Friday, May 8, 2009

Strong Schools equal Success

For a long time, the general consensus has been that the number one predictor of academic success was socio-economic success. There were many reasons this was an accepted standard: all the other factors tended to be stronger up the income ladder - higher earning families could provide more parental support with more assistance from generally two college-educated parents who could afford to live near and send their kids to the best schools. However, the success in certain charter school movements is turning much of that logic on its ear, and this is spotlighted this week by David Brooks of the New York Times.

Brooks praises the rather astounding turnaround for students attending Harlem's Children Zone schools like the Promise Academy. These are the brainchild of Geoffery Canada, a man committed to education reform, and one who refuses to accept the conventional wisdom. I saw him several years ago, and I was amazed by his program. Now that he's getting more press, I hope the reality of his success will spread. As Brooks notes:

The approach works. Ever since welfare reform, we have had success with intrusive government programs that combine paternalistic leadership, sufficient funding and a ferocious commitment to traditional, middle-class values. We may have found a remedy for the achievement gap. Which city is going to take up the challenge? Omaha? Chicago? Yours?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a high school teacher and generally agree with Brooks' position. There are many (though not all) underperforming students who would benefit from a more paternalistic approach with an emphasis on old fashion traits that are crucial for classroom success. These students actually want to change and will do so when challenged vigorously. See "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism" by David Whitman, available online. One great stumbling block is that such an approach requires a school to pass judgment on students, because when there are actual expectations in any organization, not everyone will fit. The idea of weeding some students out of a school: (a) is anathema to current trends in public education; (b) requires the existence of worthwhile alternatives for students who must go elsewhere.