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Teachers Union Challenges "Waiting for 'Superman'"

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a memo to the media on September 8 challenging the new documentary, "Waiting for Superman." The movie is a documentary on charter schools and features Geoffrey Canada from HCZ, among others. AFT is one of the nation's largest teachers unions.

UNCA has not taken a position on this issue or the movie, but we will report on the debate.

To: Members of the Media
From: Randi Weingarten, AFT President
Date: September 8, 2010
Re: Response to "Waiting for Superman"

Is America ready to settle for a good education — for the few? That's the unfortunate takeaway from a soon-to-be released documentary film, "Waiting for 'Superman.'" The film, by Davis Guggenheim, shows how tragically far we are from the great American ideal of providing all children with the excellent education they need and deserve. Yet, despite Guggenheim's unquestionably good intentions, "Waiting for 'Superman'" is inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete — and misses what could have been a unique opportunity to portray the full and accurate story of our public schools.

"Waiting for 'Superman'" has been screened by private audiences throughout the country and will be released for the general public on Sept. 24. In the event that you write about the film, I wanted to share my thoughts directly with you about it.

One can't help but be moved by the stories of the five children and their families Guggenheim follows as they encounter a lottery system for admission to the schools upon which they are pinning their hopes for a good education. Their stories, in a very real and emotional way, drive home the point that the opportunity for a great public education should come not by chance, but by right.

But the filmmaker's storytelling falters in other key areas. The film casts several outliers in starring roles — for example, "bad" teachers and teachers unions as the villains, and charter schools as heroes ready to save the day. The problem is that these caricatures are more fictional than factual.

There are more than 3 million teachers working in our 130,000 public schools. Are there bad teachers? Of course there are, just as there are bad accountants, and lawyers, and actors. I wish there were none. There also are countless good, great and exceptional teachers working in our public schools every day in neighborhoods across the country — although for this film, they apparently ended up on the cutting room floor. It is shameful to suggest, as the film does, that the deplorable behavior of one or two teachers (including an example more than two decades old) is representative of all public school teachers.

Guggenheim has found ways to make facts and data interesting, even entertaining. But, when certain facts don't advance his story line, he makes them disappear. The treatment of charter schools is one of the most glaring inconsistencies in "Waiting for 'Superman.'" Guggenheim makes only glancing reference to the poor achievement of most charter schools, despite the abundance of independent research showing that most charter schools perform worse than or only about as well as comparable regular public schools. Nevertheless, he illogically holds them up as the ticket to a good education for disadvantaged students.

I wish all schools had the wealth of resources enjoyed by the charter schools featured in the film, which are part of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). The charter schools in the HCZ have what we should be fighting to have in every public school-services that help eradicate the barriers to academic success, and funding to ensure that students and teachers have the tools they need to succeed. HCZ schools receive two-thirds of their funding from private sources and one-third from the government. This private money funds staff and curriculum, as well as extensive medical, dental and tutorial services. We know kids' needs are met when these wraparound services are combined with high-quality instructional programs. In the end, funding these programs will make a fundamental difference for all children.

"Waiting for 'Superman'" misses two crucial points. First, we have to be committed to supporting a public school system that provides all our children with access to a great education. And second, we must focus our efforts on the most promising and proven approaches-those great neighborhood public schools that work. I've seen such success stories across the country in schools that reduce barriers to academic success, as is done in the HCZ schools; schools that offer great curriculum, extra help for students who start or fall behind, and supports for teachers. Where the system has failed is to not take these proven models and scale them up. The solutions aren't the stuff of action flicks, but they work.

Films like "Waiting for 'Superman'" are gripping for a reason: They connect us to real life struggles. They may even call much-needed attention to the challenges confronting many students and schools. But the attention will be misplaced, if it centers on off-base solutions and denigrating good teachers rather than on what works to improve our schools.

Imagine a sequel to "Waiting for 'Superman'" released a few years from now. Would we rather stick to the cinematic model of providing an escape hatch — sometimes superior, most often inferior — to a handful of students? Or would we offer a model in which we had summoned the will to do the hard but effective and far-reaching work required to make meaningful changes to entire school systems, providing all children with the best possible choice — a highly effective neighborhood school?

