Blogs have been written, editorials published, and dozens of action alerts sent to hundreds of individuals related to AB 5, the bill introduced by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes that aims to revamp teacher evaluations. Lost in all this commotion is the voice of families. Although they are the ultimate users of the public school system, their voices are typically lost in a political process that values compromise more than outcomes.
Families In Schools works annually with thousands of parents from low-income communities and communities of color, and their unified voice screams: “We want a quality education that will prepare our children for college and set them on a road to lifelong success.” Parents want an education system that is focused more on raising student outcomes than on political issues that have no relevance to student improvement. These voices should be our guiding light within a murky and confusing policy-making process.
My role as a community advocate is simple: to elevate parents’ voices to ensure that the best and most effective policy is implemented, not the most politically convenient or the least controversial. If not community advocates, who will advocate on behalf of parents and students?
That is why I believe that the current version of AB 5 is not good enough for the parents we serve. Requiring a board meeting to hear from parents/community is positive, but how will it improve day-to-day teaching and learning? Allowing the evaluation system to be negotiated at the local level retains local autonomy, but how will it eliminate the political gridlock preventing change? The current version of the bill will merely solidify current conditions into law that have already proven to fail our families. The role of policy is to provide solutions to problems, not to codify problems into law that will create even greater barriers to student achievement.
I believe that what we need is a policy that includes parent/student feedback in school staff evaluation, eliminates political gridlock at the local level, and sets clear expectations for school personnel by including student academic growth as a key component of evaluation and personnel decisions.
To be effective, the state bill should aim to ensure that every school in California will be a place of effective and high-quality teaching and learning – local autonomy should never be an excuse to protect inequitable conditions. Without this, the current bill lacks courage. It lacks simple bravery to demand more than just process. Worse, it lacks the courage to demand outcomes and truly address what all families want: a high-quality education for all.
Oscar E. Cruz serves as president & CEO of Families In Schools, a nonprofit in Los Angeles whose primary focus is involving parents and communities in their children’s education to achieve lifelong success. He has more than 12 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.