Sunday, October 25, 2015

The real story of our work to transform Newark Public Schools

Here's Cami Anderson's take, which concludes:

Engaging families is different than managing politics. The forces for status quo are currently better at politics than those of us who believe we must deliver different outcomes for kids. The Prize trivializes and ignores our persistent, though perhaps imperfect, efforts to find new and creative channels for dialogue when traditional paths were blocked.  My team and I spent the vast majority of our time talking to and listening to people in schools, at big public meetings, and also at the grocery store, in small roundtables, and at local hang-outs.  In these intimate discussions, we heard and felt support and enthusiasm for change.  

To a lifelong education advocate, it can seem as though recent memory is littered with tainted reputations of courageous school reformers that dared to disrupt broken systems. From Joel Klein to Mark Zuckerberg, many have taken a shot at sustainable school reform only to be met with resistance. Media produce narratives that cherry-pick stories and data to sell books. Even more damaging, books like The Prize embolden those on the side of an indefensible status quo. The education community is in a complicated position; operating with urgency to deliver on the potential of young people while navigating anti-change politics.  The stakes couldn't be higher. Students, largely poor and of color, are stuck in public education systems that limit their access to wealth, jobs, and freedom.  Broken bureaucracies with entrenched interests cement lack of diversity in board rooms, higher education institutions, and corporations. 

The Prize is ultimately a missed opportunity for a productive conversation about advancing school reform across the country.  The education community must consider how to support the boldest leaders in communities like Newark.  We also need to confront the basic truth that politics and reform are inextricably entwined.  The key will be figuring out how to rally people around the cause rather than undermining those who are speaking hard truths.  This isn't just about reforming schools, it is about the future of our nation.

The real story of our work to transform Newark Public Schools

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