The most effective solutions didn't make it into the film. In other words, Guggenheim ignored what works: developing and supporting great teachers; implementing valid and comprehensive evaluation systems that inform teaching and learning; creating great curriculum and the conditions that promote learning for all kids; and insisting on shared responsibility and mutual accountability that hold everyone, not just teachers, responsible for ensuring that all our children receive a great education.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further. To learn more about the AFT's work to improve teaching and learning, and about public schools that help students succeed despite great challenges, please contact Michael Powell, the assistant to the president for communications, at 202/879-4458, or go to AFT.org.

The Planners: Different Worlds and Different Views on School Reform

Rightly or wrongly, Promise Neighborhoods is seen by many as an education program. To the extent it is viewed solely as an education program, we have disputed this view, but its location in the U.S. Department of Education makes the argument more difficult to make.  Ties to administration-backed reforms, such as charter schools and the four Race to the Top school transformation models, make it harder still.

In this, the third in our series of articles covering the experiences of 47 local Promise Neighborhood planning groups (methodology), we report on the views of our planners on these school reforms and their experiences with local schools.

Busting Silos Is Difficult

At its core, Promise Neighborhoods is about breaking down silos, in this case between education and social services.  While breaking down silos is rarely easy, it was made harder for some of our planners because of cultural differences, mistrust, or simple unfamiliarity with education issues and the education bureaucracy.

“Unless you were an insider and you knew what was going on,” said one planner, “the school was going to be very selective about what information they gave out.” Access to education data was a particularly tricky issue for some.

Others had previous experience with schools, but there were challenges even for them. Some had experience running afterschool programs, for instance, while others had previous experience with community schools. But the timing of the grant at the end of the school year did not help and working with schools going through transformation-related turmoil was difficult under any circumstances.

“Major leadership transitions at our target school made communications (and finding someone who could commit the school to anything) a challenge,” wrote one planner.

“Our schools are dealing with so many issues right now (money, safety, test scores, etc.) that this seemed appealing, but also overwhelming to them,” wrote another.

The Four School Transformation Models Were Not Widely Supported

Promise Neighborhoods requires applicants to put schools at the center of their cradle-through-college-to-career pipelines. While planners were given some flexibility, the application encouraged them to partner with low-performing schools, including “persistently lowest achieving schools,” that were using one of four Race to the Top school intervention strategies.

These four strategies ranged from school closure to firing principals and implementing new performance evaluation systems. We have previously featured interviews about these intervention strategies, both pro and con.

When we asked our planners what they thought of the four school intervention strategies, more said they hurt their application (16) than helped (11). Another 8 said they made no difference.

Among those who said the strategies helped, a few supported them on their merits. They were a “good template to look at,” said one. A more typical reason was pragmatic. Many simply noted they had turnaround schools in their chosen neighborhoods and that meant they could easily “check that box.”

For the larger number who said the intervention strategies hurt, the reasons were more varied. Some were simply unfamiliar with them and said they caused confusion. Others said they limited the choice of schools and neighborhoods. “Schools will not go through a turnaround because of a Promise Neighborhoods grant,” said one planner. “You needed to be in a position where some school was already doing it.”

Others questioned the effectiveness of the strategies. “Don’t get rid of staff and all of those things,” argued one. “How many times in this madness did a kid actually benefit? Where’s the evidence?”

“Some amazing things take place without calling it one of those four models,” said another.

Others expressed concern about political blowback. “The Race to the Top models are very severe,” said one. “Supporting that could undermine our support in the community.”

Others were simply pragmatic. Said one, “It’s hard to try to partner with a principal when the restructuring models call for the replacement of the principal.”

Charter Schools: More Support, But Still Controversial

The other school reform that received significant attention from our planners, though it was not prominently mentioned in the application itself, was charter schools. Support for charters was generally higher than support for the four school intervention models, but even here there was significant disagreement.

When we asked whether charter schools were present in their chosen neighborhoods, more of our planners said yes (28) than no (11). When charters were present, they were more often included in proposals (18) than not (10).

When charters were included, sometimes it was because the applicants operated them. Others said, however, that local charters were often not performing badly enough to meet the application’s criteria for a low-performing school. KIPP schools, for instance, were said to be “too good.”

Moreover, while a few thought that including charter schools in their proposals provided an added level of political support in their community, far more said the opposite. “You can't ask a public school system to work on a grant that includes a charter. This is akin to assisting the competition,” said one planner. Indeed, hostility to charter schools by the local school system sank one application in our group.

