In the Words of Jack Jennings

Posted on: Thu, 12/28/2017 - 09:00

Reflecting on the thoughts of a leading voice in American education policy

Ever since I heard him at the National Conference on Education in 2016, I have admired Jack Jennings and the work he has done to support public education in our country. I used his book Presidents, Congress and Public Education for my Superintendent’s Book Club last year and was delighted when he offered to come speak at one of our meetings. Recently, he attended our Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM) meeting to talk about education policy and advocacy. As usual, his words resonate with me and make me reflect. And so I wanted to share a few of his comments with you.

Input matters.  Mr. Jennings talked about previous federal policy that matched funding with accountability. Recently, the trend is to add more accountability without the funding to support the new demands. He encouraged educators to do a better job of acknowledging that we need money to achieve the goals being set for us.

The problem with school choice is that it is designed to help “some,” and the fundamental belief about public education in America is that we are to help “all.”  Mr. Jennings emphasized the fact that students today are having more success than students did 40 or 50 years ago.  He believes that our public schools are doing a good job, and that we cannot stray from the fundamental need to educate all students—especially our students living in poverty.

The best legislation came from bipartisan efforts.  Having spent over 40 years on Capitol Hill, he had the opportunity to witness firsthand how to get legislation passed.  This comment resonated with me because with our current political climate, this is becoming more and more of a challenge, but the reality is that we need to come together to make tough choices now!

Research is very clear that the best teachers have strong verbal skills and empathy.  Mr. Jennings encouraged our PSSAM members to focus on putting the best teacher possible in every classroom. He acknowledged the differences between America’s teacher training programs and those in other countries. Our discussion led to agreement that offering tuition-free college degrees for highly capable students who want to be teachers would be a great start.

Universal pre-kindergarten is a critical first step in addressing achievement gaps.  This is another area where the research is clear and where other countries are way ahead of the United States.  He noted it is time to stop talking about it, and do it.

Thank you, Mr. Jennings, for being a voice of reason when it comes to what we need for public education in America!

If you liked this blog, be sure to read the guest blog Jack Jennings did for us. And if you enjoyed this post, please share your reactions on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper and feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.