same. Our current system isn't working, and too many kids are being left behind. We can't settle for failure from our schools -- if that's all we expect from them, then that's exactly what we'll get.

Instead, as communities we must provide more leadership, demand better results, and own the outcomes for our schools. That's exactly the point of reforms like the Lead Act: our kids deserve the best opportunity to grow up and be leaders and innovators.

Michael Bennet is the former Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and currently the junior United States Senator from Colorado. Join his campaign for U.S. Senate at BennetForColorado.com.

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