Executive Director, NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) (ret.)
Teaching must be seen as the center of the educational universe.
School reform and the goals of improving student achievement and closing the achievement gap will be difficult, if not impossible to address unless we have a highly competent teacher in every classroom. To realize this demanding goal will necessitate a national commitment to elevate the status of teachers, including dramatically improving salaries, totally revamping teacher preparation programs, providing for induction and mentoring programs into the profession, and insuring that teacher accountability is measured on a multitude of factors, moving away from a myopic system which is based on assessing student progress on a state administered test, which is given once a year.
The role of the federal government in school reform must be substantially reduced.
Our Constitution is emphatically clear that the states have the responsibility for public education, and the states, in turn, have transferred this responsibility to approximately 14,500 school districts. The concept of local control is embedded in our national fiber, and our founding fathers were committed to this principle. In addition, the states and local school district districts provide approximately 90% of the total cost of education, while the federal government provides a very small commitment of 10%. In effect, there exists a real conundrum in interpreting the golden rule, "he who has the gold makes the rule." To continue down this path is a significant inversion of the "golden rule" and allows the player with the least commitment to dictate the game plan for those who are at the top of the funding pyramid.
We must move away from a "proficiency for all" mentality.
The framers of No Child Left Behind should have taken a course in brain research prior to imposing such a misguided and onerous law that expects all students to be academically proficient by 2014. Their research would have uncovered that each student's brain is individually wired. As John Medina states, “That’s the Brain Rule, you can either accede to it or ignore it." He adds, "the current system of education chooses the latter to our detriment.” Those who crafted the "proficiency for all" mandate also need to consider that a student can be proficient in one state and not in another state. In effect, simply crossing a state line can change a student's academic standing. Unless, in two short years, Congress addresses the ludicrous concept of "proficiency for" all imbedded in NCLB, there will be fifty state ships arriving at Lake Woebegone flying "false flags" of academic achievement.
It is a primary focus of education to prepare students for life and not work.
We need to insure that all students have a comprehensive curriculum, far beyond the present obsession with reading, language arts and mathematics. We simply cannot have a curriculum which is so myopic in scope, and which has served to constrict the course offerings available to students. To those who measure the success of public education through the lens of basic skills attainment, they just don't get it! They don't get that writing a poem, singing a song, dancing a dance, participating in a drama club, engaging in physical activity, understanding civics and democracy and being responsible for social and moral responsibilities are all part of the daily responsibilities of every public school, which in turn contribute to critical aspects of a well-rounded education, preparing students for the life experiences which await them.
Pre-school education should be the foundation for of all school reform.
Pre-school and early childhood programs have the greatest potential to, over time, close the achievement gap and provide greater equal educational opportunities for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The research abounds with studies, which conclude that high quality pre-school initiatives have long term, and sustained benefits in cognition, socio-emotional development and in addressing health deficiencies for the children who participate. Unfortunately, congressional leaders and Administration officials, over the years, have needed "instant gratification” for their programs and initiatives, rather than grasping the reality that investments in programs, such as Head Start, have long-term gains and provide the greatest potential to provide equity for our neediest students. The equity imperative is exacerbated by the fact that affluent parents have the resources to enroll their children at very early ages, and for extended periods of time, while poor parents do not have the sane opportunities. Unless, and until, we have a national commitment to early learning opportunities for all children, we will face a future in our schools with a growing disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots."
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Dr. Gerald N. Tirozzi retired as the Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) in July, 2011. A native of Connecticut, Dr. Tirozzi has an extensive background in the educational field and is a nationally recognized leader in education reform.
Prior to joining NASSP in March 1999, Dr. Tirozzi held a variety of positions in the field of education. These included: Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education (1996-1999); Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Connecticut (1993-1995); President of Wheelock College (1991-1993); Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, (1983-1991); Superintendent of New Haven (CT) Public Schools (1977-1983). Early in his career, Tirozzi also served as science teacher, assistant principal, and principal.
Dr. Tirozzi serves on a number of national educational advisory boards, task forces, and professional organizations. Some of these include: the Educational Research Service, Evans Newton Incorporated, the Learning First Alliance, Pearson Education National Policy Board, the USA Today Education Advisory Panel, and the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Schools Advisory Council.
Dr. Tirozzi is the author of numerous articles on educational topics that have been published in educational and scholarly journals. Some of these writings have been collected in the publication, Reflections on School Leadership.
Dr. Tirozzi’s public service and leadership have been recognized by a number of state and national organizations. Some of these include: the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Horace Mann League, the U.S. Department of Education, Michigan State University, and the Connecticut Legislature.
Dr. Tirozzi holds a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Educational Administration and Higher Education from Michigan State University. He has a Sixth Year Certificate in Education Administration from Fairfield University in Connecticut. He received a Master of Arts Degree in Guidance and Counseling and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Southern Connecticut State University.