Editor’s Note

by William McKenzie, Senior Editorial Advisor and Editor of The Catalyst

The real education debate should be over how best to improve student achievement.

Los Angeles Unified School District board listens to parents during a school board meeting. (Allen J. Schaben/ Getty Images)

Education headlines routinely tout stories about school boards locked in battles over book banning, appropriate bathrooms for students, and how to teach about our racial history, if at all.

Those culture war topics certainly deserve some attention from school board members. But the partisan, bitter debates will not solve our nation’s real education challenge: How do we improve student achievement so young Americans may enjoy a life of meaning and promise in their adult lives?

That’s the essential education debate our country needs. And we take on this question in different ways in this Catalyst:

  • Anne Wicks, the Bush Institute’s Ann Kimball Johnson Director of Education and Opportunity, starts our lineup with a frank statement about the nature of this academic challenge, including alarming declines in reading and math scores.
  • Eva Chiang, the Bush Institute’s Managing Director of Leadership and Programming, tells what she has learned about keeping teachers and school leaders in the classroom.
  •  Malika Anderson, Chief Program Officer at Instruction Partners and former Superintendent of the Tennessee Achievement School District, explains why teachers need to engage students in the classroom.
  • Kymyona Burk, Senior Policy Fellow at ExcelinEd, reports on spreading quality reading instruction around the country, including in her own Mississippi.
  • Several parents, students, and educators describe in Catalyst videos what students need from schools so that they can launch into adult lives with opportunity and choices.
  • Elisabeth Luevanos, a Presidential Leadership Scholar who serves as Superintendent of the Milano school district in Texas, discusses the schools that rural students need.
  • Kate Walsh, former President of the National Council on Teacher Quality, recalls what she learned working with – and against – schools of education to improve preparation of teachers.
  • Holly Kuzmich, Senior Advisor at the Bush Institute who served in the U.S. Department of Education, recommends that schools and teachers respond to declining test scores with strategies that research shows works in educating students.
  • Mike Miles, Founder of the Third Future Schools and former Dallas ISD Superintendent, presents a way to design schools that will teach 21st century skills, including the art of critical thinking.
  • Pete Geren, President of the Sid Richardson Foundation, details how Fort Worth community leaders are attempting to tackle school improvement for the entire city.
  • Crystal Cazier, Senior Program Manager in Global Health at the Bush Institute, weighs in on whether the cost of college will be worth the investment for her children.
  • Cullum Clark, Director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative, analyzes the relationship between a college education and economic/social mobility.

We welcome your comments about this challenge facing our schools and how this might be playing out in your local district.

Leave your feedback with The Catalyst editors