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Posts Tagged ‘geoffrey canada’

This weekend, having spent special time with both grandsons and a brand-new granddaughter, I have been pretty aware of how much promise children hold.

Not just my grandchildren. All children.

But sometimes children who live in poverty need a boost from the rest of us. Kind of like at christenings when everyone in the congregation says they will help the baby learn and grow even though they don’t know the baby’s family and may not see them again. It’s a symbol that people take all children seriously.

At the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Suzanne Perry writes about the Washington, DC, version of the federal Promise Neighborhoods initiative that takes the nation’s responsibility toward children very seriously.

“The D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative, one of the country’s premier efforts to lift children out of poverty by offering a comprehensive array of educational and social services, has won a five-year, $25-million federal grant to step up its work.

“The grant, one of just seven of its kind that the Education Department awarded last month, was an especially sweet victory for the Washington project, which is working to turn around the city’s Parkside-Kenilworth neighborhood. Last year, it failed to win a similar award because it missed the application deadline due to technical problems it faced when e-mailing its proposal.

“This time, the group’s leaders left no stone unturned to ensure the application met all of the federal agency’s specifications, says Ayris Scales, the executive director—who now calls the project ‘the comeback kid’ and says she feels like ‘Cinderella at the ball.’

“The Washington effort is among dozens across the country that are following an approach pioneered by Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children’s Zone, which involves marshaling schools, nonprofits, and other community organizations to help children in troubled neighborhoods from ‘cradle to college.’ ” More.

By the way, I blogged about Geoffrey Canada and the movie on Harlem Children’s Zone, Waiting for Superman, a couple years ago, here.

Photograph: Cliff Owen/AP/File
A three-year-old pre-kindergarten student practices drawing spirals during a class at Powell Elementary School in Washington, DC. The DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative offers ‘cradle to college’ help to children in the nation’s capital.

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Having blogged about the troubling documentary “Waiting for Superman” here, I thought you might be interested in hearing about a school district that has found one way to overcome a significant barrier to quality education.

The documentary’s critique of U.S. public education centers on the inadequacy of teacher evaluation and the near impossibility of firing bad teachers.

Montgomery County (MD) doesn’t have that problem. Can you guess why?

Deep, broad collaboration. Critical constituencies are in on the evaluation and the decisions about coaching and firing.

A June 5 NY Times story by Michael Winerip, “Helping Teachers Help Themselves,” explains.

“The Montgomery County Public Schools system here has a highly regarded program for evaluating teachers, providing them extra support if they are performing poorly and getting rid of those who do not improve. The program, Peer Assistance and Review — known as PAR — uses several hundred senior teachers to mentor both newcomers and struggling veterans. If the mentoring does not work, the PAR panel — made up of eight teachers and eight principals — can vote to fire the teacher. … In the 11 years since PAR began, the panels have voted to fire 200 teachers, and 300 more have left rather than go through the PAR process, said Jerry D. Weast, the superintendent of the Montgomery County system, which enrolls 145,000 students, one-third of them from low-income families. In the 10 years before PAR, he said, five teachers were fired. ‘It took three to five years to build the trust to get PAR in place,’ he explained.”  Read more here.

Having started out my work life as a teacher, I feel pretty strongly that teachers have been given a bad rap lately and that most are experienced, creative, and deeply dedicated (and overworked and underpaid). My daughter-in-law is also a teacher.

But there is no doubt that the bad apples are hard to fire and that every year that they get away with bad teaching turns thousands of children off the whole idea of education, to the lasting detriment of the nation. So I hope everyone will think about the PAR program described in the Times and how they might help influence school policy.

I will post comments sent to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

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Last night we finally watched the DVD of “Waiting for Superman.” We had to wait until we were up for it. We knew it would be good, but painful to watch. It’s a documentary about the broken public education system in this country.

I see now why people come away from this movie saying, “It’s the unions.” But although we clearly need to find a way to dismiss bad teachers and reward good teachers, to just say, “It’s the unions,” seems too simple to me. Even if it is true, when you consider the context of poverty, unemployment, the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world, the War on Drugs, three other wars, confused approaches to immigration, Wall Street greed at the expense of the poor and middle class, antigovernment bias, and many skewed political priorities, to lay the problems of inequality in public education at any one door seems too simplistic.

Still, as the movie makes clear, we need to get rid of bad teachers immediately and make sure children get high-quality teachers before they give up hope. Lotteries to get into better schools are too cruel to too many. Activists can check out this site.

By the way, the film is very well done. We loved the creative graphics making the data real and the clips of Superman movies and past political speeches and TV shows.

Reader Asakiyune writes: “I very much agree with what you said about unions and teaching and the documentary–it bothers me when a problem as complex as that is reduced to one soundbite.”

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