Where the Bar Ought to Be
STOP THE PRESSES!!! It's REALLY important when one of the most respected and widely read columnists from the far left, the NYT's Bob Herbert, dedicates an entire column to a network on highly effective charter schools – in this case, Harlem Village Academies, run by my friend Deborah Kenny (who was on MSNBC with John Legend recently: www.harlemvillageacademies.org/video/archive/morning_joe_12010):
"We've created a culture that brings out the passion of the teachers and they bring out the passion of the kids."
Charter schools, of course, can fire teachers for poor performance. "Obviously, none of us should be allowed to be in front of children if we're not doing a good job," Ms. Kenny said. "But the threat of being fired if you don't do a good job is not what makes a teacher great."
Ms. Kenny has established two middle schools and one high school and is in the process of creating three elementary schools. Her track record has been extraordinary.
The majority of the youngsters come into the middle schools performing at three to four years behind their grade levels. Within a very short time, they are on the fast track toward college. In 2008, when the math and science test scores came in, Ms. Kenny's eighth graders had achieved 100 percent proficiency. It was not a fluke.
What's ironic is that the teachers are doing everything but teaching to the tests. Ms. Kenny's goals for the youngsters in her schools are the same as those that she had for her own three children, who grew up in a comfortable suburban environment and are now in college. Merely passing a standardized test was hardly something to aspire to.
"I had five core things in mind for my kids, and that's what I want for our students," she said. "I wanted them to be wholesome in character. I wanted them to be compassionate and to see life as a responsibility to give something to the world. I wanted them to have a sophisticated intellect. I wanted them to be avid readers, the kind of person who always has trouble putting a book down. And I raised them to be independent thinkers, to lead reflective and meaningful lives."