Common High Expectations: A Conversation With Mayor Kevin Johnson

This blog was first published on The Huffington Post.
TVA: Since being elected mayor of Sacramento in 2008, your mission has been to make Sacramento “a city that works for everyone.” What does that mean in practice?
Mayor Kevin Johnson (KJ): Our team mobilized volunteers, improved public art, attacked homelessness, slowed gang violence and encouraged the city to think big with regard to economic development. We launched Stand UP to promote education innovation and Sacramento READS! to boost literacy and collaborating with the school district to align city services to maximize resources to support public education.
TVA: As president of the of the mayors, you’ve urged a strong stand on education.
KJ: The United States Conference of Mayors established a national goal that every student should graduate from high school ready for college and careers, regardless of income, race, ethnic or language background, or disability status.
The mayors passed resolutions calling for access to early learning, connections between in and out of school learning, career pathways, and adult job training. And at the core, you can’t have a great city without good schools. If you want to reduce crime and poverty, you need a good education system—it’s the great equalizer, it’s the passport, it’s the civil rights issue of our time.
TVA: What about common standards?
KJ: The promise of a great education in everyone of America’s great cities starts with common high expectations for every child. The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports the implementation of Common Core State Standards, “Including the development of appropriately rigorous companion assessments and continued funding for professional development, technology and broadband access, and other supports to assure universal access and equity for all students”
The mayors support common standards so that curricula is challenging, assessments are rigorous, data is comparable, and that professional development is useful to teachers.
TVA: Why are common standards important for urban education?
KJ: It doesn’t make sense for every one of America’s great cities to have different expectations for reading, writing and math. All students deserve the same high expectations that will ensure that they are ready for college and careers.
Common expectations are a platform for innovation. Foundations, nonprofits, and companies big and small are investing billions in new digital learning materials and tools. For the first time teachers in Sacramento can share tools and resources with teachers around the country.
TVA: Why is early learning so prominent in the mayor’s platform?
KJ: Participation in early learning programs helps children from all socioeconomic backgrounds to better realize their full potential by preventing achievement gaps and providing a strong foundation to improve their likelihood to succeed later in school and in life.
The mayors support increased funding for high-quality early childhood education and childcare programs that are universally accessible and of consistently high quality. Early learning increases the likelihood of academic success and it reduces the need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition, and special education.
Kevin Johnson inspired and wrote the foreword to Smart Cities That Work For Everyone: 7 Keys to Education & Employment

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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