The political education landscape in the United States is filled with politicians claiming to understand what kids in schools all over truly need. The important voices that are missing in these ever important conversations are those of the recipients of all these decisions being made, the students. Education reform organizations around the country are working to combat these trends and put students at the forefront of these conversations, as they should be.
During my time in college, I chose to become involved with, and eventually became the leader of a chapter of Students for Education Reform (SFER). SFER provided me with the platform to speak about issues that mattered to me and the education in my community. As an alumni of the same schools that we were seeking to improve, I had experienced these inequities first hand. The difference and impact that SFER created was to provide me with the skillset and platform to speak up against the inequities and injustices and to fight to create action-oriented change. SFER provided me with the training I needed to be able to pursue change within a political landscape that was designed to maintain the status quo. This process was life changing for me and allowed me to guide my decisions in order to put myself at the center of the change we fought for as an organization.
Throughout my time with SFER, it became clear that there were many issues facing my home district of West Contra Costa. The most recurring one, however, was the fact that teachers were not signing up in numbers to come teach in our community. Additionally, the teachers that were here, were leaving our district frequently and in large numbers. It was clear that teacher retention was a big problem and there was a need for efficient, highly qualified teachers to serve our students. Coincidentally, I was a part of SFER during the time in college when I needed to make a decision about what I would do after graduation. Having learned so much about the inequities facing our students, I made the decision to become a part of the solution. That semester, I made the decision to apply to Teach for America and began the credentialing process to become a high school English teacher in Richmond.
When people speak negatively about education reform, it is usually done so as a general attack on those trying to improve education around the country. People and organizations are taking different approaches to tackle the same issue of educational injustice, which has existed long before education reform became as popular as it is today.
In a recent interview on PBS News Hour, John Merrow, the author of “Addicted to Reform,” states an alternative to our current view on teachers and students by allowing our kids to create, “knowledge, that’s what they — and they repeatedly do that, they will be ready for life in a democracy. They will be ready to be workers, to participate, be good citizens.” This is not the education I received during my time in school at my district. This failed reality encapsulates the need for education reform. Education reform changed the path my life was on, and it inspired me to take action against the injustices I was so passionate about. Without my years of experience within education reform, I would not have understood the importance of effective teachers and have made the decision to become one myself.
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