Monday, December 7, 2009

Education: The Great Equalizer???

I just viewed CBS's interview with Geoffrey Canada, Developer of the Harlem Children's Zone.  The zone is a truly visionary project that spans about 100 blocks in Harlem.  Began in 1997, it now services  more than 8,000 children and 6,000 adults.  Including innovative programs like Baby College, Promise Academy, obesity programs,  and healthy foods served from an organic garden onsite, the Children's Zone has recently drawn attention from the Obama administration as well as researchers, educators and policy makers nationwide.  The video is embedded below if you wish to see it in it's entirety:

Harlem's Children Zone:  60 minutes clip


Seeing this is inspirational though leaves me feeling disgruntled, disappointed and lots of other adjectives about the way America's schools system has failed and continues to fail our children.  The "Great Equalizer" has actually had the opposite effect for those who don't have the money to attend private schools or aren't lucky enough to get chosen by the lottery system at many of American's most successful charter schools.

I'm ecstatic to see many states implementing takeover strategies or providing more opportunities for charter & independent schools to take over where our public schools have failed.  With that said, the U.S. Department of Education has recently released the guidelines for receiving federal funds for school reform:

  • Turnaround model: Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50 percent of the staff and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars/time, and budgeting) to implement fully a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student outcomes.
  • Restart model: Convert a school or close and reopen it under a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
  • School closure: Close a school and enroll the students who attended that school in other schools in the LEA that are higher achieving.
  • Transformation model: Implement each of the following strategies: (1) replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness; (2) institute comprehensive instructional reforms; (3) increase learning time and create community-oriented schools; and (4) provide operational flexibility and sustained support.
For more information visit the U.S. Dept of Education website.