When education policymakers, legislators, and lawmakers operate in isolation, they can seem distant or removed from the communities they serve. So what happens when a policymaker is also a teacher and a parent?
In advance of the summer 2020 relaunch of our Eight Cities project, we spoke with Asia J. Norton, a third-generation Newark teacher and parent who serves on the Newark Board of Education.
As a young student, Asia’s struggles with literacy led her mother to switch Asia into a different school. In this conversation, she talks about ensuring that every Newark parent has the opportunity to choose a school that is the right fit for their child.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you become so deeply involved in education at multiple levels?
I was born into education. Both my grandmother and mother were teachers in Newark. But as a child, I wasn’t served well by my local public school. By the time I reached fifth grade, I barely knew how to read. My mother, being a parent and an educator, recognized that I needed something different. She pulled me out of my public school, used the social security money she received from my father’s death, and enrolled me in a private school. That experience prompted me to observe the differences between my school and the school where my mother taught — it felt like two different education systems.
I knew policy was driving a lot of the inequities I saw, so after college I [got] involved in education policy. But I knew that if I truly wanted to make an impact on education policy, I needed to be in the classroom and have the practitioner perspective.
Being a teacher is definitely different than talking about teaching. Although my grandmother and mother were teachers, I wasn’t a teacher until I was in front of kindergarten students teaching them how to read. And because of my struggles as a student, I developed a passion for literacy education. As a teacher I continued to see the differences in school quality in my community. I saw how getting the right seat can make an enormous difference. Continue reading