“Say This, Not That” for Public Schools

June, 2015 Nora Carr

Borrowing from the “Charter School Messaging Notebook” and public school messaging research conducted in North Carolina by the Neimand Collaborative, here are some suggested sound bites for public school officials:

Say This

Not That

Public schools are the best choice for preparing students for life.

Public schools are important to a free and democratic society.

Public schools advance every child, from the high fliers to those who are struggling and everyone in between.

Our jobs are harder because we have to take everyone. Our school(s) would be great if we could remove about 2-5 percent of the troublemakers. Our school(s) would be great if more parents were involved.

We can meet the needs of your child and help him/her succeed in school and in life. I hope we can earn the opportunity to educate your child.

We’re one of the largest school systems in the state! (Big isn’t better when it comes to parents. They worry their child will get lost in the shuffle.)

Public schools offer kids a competitive advantage in our global economy – our kids live diversity every day, not just on international foods day.

Our schools are very diverse. We have a free and reduced-price lunch count of ___%. (Don’t conflate racial and cultural diversity with poverty, discipline data, special education counts, and other common forms of implicit bias.)

Different people, cultures, sports, co-curricular activities and a sense of community expand our students’ interests and help them build important life skills. We have something to offer every child.

Our sports teams, chorales, drama productions, arts programs, etc., are very competitive. (Parents will read this as their child will not likely have the opportunity to participate.)

Our goal is to prepare well-rounded students who are ready for life, not just the workplace. We want our students to succeed in whatever they choose to do and be.

We are focused on increasing test scores. We want every child to be college and career ready.

We want our kids to dream big. We want them to have a great life. We’re not just preparing future workers. We are preparing leaders and citizens, moms and dads, and future community volunteers.

We have the highest test scores in the state. Too many teachers are teaching to the test. We spend too much money on non-tested subjects.

We want our kids to have jobs that will support their families, and support their dreams.

We don’t have enough kids in vocational education classes anymore. We need more kids enrolled in career and technical education. We support “living wage” legislation.

The American Dream is alive and well and it’s living in our public schools. Come see for yourself.

Public schools are failing our kids.

Investing in teachers is an investment in children. We want to have highly educated, well-trained professional teachers in our classrooms and schools. We want the best, not the minimally qualified.

Anybody can teach. Advanced degrees, licensure, national board certification and other professional standards aren’t important if there isn’t a correlation to increased test scores.

We focus on improving teaching and learning, and we evaluate progress in a variety of ways. Many of the most powerful ways teachers impact their students can’t be measured on a standardized test. Test scores are just one of many measures we use to judge the progress we’re making.

Standardized testing is the best measure of student learning and teacher effectiveness.

Public schools, public school districts

Public school system, school system, local educational agency

Vouchers, sending public dollars to exclusive private schools, sending public dollars to faith-based schools, privatization

“Opportunity scholarships,” tuition tax credits, special education tax credits, K-12 educational savings accounts, and other attempts to outsource public education and public monies to privately held, for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations, and faith-based organizations

About the Author

Nora Carr ( is chief of staff for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools.

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