If you follow education in Oakland, you may be familiar with the phrase “college and career ready.” If you google that phrase, you will come upon the Achieve.org website, which states that “college and career readiness means that a high school graduate has the knowledge and skills in English and mathematics necessary to qualify for and succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing postsecondary coursework without the need for remediation.” Preparing all students for college and career is an important and worthy set of goals for public education.
They are, however, not enough. Many here in Oakland have been advocating for a third “c” to be included in the list of what we want for our graduates. As stated in a draft graduate profile for Oakland Unified School District, “our graduates are college, career, and community ready!”
But what does “community ready” mean?
“Community ready” is a rallying cry for any and every person who cares about public education in our country to voice the need to bring a civic agenda back to our schools. Two devastating blows have left our public education system in California with swollen eyes and lacking vision.
The first blow has been in the form of educational policy. The 2002 No Child Left Behind legislation has used testing data to put our schools under microscopic scrutiny. The focus on literacy and mathematics and the limited resources of our public schools, particularly in places like Oakland, has meant a gutting of all programs considered peripheral to the agenda driven by testing, whether it be physical education, health education, music, art, drama, or civic education.
The second blow to public education in California has been funding. Even as the demands on schools have gone up, the resources of our public schools here in California have fallen. Per pupil expenditures have literally hit rock bottom with California ranking 49th in a recent publication by Education Week (when expenditures are adjusted for cost of living). This was not always the case. You can click here to see an interactive graphic that allows you to watch how per pupil spending has shifted for all 50 states since 1970.
But our battered public school system is catching a second wind. The call for civic education has been echoing out of the San Francisco Chambers of California Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye who has been one of our state’s most visible advocates for civic education. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson has picked up that call and has convened a California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning.
Through our Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age initiative in Oakland, we have been fortunate through our project to work with teachers who have had and continue to have a deep commitment to civic engagement. Together we are answering the question of what it means to prepare our students to be “community ready.” We invite all of you to join this conversation here on our blog as well as at our community events.
Our next event will be a public talk with Diana Hess, Professor of Education from University of Madison-Wisconsin and Vice President of the Spencer Foundation scheduled for February.