Jackie Gingrich Cushman

"First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students," writes Ripley. "They avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully -- for the next day or the year ahead -- by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy and budgetary shortfalls."

In short, they were willing to do what seemed necessary to ensure that their students learned.

We need far more excellent teachers. Students do not learn from school systems, school buildings or even curricula -- students learn from teachers. Everything else should be secondary.

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, 1.3 million students drop out of school every year. If the top 45 metropolitan areas could cut their estimated 600,000 annual dropouts in half for one year, the alliance estimates, these students would "earn as much as $4.1 billion" more than currently forecasted.

This is an economic problem as well as a social and moral issue.

On Tuesday, in a speech at the National Press Club, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten proposed new standards for teacher review. "We propose rigorous reviews by trained expert," she stated, "and peer evaluators and principals, based on professional teaching standards, best practices and student achievement." The championing of student achievement into teacher evaluations by the teachers union is big, new and needed.

On Tuesday, I toured a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter school. The phrase "all of us will learn" was displayed around the school. The students were orderly and focused on learning. The teachers were engaged and involved with their students.

This should be our big goal in education: for all students to learn.

The team needed to help students reach this goal includes conservatives who believe in individual responsibility and liberals who understand that education provides children with a path to a different, more positive future. The goal we should continually focus on is learning. We must continue to work hard, to persevere when all seems hopeless.

Are we willing to do what seems necessary to ensure that all of our children will learn?

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.