I feel for Aurora Lora as she resigns as superintendent of the OKCPS. She cares deeply about our children. I hope we will all take a moment, empathize, and vow to de-escalate our education civil war.
We must all do a better job of dealing with people as individuals, not just as members of the opposition. Lora was a resident of the Broad Academy, and they will continue to push an agenda and, I believe, educators must keep resisting the policies they are promoting. But we must become more civil, treating people who disagree with us as peers with different perspectives, not enemies.
I believe we must engage in a public debate between the two basic educational value systems that have divided the nation for nearly a generation. Broad Academy pushes the theory that instruction, curriculum, data, competition and holding individuals accountable for measurable gains should drive school improvement. It promulgates a mentality where “everyone must be on the same page” advancing a common mindset.
Lora was less doctrinaire than the OKCPS’s previous Broad-influenced superintendent. She didn’t reject investments in wraparound student services. Where she and I disagreed was always related to priorities, as well as the role of the school board. Educators like me sought a public debate over whether professional development and teacher supports can make much of a difference in our poorest schools before a foundation of socio-emotional supports is laid.
It’s crazy, but our battles are basically over the question of whether it makes sense to hold individuals accountable for measurable gains, or whether schooling must become a team effort. As former PBS reporter John Merrow says, do we overcome the legacies of poverty by “building a better teacher,” or making teaching “a better job?” If we have a public discussion, and stakeholders want to stay the course in terms of priorities, I won’t argue. I just believe that we need an open discussion, consulting with the district’s partners, about whether we should shift gears and prioritize full-service community schools.
I’d also remind the OKCPS Board that they now face the decision that Lora had to make around this time last year. Next year, the financial challenges will be just as great. Schools are now allowed to invest more federal funds in the student supports that would give us a fighting chance to improve school cultures and make teaching a better job. Should we shift resources from the top-down effort to build better teachers toward bringing more mentors, counselors and other caring adults into our buildings? How can Oklahoma City help our exhausted educators, build trusting relationships and assist in holistic and meaningful learning?
I wish Ms. Lora well in her future endeavors, which I expect will include efforts that she sincerely believes are best for kids.