Eugene T. Paslov: Nevada’s public education system needs reinvention
I am a devoted supporter of public education, including good public charter schools. I believe rigorous academic education is the intellectual backbone of our local, state and national governments. Thomas Jefferson talked about public education for an informed electorate. If he were alive today, he would argue for public schools that produced well-educated as well as well-informed citizens. Competitive education systems at all levels allow all to develop the skills and knowledge required to compete in the international marketplace.
At one point, our nation had one of the finest K-12 systems in the world. But that is no longer true. Other nations have re-energized their pre-K-12 systems in an effort to be competitive. Many have universal preschools. All of our European colleagues and many of our Asian counterparts are producing graduates who out perform our students in math, science and foreign languages. These nations have put much of their national resources into their schools, knowing it’s important to their futures.
Some ideological conservatives rant about money, claiming it doesn’t make a difference, or there’s no research supporting the correlation between resources and student performance. I assure you money makes a difference. Not all the difference but an important component. Most critics wouldn’t send their children to substandard schools. The value of highly qualified teachers and manageable class size is indisputable.
There are those who recoil at the idea of international curriculum standards. But we live in an international marketplace. There are those who say we can’t compare ourselves to other countries because we are unique. Perhaps at one time this was true, but no longer. Other countries in Europe and Asia are also unique and are exploiting their uniqueness. We need to solve the problems of poor academic performance and fix our declining public school system. It will require reinvention.
In terms of academic achievement, Nevada’s schools do not compare well to the rest of the nation; and our country’s education system does not stack-up well to education in the modern world. We have exceptional educational leadership in this State (local and State) and must use it to reinvent our public schools; look at new ways to govern; be innovative and creative in delivering demanding instructional content; look at exceptional public charter schools (traditional public schools as well) as examples of methods to provide exemplary public education. Explore multiple performance assessments, distance learning and computer technology to redesign our education system.
Work with the U.S. Department of Education. High quality public education is the key to our future. Let’s invent new ideas required to improve. Let’s support leaders who want to improve public education. Anything less is unacceptable.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.