As my colleague Charlotte Hays points out, education reform has always been important to IWF.  Now it seems as summer comes to an end and we prepare to send our children back for another school year, education is making its way into the policy spotlight.  Last Sunday, MSNBC’s Tamron Hall and actor/activist Hill Harper posed some difficult questions to educators in the U.S. on the special, Making the Grade.

As we have these important debates, it’s critical that we ask ourselves this: What kind of education reform are we talking about?

We have to know what our goals are.  Obviously, we all want to see quality teaching, equal opportunities for kids, and learning experiences that prepare students for the next phase of life.  To make these goals a reality, policymakers must consider the value of merit-based pay (to reward the best teaching) and school choice (to give every child a shot).

Someone who understand this kind of reform well is Derrell Bradford, with E3 (Excellent Education for Everyone).  He was on IWF’s About Our Children program and MSNBC’s Making the Grade.  When he explained how to fix education in the U.S., this is what he said:

“The number one resource that you’ve got to talk about when you talk about what goes on in a school, it’s not money – it’s capital in the form of high quality individuals that are teachers… I don’t think any child should have to stay in a school that we know is failing…You take a child that is ready to learn and put him in front of an excellent teacher who can turn on that light.”

Bradford is right.  To get those two elements of education together – the child prepared to learn and the excellent teacher – American parents must take an active role in encouraging education in the home, and all of us must be adamant that the only instruction taking place in the American classroom should be of the highest quality.  As IWF has said again and again, we must demand excellence in education.