Education Nation: Why We Should Treat Teachers Like Professional Athletes

My husband and I are beginning what can best be described as the dreaded kindergarten search in Manhattan. If you live or know people in New York City, you know exactly what I mean. One year before your darling little one's first day of kindergarten, you need to attend open houses, fill out applications, even subject your precious 4-year-old to IQ tests. It's the same situation in many urban areas throughout the nation.

This means that education is top of our agenda, especially public school education. Last night, we attended an open house at an unnamed -- and fabulous -- public school in New York City. The director of admissions said her elementary school experience was her best educational experience by far -- it fostered her love of learning -- and made her the learner she would be for the rest of her life. Can we want anything better for our kids?

Listening to the final session of Education Nation -- NBC's three-day summit designed to spark a national conversation about this crucial issue -- I thought about my daughter, but also about all the other kids across the country, and how we want and need to figure out the best ways to education them.

One of the teachers on the panel, who currently teaches in Indianapolis, had a revolutionary idea. Why don't we treat teachers the same way we do competitive athletes, "keeping the most effective players in the game." Why don't we? After all, can't we all think of one teacher who motivated us to become learners, who taught us something that we never have forgotten? I think about that director of admissions and have to believe she had those kinds of teachers in her elementary school experience. All kids should.

How do we get there? So many ideas were discussed at the summit -- prioritize teacher development on a national level; don't just focus on the amount of money a school gets, but on the most effective spending of that money; engage parents by keeping them informed -- telling them what their 1st and 2nd graders need to know to excel -- and give them some power in the decision-making process when it comes to academics; and perhaps, the most controversial, counter the teachers' unions, which one summit participant called the greatest opposition to educational reforms in urban areas nationwide.

This critical issue won't be resolved in a three-day summit, but if all of us make it part of our national and local conversations -- you have to believe we may find a way where all of our kids can have an experience like that director of admissions I mentioned and begin a lifelong love of learning.

What do you think is the greatest obstacle in education today? Chime in below.

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