Late last year, I convened the Mayor's Education Summit, a two-day event that brought together 100 key policymakers and community members to work with national education reform experts on how to make Anchorage schools the best in the country.
During the summit, we explored what constitutes educational success and then developed reform scenarios. The scenarios are:
• World-class leadership: teachers and principals.
• Community engagement and commitment.
• Great expectations for student success.
• Expanded choice and opportunity for all.
Now that the original summit participants have provided a framework, it is time for residents to get involved and provide their opinions about improving student performance. During the month of February, six community conversations will be held during which residents will have the opportunity to discuss the reform scenarios and provide their own ideas for how to make our local schools even better.
Participants will have the opportunity to discuss the approach and steps they think Anchorage should take, including the choices and trade-offs that will be required, in order for Anchorage's schools to become the nation's best.
I am eager to hear from the community on this topic. I encourage parents, teachers, students, business leaders and other residents to take advantage of this opportunity to discuss this important issue with your friends and neighbors.
Indeed, the issue of how to improve our students' performance has never been more important. Kati Haycock, one of the expert presenters at the initial summit, showed how Alaska ranks dead last in the nation in several measured education categories. This is especially disturbing when you consider that the United States doesn't exactly excel at educating our children when compared with other developed countries like Korea, Japan and Finland.
If we are to compete economically with these nations, we must also prepare our students to compete academically. Quite frankly, other countries and even other states set the bar much higher for their students and are achieving a higher level of academic success.
Demand for change must start with the community. That's why it is so important that residents from every background participate in these community conversations. We must come to a consensus about the best plan for improving student performance, then hold our elected officials and policymakers accountable for implementing the changes. Only through a true collaboration of all interested stakeholders will we be able to make an impact.
So, please, speak up. Sign up for the Community Conversations by visiting www.muni.org/educationsummit to register online. The site also includes background information about the Education Summit, including video highlights, speaker presentations and more.
Please, take the time to have your say about how to improve student performance in Anchorage. With so much at stake for our future generations, we must make sure they are well-prepared for the challenges ahead.
Dan Sullivan was elected mayor of Anchorage in 2009.
By MAYOR DAN SULLIVAN