In other cases, regardless of the views in their communities, some of our planners themselves seemed to be opposed to charters. “We didn't even consider them,” said one. “This should have been left out of RFP because we don't know how effective they are.”

Accountability

Promise Neighborhoods applicants were being asked to bridge gaps between two siloed worlds, social services and education, and to do so under very trying circumstances – often working with schools experiencing significant turmoil. This challenge should not be underestimated.

Set against this backdrop, Promise Neighborhoods winners will be properly judged by their results. However, it is important to point out that holding programs and organizations accountable for results is only appropriate to the degree they have significant control over outcomes.

In some of these cases, at least when it comes to educational outcomes, this seemed questionable. At one end of the spectrum were partnerships with charter schools operated by the lead applicants themselves, which implied a significant degree of control. This model is closer to the Harlem Children’s Zone itself. But at the other end of the spectrum there were applicants working with traditional public schools that were experiencing significant transformational distress, where the control of lead applicants over school decisions will at best be minimal.

It is appropriate to work with schools under different circumstances and to test different strategies to determine what works. The wide-ranging views of our planners reinforce the need for a diverse set of strategies.

But it will be important to remember that in many of these cases, educational outcomes will be less attributable to Promise Neighborhoods lead applicants and more attributable to schools and school reform strategies that, in many cases, they did not choose and will not control.

Promise Neighborhoods should be held accountable for results. But it is not just an education program and it should not be viewed that way. It is about bridging silos and improving outcomes for children, families and communities as a whole. When Promise Neighborhoods applicants receive their final report cards, we hope policymakers and others keep this in mind.

Next Up: Who’s the Lead Dog?

The Role of Colleges and Universities in Place-based Initiatives

Several weeks ago we noted an opinion piece in Education Week by Russell Olwell, a professor of history at Eastern Michigan University, which asked why more universities and colleges were not stepping up to be lead applicants for Promise Neighborhoods.

In our comments on the piece, we expressed a very different opinion. First, we argued that the number of lead applicants that were institutions of higher education seemed quite high to us. We also predicted that their proportion would increase once we found out who actually applied. This turned out to be true.

We went on to point out that many more colleges and universities were at the table than might first seem apparent. We knew from speaking to local projects that even when they were not the lead applicants, they were often still playing important roles behind the scenes. We concluded by expressing some fear that, if anything, universities might be too influential.

That was an opinion that was, shall we say, 'noticed' by some of our friends in academia, who gave us a little light ribbing for it (smile).

At the time, we said we intended to bring in someone who knew more to give us a more enlightened view. Today is the day.

Dr. Ira Harkavy is Associate Vice President and founding Director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a noted expert and historian of university-community-school partnerships (bio). And for the record, being a good sport, he gave us no ribbing whatsoever! (not that we mind).

We asked his opinion about these issues.

Building Neighborhoods: Dr. Harkavy, thank you for joining us. In your opinion, what is the appropriate role for universities in place-based programs like Promise and Choice Neighborhoods? What do they bring to the table and what are their strengths?

Dr. Ira Harkavy: Community colleges, colleges, and universities have a crucial role to play in place-based programs such as Promise and Choice Neighborhoods.  My opinion is based on three premises:

  1. The future of higher educational institutions and their communities and cities are intertwined.
  2. Higher eds can make significant contributions to the quality of life in their cities and communities.
  3. Higher eds can enhance their overall missions of teaching, research, learning, and service by working to improve the quality of life in their cities and local communities.

Moreover, higher eds are place-based institutions themselves. They have a special responsibility for community problem-solving given their mission, location, resources, prestige, power and influence.  By actively engaging in real world problem-solving, place-based, community-focused education with their local communities, higher educational institutions can effectively utilize their vast resources—particularly their human resources of students, faculty, and staff—and significantly contribute to improving the quality of life in America’s communities.

Today, higher educational institutions play crucial, multi-faceted roles in their cities and surrounding regions—including in education, research, service, housing and real estate development, employment, job training, purchasing, hiring, business incubation, and cultural development.  Higher eds can play a critical role as anchor institutions, providing employment to many and serving as powerful collaborators in economic, educational and civic renewal efforts.

