K-12 Education

Why Demanding Better Education is Paramount for Our Children

Young Children Ready For School

Arming a child with knowledge early in his or her life will position him or her for continued success. Not only does a great educational foundation provide the skills for a child to reach his or her greatest potential, but it also cultivates a better future society. Our children first learn the most from their parents, and they must lead by example to help the next generation. Parents know how significant their jobs are, but they can only do so much.

When deciding on a school for their children to attend, parents must devote serious attention to the quality of teachers and administrators at the institutions they consider for their children. Parents have a right to demand that schools create environments where students can thrive academically. Students will not, unfortunately, thrive academically in schools that don’t have effective teachers and administrators. Here are some phenomena to contemplate as you attempt to prepare your child for academic success.

Education in Early Life

It makes sense that investing in the education of a child builds a more prosperous and peaceful citizen. Those who have some kind of educational foundation are more likely to commit themselves to academic excellence and the notion of the life of the mind. A school system that continually challenges a student will lead him or her to see the value of lifelong learning. With a better education and more efficient ways of assessing our children’s abilities, more of them will feel valued. This will certainly lead to a more productive society. In children’s early learning, assist them in discovering their distinctive beliefs and worldviews. Early learning should be fostered by their own curiosity about the world, with lots of support, validation, and hints offered.

New Ways of Learning

As the saying goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” We need to focus on alternative means of assessing our children’s academic growth. If you’ve ever taken a standardized test, you know how mind-numbingly painful it is to stay focused and regurgitate all the information you were forced to memorize. Students need new ways of being evaluated, such as oral exams or presentations. Modern schools are becoming better at employing new methods and strategies of imparting new material. Observe the ways in which your own child responds to different methods of learning, such as visual, auditory, and tactile learning, and identify ways you can address his or her needs inside and outside of the classroom.

Online Education

Online schools are increasingly becoming attractive options for parents for their children’s education. Not only are college classes held online, but entire K-12 schools are now online. These types of organizations are especially advantageous for those who don’t have easy access to a school, or children who want to be homeschooled without having their parents as teachers. Online learning also has the benefit of being directed by the student’s own curiosity. Some K-12 online schools offer field trips and community resources that allow for social engagement and community learning, as well as an individualized pace.


Ensuring the next generation is equipped with the tools essential for educational success is our responsibility. With some sweeping educational reforms, we can empower our children to evolve in a society where they are ready to ameliorate it persistently. Parents should lead the effort to advocate for the educational reforms necessary to improving American public schools dramatically.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison


The Need to Improve College Readiness

Black College Student

Although increasing the number of minority students in higher education is essential, we must ensure they are prepared for college when they enter.  Too many students are entering in colleges and universities across the nation unable to meet the academic challenges they face.  In efforts to ameliorate diversity in higher education, we have to devote more attention to improving the quality of education students receive before they enroll in college.  While it’s certainly vital for more minority students to enroll in college, we don’t want them to enroll without the proper preparation.  Serious efforts to boost the number of minority students in college will be purposeless if we don’t send them to college with the academic preparation essential to empowering them to stay in college.

In our education reform discourse, let us be mindful about how important it is for us to discuss the significance of college readiness for all students.  Take a look at this piece that vividly articulates the impact of college unpreparedness: Unprepared for College.

What needs to be done to help students to be better prepared for college?  What will it take to make college readiness a national priority?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Open Letter to School Administrators

Dear School Administrators:

When you’re observing and evaluating teachers in their classroom, it’s vital that they have all of the information about what you expect from them before you enter their classrooms.  If you haven’t done a good job of providing them with feedback, then you cannot expect them to be the type of teachers you consider to be effective teachers.  When you’re observing and evaluating teachers, they need direct instruction about what you expect from them in the classroom.  How can teachers do the jobs you expect for them to do when they never receive specific training on what you expect from them?

When you expect teachers to follow guidelines for a standards-based classroom, you cannot simply give them a standards-based classroom checklist and leave them to interpret the standards-based classroom checklist and expect them to be ready for you to come in and observe and evaluate their performance in the classroom. How silly is that?  When you do this, it seems like you are setting the teachers up for failure—either intentionally or unintentionally.

Be fair to teachers and give them all of the information, training, materials, equipment, and etc. they need to be effective teachers.  Before you begin grading teachers and asking them to grade themselves, how about you grade yourselves first.  When you begin to engage in critically assessing yourselves first, then you may discover just why your teachers are not performing to a level that meets your expectations.

