Recognizing the importance of education to our national well-being, the early leaders of our country created publicly funded schools to educate children from all walks of life.
They were seeking to do more than just teach children reading, writing, and math.
They believed that a system of publicly supported schools ought to accomplish seven major goals:
- prepare people to become responsible citizens
- improve social conditions
- promote cultural unity
- help people become economically self-sufficient
- enhance individual happiness and enrich individual lives
- dispel inequities in education, and
- ensure a basic quality level among schools
These goals are worthy of our great democracy. But they are hard to measure.
In fact, many of these goals can only be evaluated over a span of many years, when we can finally see how students have applied their learning.
We hear critics of public schools call for alternatives that shift funding and responsibility for education to the private sector. And we hear calls for ever-more reliance on test scores to measure school achievement.
When we weigh these ideas, it is important to remember the whole picture of what we seek from public education.
We need to weigh suggestions against the lofty goals we had in mind when public education was first conceived. They remain essential in a democratic