A culture of accountability can keep schools focused on education

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The Dallas Morning News is publishing a multi-part series on important issues for voters to consider as they choose a president this year. This is the fourth installment of our What’s at Stake series, and it focuses on American culture. Find the full series here.

What a year to be the parent of a child in the public school system. Of all the disruptions and heartaches caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the effect on how and where we educate our children has been among the most striking.

Though we are rightly distracted and stressed by this, we shouldn’t lose focus on what’s most essential in education, especially at the voting booth this fall. We need to keep our eye on what is key to our country’s future, and that is a quality education for all children.

Achievement gaps have persisted for way too long, leaving children of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, disabled or who speak English as a second language, behind their more advantaged peers. Now is not the time to let our guard down and allow soft-boiled expectations for learning creep in.

Though we can certainly recognize that schools’ priorities right now should be health and safety, we still need to hold them to high educational standards. One way to do this is to rely on data as a tool for keeping schools, and our elected leaders, accountable for figuring out how to fix inequities. Parents can be a strong voice for change, particularly when they are empowered with data.

Good teachers want to improve results for their students, but they need administrators to set clear goals for getting there. Jasmine Lane, a high school English teacher in a school district north of Minneapolis and an opinion writer for Education Week, issued a clarion call