Although it is vital for students to perform well on standardized tests, you have to place a stronger emphasis on giving teachers credit for the ways they motivate students to learn.  Many students would care less about a standardized test if they didn’t have teachers who are motivating them to care about the standardized test they have to take.  When people run into your offices telling you about what a teacher is doing and not doing, begin to question the value and credibility of person who is telling you something a teacher does or does not do that doesn’t have an impact on student motivation and student academic achievement.

Some of you need to stop hiding behind your desks and computers and address the teachers you truly have problems with, instead of sending out emails addressed to everyone, making it appear like you’re having problems with a great number of teachers when it’s really just several teachers.

Many teachers are doing a great job and really care about their students.  Be sure that you’re not doing things that will cause those teachers to leave the profession or your school.  You don’t want the good or great teachers to leave your school while the ones who are just there to get a check remain.  When you try to communicate to your teachers that you appreciate the job that they are doing, be sure that your words and actions evince that you truly mean what you’re attempting to communicate.

We all want the best for all of our students.  Therefore, since you’re the leaders of our schools, then make sure you’re doing all you can to empower your teachers to be the best they can be.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Creating an Active and Exciting Learning Environment

At some point, we all have been students—even though some have never received formal education.  Although some topics in every subject area cannot always be the most exciting topics to engage students with, teachers can find meaningful ways to engender an active, engaged, responsive, and fun classroom for their students—no matter if one teaches at the Pre-K – 12 or college level.  No one wants to be bored!  If you’re a teacher, you need to make it a serious priority for the majority of your lessons to include opportunities to have fun with your students.  Don’t let your classroom become more boring than watching paint dry.

Give your students opportunities to speak during your class.  The teacher shouldn’t be the only person who talks the entire class period.  Teachers, if you discover that you’re doing all of the talking in your classroom for more than 15 minutes at a time, then it should trigger in your mind that you need to get your students involved in your topic or topics of discussion immediately.  No one wants to listen to you talk forever and ever—your voice is not that attractive.  Some teachers like to talk the whole period.  Even if you’re discussing some highly complicated issues in your class, still don’t find yourself doing the majority of the speaking in your classroom.  It’s understandable for you to need to do the majority of the speaking in your classroom sometimes, but you shouldn’t make it a habit.

Did you have teachers at any level of the educational pipeline who would do all of the speaking in the classroom most of the time?

If you desire to have an active classroom where all of your students are engaged, then you cannot do all of the speaking.  Even if you’re a phenomenal speaker/lecturer, you need to offer your students opportunities to speak and participate in what you’re discussing.  Never forget that you’re not speaking to desks—there are living human beings occupying those desks.  If you want to be a good or great teacher, you must have an authentic concern for how your students perceive your teaching and classroom.  In no way does this mean you have to allow your students to solely determine how you teach and conduct your classroom.  However, the input of your students should be valued, especially if you claim to have a commitment to serving them.

You may think you’re such a great teacher, but if your students are bored out of their mind, you’re not going to reach them.  If you allow this to be the case, you can simply forget about how great of a teacher you think you are—the students will tune you out and focus on how many minutes they have left before they can leave your classroom. (Can you picture them counting down the minutes now?)  Don’t allow this type of relationship to develop between you and your students.  You don’t have to become friends with your students, but you should at least engage with them at some significant level.

A good or great teacher loves to listen to others.  Some people don’t ever want to listen to what you have to say—they’d rather just listen to themselves talk.  Academic instruction suffers when teachers only want to hear their voices.

Beyonce knows how vital listening is, which is ostensible through her song, “Listen.”  When you listen to her song, one of the dominant messages the song unveils is through listening to others you will gain greater insights about their innermost emotions and thoughts.

If your classroom is not an engaging and fun classroom, then you need to make changes to the way you operate it.  This might mean that you need to make significant changes.  Don’t get so consumed by your routine that you care more about the routine than the students who the routine is supposed to serve.  You may find that having a routine could be the very reason why your classroom is uninspiring.

Take some time to think about your classroom and the way you manage it to develop ways to ameliorate it.  Invest some time in ways to engage your students and increase participation.  You may find that you need to move yourself more out of the way to accomplish this.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pay K-12 Students for High Grades

If you really want to boost student academic achievement, schools should reward students with money for high grades. Now, you can get all sophisticated and deep with me about how this reflects commodification and reification, but the reality is money can be used as a serious vehicle for positively improving academic achievement. For many students who are not performing well academically, money can be the incentive that they need to work to ameliorate their grades. Schools can seek private money from various foundations and individuals to fund the effort of rewarding students for higher academic achievement. Students who make the Honor Roll should be paid. I often hear many parents say that it’s the job of their children to do their school work. Well, then, let’s pay those children when they make the Honor Roll for the good work that they do on their “job.”

