President’s Corner

Dear Mr. President …

by Randall H. Collins

Let me congratulate you on your historic victory. I cannot remember a time in recent history when there has been such a feeling of hope and promise among the young people of our nation.

I have been an educator for 37 years, and I can tell you that, from our shores to the smallest mountain hamlet to our sweeping urban centers, you have ignited the flame of hope and promise that will light the way to an America in which every child will have access to a premier public school education.

Pres_Collins.jpgRandall H. Collins

Many of our children are blessed with the opportunities of a secure home, a rich and diverse cultural exposure, or an early childhood education. But many others struggle against the anguish of a dysfunctional family, the poison of prejudice or the ravages of poverty.

Seldom does a chance come about when, for a brief moment, anything seems possible. We are in that place now. The voice of the American people has joined you in the refrain “Yes, we can!”

I have four grandchildren, Caleb, Theo, Curtis and Natalia, and what I want for them is what we should advocate for all of the children in this country. I want them to get the best education, to learn, to be happy, to be healthy, to grow up and give back to this great land. I am prepared to do all I can to make sure they are given every opportunity to which they are entitled. In the same way, we should use our positions to do all we can for children whose parents or grandparents do not or cannot provide for them.

Through the years, we have slowed our progress and lost our focus in this endeavor. I encourage you first to return to the vision of the original intent of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Let’s dedicate our limited resources to the neediest. Under the current legislation, No Child Left Behind, we do not help the neediest. In draconian fashion we punish those who need the most help. While we all agree with the noble goal of leaving no child behind, the current legislation, in fact, leaves the neediest children behind.

Furthermore, I ask that when you assemble the team to carry out the awesome task at hand, please include teachers and school leaders who have successfully overcome the educational and social challenges of our students with the most critical needs. It is their experience and knowledge that will help craft an effective education policy.

Yes, there will be unreasonable demands placed on your administration and expectations placed on you that no person can be expected to attain. However, we can return the joy of teaching to our teachers. We can have real accountability, not just a mania of obsessive testing. We can begin to educate the total child and not just test-takers. We can see that all of God’s children are given the avenue to attain the hope that you have inspired.

I want you to know that the American Association of School Administrators stands ready to work with your administration to advance our public schools to a place that we have not yet seen. Your theme of “one America” is one that should transform opportunities for the young people of this land.

Mr. President, there is no better time than now. There is no better place than here for us to commit our energies, our influence and our enthusiasm to making sure that the promise of American education ensures that the dreams of all of our nation’s children come true.

Randall Collins is AASA president for 2008-09. E-mail: