10/09/2013 08:52 am ET Updated Dec 09, 2013

The Missing Conversation in Educational Policy: Student Engagement

There are many educational policy issues manifesting themselves currently that are creating tensions and in some cases all out rebellion. One is of course standards, and more specifically, the Common Core. With this effort to standardize learning objectives, there is of course backlash. NBC News recently noted that many teachers and even parents are "rebelling" against them. Regardless of how you feel about the Common Core, it is a change for many educators, and change causes tension. In addition to the Common Core Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards are hot of the heels of the Common Core in terms of adoption. My home state of Washington recently announced they would adopt these standards. No doubt, there will be some backlash there as well.

Speaking of rebellion and backlash, standardized tests are also a source of rebelling. Teachers in Washington State garnered national attention when they decided they would not issue the standardized tests set forward by the state. The new Smarter Balance and PARCC assessments, aligned to the Common Core are the latest tests to receive this backlash. States like Georgia, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Alabama, and Pennsylvania have all backed out of issuing the new PARCC assessments.

With all these controversy and conversation around standards and testing, I feel there is a major issue that needs to be discussed from the Educational Policy perspective: Student Engagement. Why aren't we creating policy that focuses on diverse ways to engage our diverse group of students? Standards in no way will solve the problem of engagement, nor will testing. Now I'm not saying it easy to legislate or create policy to drive engagement, but it certainly has not been at the forefront of the conversation. Why aren't we creating policy to create professional learning experiences to arm teachers with a variety of techniques to engage students? Why aren't we debating policy to shift towards personalized and competency-based pathways to differentiate instruction for all students? I have no answers, but I know there are pockets of excellence. I simply want Student Engagement to be as important at the forefront of our minds and conversations when we create policy that will affect our students.