For students coming from low-income homes, the money that they receive for high grades can help them to survive. If you want to see minority and low-income students have a greater incentive to close the academic achievement gap, pay them to close that academic achievement gap. You will see that achievement gap get smaller and smaller. We have to be willing to try innovative things to increase academic achievement in America. Don’t allow your lack of an open mind on what I’m saying in this piece to prevent you from seeing the potential of paying students for higher grades to be one thing that we can do to bolster academic achievement.

I’m not asserting that paying students for higher grades is the panacea for the academic achievement problems students are facing across the country. Of course, students need more than just money to improve their academic achievement, but I want us to consider how rewards (like money) can be powerful motivating forces in creating change. Many students can improve their grades if they change the way they view their grades. If they know that there is money attached to getting high grades, they are certainly more likely to work tremendously hard to achieve high grades.

Although I come from economically well off family, receiving money served as a strong influencing force that kept me making good grades. Therefore, if you have children who are already making good grades, having schools to pay them for making those good grades will help them to keep making good grades. Many students need to see some type of tangible and meaningful immediate reward for getting good grades. Money is tangible, meaningful, and immediate.

Many who oppose the idea of paying K-12 students for making high grades contend that it sends the wrong message to students because they become more focused on the money than learning. Well, if they are not focused on learning right now, then we need something to cause them to at least begin to think about improving their grades. When they start to think about improving their grades for the money, they will have to have some focus on learning because they must learn to get higher grades.

One of the greatest challenges we have in the K-12 educational pipeline today is ameliorating Black male academic achievement. Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline. Many Black male students in urban areas see that it’s easier to go make some money selling drugs than it is to go to school and do some homework that is not going to produce them some immediate money. They find that they cannot be concerned with thoughts about college in the future because they have to survive right now. Now, just imagine if we were able to tell these Black males that if they make high grades they can get paid for those grades. I am confident that many more of them would choose to become more engaged with their studies than with things that will lead them to incarceration.

Okay, let’s just say that my proposal to pay students for getting high grades does not dramatically improve academic achievement. That’s fine! We should be thankful for the students this proposal does help. What’s wrong with putting my proposal into action on a trial basis on a national level to see what happens. I really don’t see any serious harm that can be done by trying this out. Paying students for high grades just might be what we need to jumpstart academic achievement in this country!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Parental Involvement is Crucial to True Education Reform

Although many parents are highly involved in their children’s education, there are many who are not. If you are not seriously involved in your children’s education, you are just as responsible as their schools for not adequately serving your children. Parents, you cannot simply depend on schools to offer your children a comprehensive education. A comprehensive education encompasses children being intellectually stimulated and engaged in their studies when they are at home. If you are a parent who lacks the education to help your children with their homework, the least you can do is make sure they are doing their home and have frequent discussions with them about what they are studying and any problems they are having in school. By doing this, you will be able to see what your children’s teachers see as things you could be doing at home, based on your abilities, to aid them in improving their academic achievement. If you are not able to meet with your children’s teachers in person, arrange to speak with them on the phone, even if it’s just for a brief period of time. If you have access to a computer, then you could communicate with their teachers via email.

Instead of buying your children all of these toys for Christmas, get them some educational material and software that can improve their academic deficiencies. You have to find creative ways to be involved in your children’s education. Being actively involved in your children’s education helps them to recognize that their education should be a top priority because you take their education so seriously. When you are not actively involved in your children’s education, think about what intentional and unintentional values you are communicating to them.

Learning should not end when students leave school. You should work to create an environment in your home that is well-suited for learning to take place. Be sure that your children organize their rooms well so that their rooms become spaces where order and discipline are encouraged and expected. Valuing order and discipline has important transferability in their academic studies.

When your children are not doing well in school, you need to encourage them to do better. Don’t allow them to give up on their academic studies because they are having difficulties with certain subjects. If you don’t know how to do anything else, you can motivate them to keep trying. Let them know that you just want them to give their best efforts in school.

While I was in the K-12 educational pipeline, I had the great fortune to have parents who were tremendously involved and supportive of me achieving at the highest levels academically, athletically, and socially. Even though I did not need any assistance with my homework from them, they would always ask me probing queries about my school work and homework, which communicated to me that I could never stop striving to become a better and better student.

If you are a parent who has the time and ability to help another parent’s child to succeed, then I would encourage you to reach out to that parent and child. Parents, don’t simply blame schools, administrators, and/or teachers for your children’s educational outcomes. Become an active participant in the type of education your children receive.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison