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No Clear Angle On School Reform

Workishell One thing seems clear.  No one's sure what angle to take on mobilizing the public for school reform.  Yesterday, we had the "better, broader, bigger" folks from EPI, focused on early childhood and out of school factors.  Before that, there was EDINO8, focused on standards and after-school and...I forget the rest. 

Today, kicking off with a press even this morning, we've got Al Sharpton and NYC's Joel Klein (among others), focused on equity and civil rights: Schools Chancellor Klein, Rev. Al Sharpton an odd pair in ... NYDN, Sharpton To Speak on Improving America's Schools Today New York Sun

Check out the details below.

UPDATE:  Maybe the confusion is understandable, given how diverse voters' education priorities are (Obama and McCain face tough task on “education reform”).

Chancellor Klein and Al Sharpton are announcing a new coalition that will work to frame the decades-long failure of the nation’s public schools to educate needy and minority kids as a civil rights crisis. The coalition will press its case in meetings with the presidential candidates, hoping to make education central to the domestic agenda, and will host town halls on education at both parties’ conventions. After the election it will work at both the federal and state levels to mobilize opinion around its values—which will be elucidated in a statement of principles released tomorrow. I hope you can attend. Let me know if I can be of further help. Thanks.





Rev. Sharpton, NYC Schools Chancellor Klein, Governor Romer, DC Schools Chancellor Rhee, Baltimore Schools CEO Alonso To Announce National Education Project



Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 10 a.m., National Press Club, Washington, DC



Attending press conference:

  • Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network President
  • Joel I. Klein, New York City Schools Chancellor
  • Michelle Rhee, Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor 
  • Andres Alonso, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO 
  • The Honorable Roy Romer, Strong American Schools – ED in ’08,      Chairman
  • Marc Lampkin, Strong American Schools – ED in ’08,      Executive Director
  • James Mtume, KISS FM Radio, “Open Line” Host

Supporting the initiative:

  • Cory Booker, Newark, N.J. Mayor
  • Peter Groff, Colorado Senate President     
  • Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children's Zone President and CEO
  • Kevin P. Chavous, attorney, author, and national school reform      leader
  • Howard Fuller, Former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent,      Education Professor and Director of the Institute for the Transformation      of Learning at Marquette University     
  • Kati Haycock, The      Education Trust President
  • J. C. Watts, Jr., Strong American Schools, National      Spokesman 


What?              Far-reaching national education announcement


When?             Wednesday, June 11, 2008

 10 a.m.


Where?  National Press Club

                       Zenger Room

 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor

 Washington, D.C


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I think we're past the point of being able to engage the public. We use jargon they can't possibly understand; we have research to back up any position we want to take on either side of any issue, as it suits us; we're completely autocratic, fighting any challenge to our authority or power; and we constantly deride anything (like standardized test scores) that could provide an independent view of what we're doing.

The public knows that American education is in bad shape, and they also know that they don't have the tools or means to fix it. We've lost them, and we're not getting them back.

Oh, and I forgot to add: we scream like burn victims if anybody issues the slightest challenge to what we do or say.

My strategy to engage the public is to engage adults as volunteers in tutor/mentor programs operating at the school, or in the neighborhood around the school. As these adults bond with kids and learn more about the challenges poverty puts on the kids, some of them become leaders and advocates who go back to their own company and college or church to bring reinforcements.

While I lead a single tutor/mentor program with about 100 active volunteers each year, I also lead the Tutor/Mentor Connection which seeks to support the growth of these programs throughout Chicago and in other big cities. If you do the math, 100 programs with 100 volunteers each is a lot more powerful than a single program.

Read my blog at http://tutormentor.blogspot.com to see more about this mobilization of volunteers and ways students can be part of the leadership of this mobilization. There are a lot of teaching, learning and student motivation opportunities for classroom teachers, which can have direct and longer term impact on education in Chicago and other cities.

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