After Election Day
Last week, the Grand Old Party had much to celebrate.
Across the country, Republican candidates picked up seats in Congress, even taking control of the U.S. Senate. Here in Colorado, Republicans took over the state Senate and narrowed the Democratic majority in the House. Republican candidate Bob Beauprez came very close to taking the governor’s office, with John Hickenlooper holding him off by a slim margin as counting continued into the early morning following Election Day.
As a long time student of elections and politics, I wasn’t at all surprised by the results. Mid-term elections tend to favor the out-party (and tend to particularly favor Republicans). I also won’t be surprised in a few years when things swing the other direction … and just as hard. I can clearly recall a fall morning a few years ago, when the talking heads were wondering how the Republican Party could possibly survive in the wake of the devastating losses of the 2008 general election. Any casual follower of election results can tell you that our political system moves in cycles — it ebbs and flows.
Still, there is little question that Republicans have many victories to savor. And also, much planning ahead about on what can be done with their newfound (and powerful) majority status in many states and in Washington, D.C.
Within education circles, the pontification has already begun about what changes to education policy may emerge at the state and national level. Reduced federal involvement, a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and (paradoxically) some kind of scheme to leverage federal dollars for school voucher programs — all of these may be at play.
Rather than add to the loud cacophony of opinions about what might happen as the result of the election outcome, I’ll instead focus on what should be happening if we really want our education system to be globally competitive — an outcome our kids deserve.
Perhaps surprisingly, a comparative review of the historical contexts of the world’s best performing education systems does not show that a political takeover and surge from side of the aisle for another results in genuine and sustained system improvement.
Rather than education policy being some kind of grand game of political Ping-Pong, the world’s best education systems show years of bipartisan collaboration and restraint. And instead of an ideologically tilted set of education policy priorities, we see a shared agenda that is focused on systemically raising the quality of the education profession, raising standards for teaching and learning, and of supporting quality instructional approaches. Coupled with these “in-school” elements, we see a strong commitment to making sure all schools are of quality and that every child has the supports they need to come to school ready to learn.
The equation is actually very simple. Quality educators plus quality standards plus quality instruction plus a real commitment to equity equals a strong education system.
The world’s best education systems remain focused on these foundational elements. It matters only at the margins what happens from one election to the next because all sides are focused on delivering on this agenda.
This sort of intentionally non-partisan and non-ideological approach allows the education system to remain focused on the work of genuine quality for the decade (or longer) it actually takes to transform into a high performer. Such a shared vision and approach is especially true in a “purple” state like Colorado, where the next election is always going to bring a different power configuration into reality.
I’m not at all sure what will happen next in terms of education policy — either for our nation or for the Centennial State. What I am sure of is that we will never be the high performing education system our children deserve until we are more serious about genuine quality than we are about who won the last election.
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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