Place-based initiatives such as Promise Neighborhoods represent a vitally important community building strategy for promoting collaboration and improving the lives of children in our most disinvested communities. Their power lies in the interconnected nature of the academic, social, emotional, physical and civic development of our young people in the communities in which they live.  Schools are at the center of the Promise Neighborhoods strategy and guidelines.

In my judgment, community schools are the most effective and efficient vehicle to incorporate the community in the work of the school, and are key to the success of place-based programs. Community schools bring together schools and community partners (community-based organizations, family, health and mental health agencies, higher education institutions, and others) to help young people succeed and to develop stronger families and healthier communities. The Coalition for Community Schools, which I have chaired since its founding, is the national policy, research and advocacy arm of the community schools movement.

Since 1985, colleagues at Penn and other higher eds have worked to develop and implement the idea of university-assisted community schools. We emphasize university-assisted because community schools require more resources than traditional schools do and because we have become convinced that, in relative terms, universities constitute the strategic sources of broadly based, comprehensive, sustained support for community schools. Moreover, by leveraging the resources of anchor institutions, community schools —- and Promise Neighborhoods —- will be in a stronger position to sustain their work over the long term.

The most critical component of the model is that the work is integrated into both the public school’s and university’s curricula, creating a real-world problem solving approach and fostering sustainable partnerships. By providing academic opportunities for students and faculty to engage in community problem-solving, place-based research, teaching, learning, and service, higher eds can effectively utilize their vast intellectual resources and powerfully contribute to both improving the quality of life in America and advancing the quality of learning and scholarship.

Although all too often higher eds have tried to distance themselves from the poverty in their own local environments, things are changing rapidly.  Colleges and universities are increasingly becoming engaged civic institutions, largely through efforts to improve their local environment and to reduce poverty and disadvantage in the communities of which they are a part. Service-learning, volunteer projects, institutional investment and support are some of the means that have been used to create democratic, mutually beneficial, mutually respectful partnerships designed to make a profound difference in the community and on the campus.

Throughout the 1990s, hundreds of universities established offices or centers aimed at encouraging partnerships with the community.  Hundreds of thousands of college students participate in various community-based activities. Campus Compact, a national coalition of college and university presidents and a leading proponent of service-learning, has grown from 3 institutions in 1985 to over 1,100 in 2009, approximately a quarter of all colleges and universities in the United States.

One relatively recent effort to promote democratic, mutually beneficial university-community partnerships is the Anchor Institutions Task Force. In winter 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was advised by a national Task Force, coordinated by the University of Pennsylvania, on how HUD could increase its impact and strategically leverage anchor institutions, particularly higher education and medical institutions (“eds and meds”), to improve communities and help solve significant urban problems. This Task Force, which I currently chair, is continuing, functioning as an ongoing think tank, developing long-term strategies, and making the case for the crucial role of anchor institutions in economic and community development.  The Task Force is an individual membership organization, comprised of democratic-minded academics, university presidents, and other civic leaders who subscribe to the Task Force’s mission and core values: collaboration and partnership; equity and social justice; democracy and democratic practice; and commitment to place and community.

While this movement for the democratically engaged civic university has grown throughout the US — indeed worldwide — much more needs to occur. This idea is captured in the title of a forthcoming report by my colleagues at the Democracy Collaborative — The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads — which highlights the work at ten leading colleges and universities (including Penn) but claims that there is much work to do for these institutions to truly and effectively serve as anchors in long-term community revitalization.  A significant challenge of this work has been moving beyond limited (and at times palliative) community involvement towards the establishment of deep, lasting, democratic, collaborative partnerships that solve significant real-world community problems.

Building Neighborhoods: Now that we have heard some of what universities can bring to the table, let’s look at some of the potential criticisms. Some critics have complained that universities approach low-income communities in a paternalistic and undemocratic way. How valid are these criticisms and what can be done to address them?

Dr. Ira Harkavy: This criticism is certainly valid. No doubt universities must change if society is to become increasing democratic.  I have made the argument many times before that higher eds have a long way to go before they radically change their hierarchical cultures and structures and really use all of their enormous resources to help transform their local communities into democratic, cosmopolitan, neighborly communities.

John Gardner, arguably the leading spokesperson for the democratic, engaged, cosmopolitan, civic university thought and wrote about organizational devolution and the university’s potential role for nearly a generation. For him, the effective functioning of organizations required the planned and deliberate, rather than haphazard, devolution of functions.

