I never thought that I would say this to Eric Hanushek. “You are mostly correct about money not being the whole answer.” I have just read an article (more of a monograph) about how Corey Booker, now U.S. Senator from New Jersey, got Governor Elect Christie and Mark Zuckerberg to agree to reform the Newark School District in 2009. I did not have the heart to read the entire article. It reminded me of the Annenberg Urban Challenge Grants, as well as the Annenberg Rural Challenge Grants, and the soon to be expanded charter school action on the national level.
No matter what these right minded philanthropists- government types do, nothing will change, on a large scale, until the sending homes and communities change. There really isn’t a program that includes large scale changes in where the kids come from. There is no culture out there, whether in urban or rural settings, that seeks to make things better for the families that send their children to public schools.
I have actually been at meetings where money is being given out for school based programs that take nothing into account about the communities. No matter how much dough Bill Gates gives to change his view of the school world, it will not succeed. The lessons of charter schools and cyber charter schools are that frightened parents want their children out of dangerous schools in dangerous parts of neighborhoods.
Take a look at the studies of charter schools across the country. Most of them are not better data wise than the public schools from which the children came. Maybe Geoffrey Canada has the right idea. It certainly is not just a school problem. It is a community problem that no one wants to deal with. Why have we allowed our inner cities and rural areas die economically, producing grinding poverty? Are we really salving our consciences by producing programs aimed at poor people that last for a while and produce minimal positive results?
Yes, there are some programs that seem to do some good. Good pre-school programs are one example, as are Title I reading efforts. However, with every change in administration, whether at the state or federal level, previous programs are thrown out and new ones, with fancy names, rise from the ashes. It takes years before these programs mature and then they go away with a new administration. I remember most of them and have created a list of them that I call, “Educational Panaceas.”
So as not to agree with Rick Hanushek entirely (he knows I can’t do that), money is certainly a major factor in fixing our urban and rural educational systems. I believe that each school in our country needs the kind of transformational leadership described in James MacGregor Burns Pulitzer prize winning book of 1980. Leadership should have a moral component to it. There should be a human value to what a person does as a leader. It cannot be the loud mouthed political leader, or a macho charismatic with only his/her own future in mind.
Are there such people? You bet there are. They are all over in the most unexpected places. Many of these folks are not educators. My own children and their spouses would be those kinds of people. I see them in their milieu working with children and adults in a non-threatening manner and achieving their own personal satisfaction with no thought of self-aggrandizement.
We certainly have them in education. I know that Eli Broad thought that we might find them in the military and then have them go into urban places and beat down the opposition. Eli, it really doesn’t work that way. The successful leaders are well aware of the community, well aware of child development, concerned with the future of the children under their care and willing to work hard with those who share their values.
I have mentioned John Sava, Marcus Foster and Jim Rhoades as three of those people. I could mention many more that are now in the trenches. Let’s put the money into an Education Trust Fund right now and begin to find these people. Support them and the communities that they are entrusted to serve. Let’s give the real leaders a chance to flourish instead of pouring billions into such things as “Race to the Top,” “No Child Left Behind,” “Common Core, “and Charter Schools.”
Eli, Mark, Bill, and others, you obviously have strong feelings about improving education. Stop for a moment. Cease all of the giving and look at what really works, not large scale testing, which shows that we are not reaching children in poverty. Let’s stop fighting with those that are trying hard to do a good job, whether teachers, school boards, politicians, parents or others and start at the beginning.
There Rick, am I now coming around to your side of the fence?