2013: The Year of Children First
This should be a school year when “children first” becomes more than a slogan but a movement that goes directly to the heart of the matter about children’s health and safety. If our kids aren’t healthy and safe, we can’t expect them to attend school regularly and move up to the next level, to say nothing of meeting the laudable but challenging new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). We need to work with School Safety and law enforcement agencies to make our schools less vulnerable to intruders and to get guns off the streets. We must stick with last year’s crusade to accelerate the DOE’s timetable for removing PCB-tainted fluorescent lights from classrooms. Our efforts were somewhat successful last spring only after students and teachers were injured by exploding lights at a Harlem elementary school. We also must be as vigilant about minimizing the many health barriers to learning that are burdening our students, particularly asthma, which affects more than 140,000 of them. CSA has embarked on an asthma awareness subway campaign and is collaborating with Children’s Health Fund on a variety of asthma initiatives.
By improving our children’s health and safety, we’re improving the conditions that slowly allow them to meet the academic standards laid out in the CCSS, which were brought to us by the bipartisan National Governors Association. At the start of this school year, we should vow to help students, parents and educators understand that the Common Core isn’t about assessments but about a set of expectations around which skills kids need to succeed in life and keep their country competitive. To accomplish this, education officials are going to have to turn around the misconception they created that the standards were more about tests than content. Making amends for past missteps will be especially challenging locally as NYC tries to ease, rather than lurch, into a transition from one schools chancellor to another. In other transitions like this, the city threw the baby out with the bathwater, but let’s save the baby this time around. Remember, children first.#
Ernest A. Logan is the President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, AFL-CIO.