To extend Gardner’s observation, I contend that universities and colleges, to realize their great potential and really contribute to a democratic devolution revolution, will have to do things very differently than they do now. To begin with, changes in “doing” will require recognition by higher eds that, as they now function, they —- particularly universities —- constitute a major part of the problem, not a significant part of the solution. To become part of the solution, higher eds must give full-hearted, full-minded devotion to the painfully difficult task of transforming themselves into socially responsible civic universities and colleges. To do so, they will have to radically change their institutional cultures and structures, democratically realign and integrate themselves, and develop a comprehensive, realistic strategy.

Building Neighborhoods: Many community residents are wary of universities who may seem more interested in research than helping their communities, for example some who may “take the data and run.” At its worst, some may cite historical examples such as the infamous Tuskegee experiment. What measures can universities take to improve town-gown relations and prevent local populations from feeling like lab rats?

Dr. Ira Harkavy: Authentic, democratic partnerships have several key characteristics in common.  In October 2004, I attended the third in a series of conferences sponsored by the Kellogg Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, held at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin.  The working group I was part of specifically identified democratic purpose, process, and product as crucial for successful university partnerships with schools and communities.

First is purpose: A successful partnership must be known for its democratic and civic purposes.  This is in keeping with the democratic mission that served as the central animating force behind the development of the American research university. An abiding democratic and civic purpose is the rightly placed goal if higher education is to truly contribute to the public good.

Second is process: In accordance with the purpose discussed above, a successful partnership should be democratic, egalitarian, transparent, and collegial. Higher educational institutions should go beyond the rhetoric of collaboration and conscientiously work with communities, rejecting a unidirectional, top down approach, which all too often has characterized university-community interaction.  The higher educational institution and the community, as well as members of both communities, should treat each other as ends in themselves, rather than as means to an end. The relationship itself and welfare of the various partners—not developing a specified program or completing a research project—should be the preeminent value.  These are the types of collaborations that tend to be significant, serious and sustained, that lead to a relationship of genuine respect and trust, and that most benefit both the partners and society.

And third is product: A successful partnership strives to make a positive difference for all partners.  Contributing to the well being of people in the community (both now and in the future) through structural community improvement (e.g., effective public schools, neighborhood economic development, strong community organizations) should be a central goal of a truly democratic partnership for the public good.  Research, teaching, learning, and service should also be enhanced as a result of a successful partnership.  Indeed, working with the community to improve the quality of life in the community may be one of the best ways to advance learning within a higher educational institution.

Building Neighborhoods: Where do universities need to go from here? How do we get there?

Dr. Ira Harkavy: Universities should make solving community-identified universal problems that are manifested in their local communities (substandard housing, inadequate healthcare, unequal schooling, etc.) a very high institutional priority. Their contributions to these solutions should count heavily both in assessing their institutional performance and in responding to their requests for renewed or increased resources and financial support. Government can be an indispensible catalyst in this process.

Now is an appropriate moment to create a new compact between government, higher educational institutions and their communities.  Government should encourage community colleges, colleges, and universities to do well by doing good—that is, to better realize their missions by contributing significantly to developing and sustaining democratic schools and communities.  Enlisting universities as key partners in Federal, place-based initiatives can help to leverage the vast but yet to be fully tapped resources of higher education to improve the quality of life and learning in their local communities, as well as society in general. The Federal government—by enlisting universities as key partners in place-based programs such as Promise and Choice Neighborhoods—can and should stimulate that examination and change.  Moreover, government can help higher eds and other anchor institutions engage their full set of resources—human, academic, cultural, economic—with their community, forging democratic, mutually beneficial, mutually respectful partnerships.

In this approach, the Federal Government functions as a collaborating partner, effectively facilitating cooperation among all sectors of society, serving as a powerful catalyst and providing the funds needed to create stable, ongoing, effective partnerships.  This strategy also requires creatively and intelligently adapting the work and resources of a wide variety of local institutions (e.g., higher eds, hospitals, neighborhood and faith-based organizations) to the particular needs and resources of local communities.  It assumes, however, that universities and colleges, which simultaneously constitute preeminent international, national, and local institutions, potentially represent by far the most powerful partners, “anchors,” and creative catalysts for change and improvement in the quality of life in American cities and communities.

