Mom Congress Day 1: How Many DC Cupcakes Can I Eat?

I guess this doesn’t really qualify as a first day since the Mom Congress started at 4:00pm with the opening remarks and an icebreaker session.  We were talking advocacy – the most effective ways to rally your cause, present your case and influence policy.  It was a reminder on how powerful data can be and how important a consistent, well-crafted message is to making yourself heard.  Something I am fortunately well acquainted with in our hyper political school.  I am more thankful than ever for the incredible parent advocates at my school who routinely spearhead petitions, rallies and letter and phone campaigns to politicians.  We are an obnoxious bunch and better off for it.

I’ve met some dynamic and incredibly engaged women so far.  The passions are varied – from gifted education to class size, school nutrition to speaking out against the standardized testing mania, these moms are vocal, organized and smart.  It gives me hope that there truly is a national force out there ready to fight the budget cuts and maddening discourse.  Tonight at dinner Marguerite Roza from the Gates Foundation spoke to the delegates about the exciting technology emerging to help change education as we know it, about teacher evaluation systems, about reallocating resources (i.e. raising class size) and about measuring teacher effectiveness and creating best practices.  I don’t think she won over the crowd.  She is undeniably smart, incredibly knowledgeable and striving to make education better.  But, the questions and concerns from the audience were real.  Class size increasing?  Not something parents want.  Standardized testing?  Not something parents want.

There is no doubt we are looking at big financial decisions and a need to rethink how our resources are spent but right now is really a giant experiment at the expense of our kids.  It’s not OK to say someday we’ll have much better feedback about student achievement because of coming technology so hey, then we won’t have big standardized yearly tests.   If those tests are the ultimate measure of a teacher’s effectiveness  – whether or not that is fair to anyone – then kids will be taught to the test.  These tests are much cheaper than having a real curriculum overhaul, professional development and personalized technology.

These are the debates and discussions we’ll be having over the next few days and hopefully some real plans and advocacy will come out from all of these smart, dedicated, energized delegates.  It would be incredibly to pool together all of these local advocates and know how and create a real, organized national parent voice.

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