And while we're at it, let's work with teachers and principals to finally develop assessments that teach our kids to become more than just good test-takers.
Tests Should Not Be Punishment for Teachers
The goal of educational testing should be the same as medical testing - to diagnose a student's needs so you can help address them.
Tests should not be designed as punishment for teachers and students, they should be used as tools to help prepare our children to grow and compete in a knowledge economy. Tests should support learning, not just accounting.
One last point. There's a lot of talk out there about accountability in education. I share that concern, and I've called for more accountability in our schools myself.
Tired of Hearing Teachers Blamed for Failures
But I also believe that before we can hold our teachers accountable for the results our schools need, we have to hold ourselves accountable for giving teachers the support that they need.
That's where accountability starts with a government that puts its money where its mouth is, and parents and community members who instill the value of education in their students. I am tired of hearing teachers blamed for our collective failures.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to take a bus ride with a group of Iowa teachers and discuss their thoughts on education.
Afterwards, one teacher said, "I don't think any teacher minds being accountable when the measuring tool is fair to educators and not about satisfying unrealistic goals."
She's right. If we do all this - if we go into struggling schools and provide more pay and better support for our teachers; if we allow them to teach our children to their strengths instead of just a test - then the teachers I've met wouldn't mind some accountability.
But we need to start doing our part first. When it comes to education in America, we need to start holding ourselves accountable. This goes for our government and our leaders.
Turn Off TV, Put Away Video Games
It also goes for parents. There is no policy or program that can substitute for a parent who is deeply involved in their child's education from day one - who is willing to turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child, or help with homework, or attend those parent/teacher conferences. As parents too, many of you know what I'm talking about here.p A few years ago, a little girl at Earhart Elementary in Chicago was asked the secret to her academic success.
She said, "I just study hard every night because I like learning. My teacher wants me to be a good student, and so does my mother. I don't want to let them down."
Allowing Children to Achieve Their God-Given Potential
We have quite a challenge ahead of us, but we've overcome great challenges before. Over the course of two centuries, we have continually upheld the promise of education for all as that which allows any child to transcend the barriers of race or class or background and achieve their God-given potential. And we have risen together as a result.
It is teachers and education support professionals who have always made this possible - who have always reminded us that that little girl in Chicago is not 'these kids', she is our child. She doesn't want to let us down, and now it is our generation's turn to ensure that we won't let her down either.
I know you'll be leading the way, and I look forward to standing with you in the fight. Thank you.