As I noted previously, for universities and colleges to fulfill this role, they will have to do things very differently than they do now.  Critically, universities need to be judged by new criteria.  We have to hold higher eds accountable by insisting that they be rewarded with Federal support to undertake community and school partnership activities only if they follow the “Noah Principle”—funding given for building arks (producing real change), not for predicting rain (describing the problems that exist and will develop if actions are not taken).  Funded activities should further demonstrate community benefit, not simply benefit to the university, as well as transparent and democratic collaborations with local partners.  Finally, there needs to be accountability for results that are measurable and sustainable.

In sum, the Federal government has an unprecedented opportunity to inspire higher educational institutions to work in collaboration with their local schools and communities to help solve truly significant, community identified, real world problems and, by doing so, help America realize the democratic promise of America for all Americans.

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Study: Charter Schools Primarily Benefit Economically Disadvantaged Students

Education Week, from whom we steal just about everything these days, reported last week on a major new charter school study done by Mathematica Policy Research. The study found no edge for charters as compared to other public schools, which is not especially new. It seems the general conclusion is that there are some good charters and some bad ones, which is similarly true for non-charters.

I thought this was the most interesting part of the article:

The Mathematica authors add context to the new study’s findings, however, by exploring when charters seem to work best, and for which students. They found, for instance, that the charter middle schools serving the most economically disadvantaged students—especially those in urban areas—were more successful than their counterparts serving higher-achieving, more affluent students in producing gains in mathematics.

That finding is similar to that of a recent study of 22 middle schools operated by the Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, the nation’s largest charter-management organization. ("KIPP Middle Schools Found to Spur Learning Gains," June 22, 2010.) That study, also conducted by Mathematica, found that the KIPP students—most of whom were also poor and were members of ethnic- and racial-minority groups—outperformed their peers in regular public schools.

Of course, charters appear to be central to the Harlem Children's Zone model, if not Promise Neighborhoods. We don't have a dog in the charter school fight, but we will keep tracking it as interested observers.

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The i3 Edupreneurs

The competition for the $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) fund money is proceeding along nicely. According to a none-too-surprising analysis by Education Week:

Demand is far outpacing resources in one hot segment of the education innovation market, as districts, schools, and nonprofits pitch reform proposals worth $12.8 billion for competitive grants to be awarded under the federal Investing in Innovation Fund, or “i3”—nearly 20 times what the U.S. Department of Education has available.

That analysis is of i3 data posted publicly on the data.ed.gov web site, which will also host similar data for Promise Neighborhoods. We will do a similar analysis when that data is posted.

Of i3, John Lock, President and CEO of Project Lead The Way, said:

“They’re not going to be able to award all of the worthy applications, and that’s going to be difficult,” Mr. Lock said, adding that the philanthropic market also won’t likely be able to come up with the cash to fund every worthy innovation project. “There’s some danger in creating a sector of haves and have-nots. I’m hopeful that’s not the case.”

We have already seen that anecdotally in Promise Neighborhoods (see the end of this article). Among the possible "haves" in i3 are the KIPP Foundation and Teach for America.

In May, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he didn't want to hear any whining:

“I need you not to scream about the process” and the scoring system, Duncan told about 600 in attendance at today’s NewSchools summit. Instead, he said, “I need you to [lobby for] Investing in Innovation Two.” He continued, “We need losers to demand…the next generation of funding.”

Yes, well, we're trying, at least on Promise Neighborhoods. On i3, the article also quotes Tom Vander Ark, a partner in the education advocacy and strategy group VA/R Partners in Seattle and noted expert on i3 (see his blog here), who made the following interesting comment:

“It’s a problem that most of this money is going to school districts, and school districts are not very good at innovating; they’re set up to operate schools,” Mr. Vander Ark said.

As we begin to get feedback from our Promise Neighborhoods planner interviews we are getting different perspectives, which we will dutifully report in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, we have covered i3 sporadically before but are now giving serious consideration to tracking it more closely and possibly lending it our political support. How many of you are paying attention to i3 or applied for it? Should we get involved? Email me and let me know.

Postscript: I think it is amusing that we are primarily a social service-oriented organization and Promise Neighborhoods has forced us to become insta-experts in education policy. I suppose that's what happens when you bust silos and marry education and social services.

I guess that makes us somebody's dorky new in-laws (grin). Try not to roll your eyes too much when we spout off at Thanksgiving dinner (we're invited, right?).

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by Dr. Radut