Superintendent's MessageA message from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in the A Blueprint For Great Schools report from the Transition Advisory Team dated August 9, 2011.
As a teacher, I know our state's most important work is the education of our students.
When you elected me to serve as your State Superintendent of Public Instruction, it was clear that—despite the daily heroic efforts of dedicated teachers, school employees, administrators and parents—our schools were facing unprecedented challenges.
It was equally clear that understanding and addressing those challenges would take a team effort, bringing teachers, parents, business, labor and community leaders together to candidly assess where we are, set ambitious goals about where we want to be, and describe in some detail a shared vision for how to get there. That team assembled, and our work together created this, A Blueprint for Great Schools.
Our goals are fitting for the most prosperous state in the wealthiest nation in the world. We seek the day when all children in California—regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or their economic circumstances—receive the start in life that comes with a world-class education. We seek the day when all students are prepared to pursue their dreams, participate in the rich cultural life of our state and compete in our global economy. We seek the day when every enterprise in California—public and private—has access to a pool of talent that both attracts the world's leading businesses and hastens the development and success of new ones, creating opportunities for all.
There's no question that the financial emergency facing California's schools represents the biggest roadblock in our path, made even more daunting by the recent failure to reach a bipartisan budget agreement. My top priority continues to be restoring and increasing California's investments in education, and I pledge to redouble my efforts to engage every leader in this state in the urgent and critical task of once again providing our children with the resources they need.
I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the people who took part in this effort. The 59 remarkable Californians who came together as my Transition Advisory Team took on this daunting task with incredible passion, energy and thoughtfulness. Co-chaired by Linda Darling-Hammond of the Stanford University School of Education, and David Rattray of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the team included a wonderfully diverse group of our state's public education stakeholders. I am also very grateful to State Board of Education President Mike Kirst for his participation in this effort.
In some respects, the team's findings are sobering, a reflection of how year after year of diminished resources, difficult circumstances, and shifting policy choices have frayed the very fabric of our most treasured public institutions—our neighborhood schools.
There is also cause for great hope and optimism. On issue after issue, you will find a wealth of sound strategies that hold great promise for our students and our schools—including many that have already proven effective in California. Some areas need further study, discussion, and debate, and would in some cases require changes in law to carry out. Others merely need nurturing and support to achieve lasting results.
Throughout its work, the team itself proved what powerful commitments Californians are prepared to make for public education when called upon to do so. What's more, the team demonstrated that bitterness and acrimony need not dominate the dialogue over education.
In that spirit, I invite you to review our efforts, add your own thinking, and join us in the continuing discussion and the hard but rewarding work to realize our goals. I hope you find the team's recommendations as invigorating and inspiring as I did. You may not agree with all of them. Some may take longer to accomplish than others. But together, they offer a vision of where we can go as Californians united for the future of our students and their schools.
A Blueprint for Great Schools was not written to sit on a shelf. It is imperative that it become a plan of action, unifying us with focus and purpose. For we dare not measure our commitment to public education in dollars alone. We must also invest in our students our very best thinking, our very best efforts—and above all—our very best people. We can do this, California!
State Superintendent of Public Instruction