This weekend reminded me why I am a proud Teach For America (TFA) alumnus. I traveled out to Washington D.C., where I was joined by 15,000 fellow corps members and allies to celebrate 25 years of tackling educational inequality head on through quality teaching and passionate advocacy.
Since its inception, TFA has maintained a vision that those of us who taught or continue to teach in America's most challenged classrooms fervently believe: “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” I know this vision is achievable in our lifetime, and I continue to work toward that goal every day. The 25th anniversary's theme of “Together We Rise,” recognizes the importance of pulling together a diverse variety of school models, organizations, and strategies to benefit all students. My sessions centered on this theme of collective action and what it will truly take to reach “one day.”
Yesterday I heard unique perspectives from six key education leaders across the country considering this very question. Leading federal and state policy makers discussed what works (and what doesn't) in state and federal policies, and provided their own views on what needs to happen in next 5-10 years. The consensus is that we have made tremendous improvements, even while falling farther behind due to a higher demand for advanced skills and college degrees. I was gratified that nobody seemed daunted by this reality - only doubly committed.
I loved hearing again from Joel Klein, who has helped us navigate education policy here in Arizona after his great work leading the NYC Department of Education. His bold message and challenge to us was that if we don’t get education right, not only our students but we as individual states and society as a whole will pay a massive price.
Being here this weekend has energized me, not just for the future of Teach For America, but for the importance of our work at A for Arizona. Closing the achievement gap is good, but not good enough for Arizona’s students to truly reach their potential. More than ever, I know that every Arizona student deserves access to the best school possible. There is no time to wait – no less than the quality of our students’ lives are at stake and they are dependent on us to get this right. I reject the notion that excellence has a zip code and will continue to work alongside Arizona’s state and education leaders to advance opportunity for every student.