William J. Bushaw
Executive Director, Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK)
Americans possess great common sense.
I serve as co-director of the annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which measures the public's opinions about our public schools. Every year, I am struck by the common sense responses Americans express about their schools. They understand that our nation must support high-quality public education, and they understand there are no shortcuts or quick fixes in order to make this a reality. To me, that demonstrates great common sense.
Every child is important.
Every child should be prepared to be successful at the next level. This simple, compelling ideal should drive education transformation. First, we must do all that we can to prepare children to be successful when they start school. In addition, we not only should help children develop the skills they will need as they transition to middle and then high school, but we should also help them develop skills relevant to their career passions and interests so they can become successful adults. And when we fail at achieving this ideal, we should take the time to understand why, then make the needed change so that we have greater success in the future.
High-quality education comes down to two things: great teachers and great teacher leaders.
We must aggressively recruit, train, and retain the best people to become teachers and teacher leaders. Though other factors are important, such as developing new teaching materials, improving access to the Internet and other technologies, and changing how we teach and test students, the most critical piece in improving education in the United States is to recruit, train and retain passionate, caring, and highly-skilled teachers. And to support these teachers, we also need highly-skilled education leaders.
Student assessment is the weakest link.
We cannot offer a 21st century curriculum and use a 19th century student assessment system to evaluate student learning. While we are improving instructional approaches, our student assessment capabilities are no better than they were almost 100 years ago. Fortunately, some of the best education researchers are focused on this issue. The next challenge will be convincing policy makers that maintaining our current student assessment and school accountability systems will prove disastrous.
Optimists own the future.
Noted broadcaster Paul Harvey once said, "In times like these, it's helpful to remember that there have always been times like these." This quote helps me remember that our nation has overcome challenges in the past, and has provided me the optimism I need to know that, though it will require great effort, we will succeed in improving our nation’s education system.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Dr. William J. Bushaw has served as Phi Delta Kappa’s (PDK) executive director since 2004. PDK is a prestigious professional education association with over 30,000 members worldwide. It publishes the highly-regarded Phi Delta Kappan magazine, which remains the number one cited journal on education policy.
During Bushaw’s tenure, PDK has expanded to become a family of education associations. In 2010, PDK acquired Pi Lambda Theta, a collegiate honor society. PDK is also the sole sponsor of the Future Educators Association® (FEA), a high school association for students interested in careers in education. FEA just received federal recognition as a career and technical student organization (CTSO) in 2009.
Bushaw also serves as co-director and author of the annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. In 2010, Bushaw served as chair of the Learning First Alliance, a Washington DC-based partnership of 16 leading education associations.
Bushaw has a wide range of experiences in education and has served as deputy superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education and as director of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) in Michigan. Before that, he was a high school principal, and he began his career as a science teacher.
Bushaw proudly served in the United States Navy, active duty and reserve, and retired at the rank of Captain. His Ph.D. in education policy is from the University of Michigan, and his professional interests center on education policy, student assessment, and school accountability. Bushaw is a strong advocate for public schooling.