Celebrating Public Education in San Diego

Our country soon kicks off a weeklong celebration on behalf of the more than 50 million students who are learning and growing in our nation’s public schools.

Throughout Public Schools Week 2020 (Feb. 24-28), school systems large and small will showcase the good news happening inside their classrooms. This annual recognition highlights the critical role public education plays in shaping our nation’s  future and underscores why it serves as the bedrock of our democracy.

Considering that nine out of 10 children attend public schools, there is no better time than now to speak out for our young learners.

This celebration will get a jump-start when hundreds of superintendents—the CEOs of our public school districts and America’s ambassadors of great learning—arrive in San Diego for the 2020 National Conference on Education (Feb. 13-15), hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association. Year in, year out, this annual gathering attracts some of the country’s foremost education thought leaders addressing the needs of every child, every day.

School superintendents use this gathering to learn from experts about school safety, STEM, social-emotional development, equity in education, personalized learning, digital learning student health and wellness and other topics.

What’s more, we are pleased that Superintendent Cindy Marten is serving on a panel discussion about how wellness is a part of the total learning experience in the San Diego Unified School District.

In addition, the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year® will be announced. Finalists include Gustavo Balderas (Eugene School District 4J, Eugene, Ore.), Samantha Fuhrey (Newton County Schools, Covington, Ga.), Michael Nagler (Mineola Public Schools, Mineola, N.Y.) and Jeffery Smith (Hampton City Schools, Hampton, Va.).

These outstanding superintendents and thousands of other like-minded district leaders have committed their professional lives to improving public schools to ensure every child has access to a high-quality public education. They continue to bolster innovation into the policies and practices necessary to push forward the nation’s public education agenda in order for students to be successful in college, career and life.

Contrary to the naysayers who are painting a bleak picture regarding where public education is heading, as the executive director of AASA, I know firsthand that our superintendents know better. They know public education is in the best shape it’s ever been.

High school graduation rates are higher today than ever before. According to the National Assessment Governing Board, student achievement for every major ethnic group is greater now than it was in the 1970s. The percentage of high school dropouts among 16-through-24-year-olds is lower today than a generation ago. And, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Countries in Education report, the U.S. tops the list.

Despite this momentum, no one can argue that these strides are sufficient. More work needs to be done. We still live in a society where poverty is the single greatest factor limiting student achievement. When we say every child deserves a quality education, we must mean every child, not just those living in prosperous zip codes.

Educators know we need to put more emphasis on the whole child—from physical and mental health to the development of fundamental lifelong skills. Many school system leaders are already leading change in this regard by scaling up social and emotional outcomes for the students they serve.

These are the messages we hope will reach our communities during Public Schools Week.

I encourage district administrators, principals, teachers, parents and local elected officials to take the Pledge for Public Schools by visiting www.publicschoolproud.org. They can also use the hashtag #PublicSchoolProud when sharing success stories via social media.

As our superintendents, principals and teachers succeed, so too will our public schools. As our public schools succeed, so too will our students. The success of the future leaders of this great country depends on the support received from our communities.

It’s important to celebrate what public education means for the future of this country. I’m excited the celebration will hit the ground running right here in San Diego!

Daniel A. Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association