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Better Schools for Better Communities

After 50 well-spent years inside urban public schools — as a teacher and principal, a parent, a school board member, an author and advocate — I’ve discovered that, given the chance, all children can receive a high-quality education.

All we need are small class sizes, probably located in small schools. Lots of time for teachers and parents to get to know each other in respectful ways. Built-in time for teachers to reflect, revise and collaborate with students, colleagues, families and the public — and among themselves.

A direct voice and a role in decision-making for anyone who has a stake in the school, especially those who know the children best. Resources akin to what the rich provide for their children, so that all can experience being artists, singers, actresses and athletes, and to safely explore our natural world and the many interesting occupations that adults engage in.

No high-stakes tests; instead we need assessments based on direct evidence — rather than indirect correlations.

We need integration, as a proven way to close social and economic gaps, and to ensure that we experience working alongside our lifetime peers, our fellow citizens of the future. And, finally, schools surrounded by healthy communities with the resources to help each child and each family member to the health services they deserve.

Read the Forward’s entire package Dear Mr. President, Policy Prescriptions for a Second Term.

Only when children grow up in the company of respected and respectful adults who have the power to protect and educate them, will we realize what democracy makes possible.

Parents and teachers living in fear of those with more power, always looking over their shoulder instead of into the eyes of their children, can’t do the job we need done — or prepare children to be unafraid to look others in the eye and speak truth to power.

Deborah Meier is the founder of small public schools serving children in East Harlem and Boston, a recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant for her work, and one of the founders of The Coalition of Essential Schools.

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