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Shortchanging our students is not an option

November 15, 2017
Paymon Rouhanifard
The Hill

A great education starts and ends with great teachers. That’s why when I came to Camden tasked with improving outcomes for kids in a district where under half of students made it to high school graduation and even fewer could read and do math at grade level in grades K-8, we made it our first priority to improve instruction in every classroom. This meant greater support for principals and lots of coaching for teachers. That support required major investments in resources and training to help Camden educators gain new techniques to reach our students. These investments are already showing their return. Thanks to our educators’ hard work, our schools are showing steady improvement in reading and math, and our graduation rate is up by 21 points.

The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act – adopted by the House of Representatives – threaten to undermine the gains made in Camden and many other high-needs districts. Put simply, Title II dollars boost student achievement by furthering the development and retention of highly qualified teachers and principals, and “to provide students from low-income families and minority students with greater access to effective educators.”

In a world where technology changes every day and where the ways in which kids learn are constantly evolving, our most vulnerable students deserve teachers who’ve received the support and development they need to provide excellent classroom instruction every day.

Camden stands to lose dozens of essential teacher and school leader training programs if Title II funds are cut. Last year alone, Title II funded 25 critical and targeted training programs for our educators. With the help of these supports and the work of our teachers and staff, we have begun to see meaningful increases in the number of students reading and doing math at grade level.

We have also cut our suspension rate by more than 50 percent after training all school-based staff on restorative justice and alternative discipline practices. The benefits of Title II funds are wide-reaching. We use them to help keep elementary school students on track with reading, to support special education teachers, and to nurture our school leadership talent.