Happy New Year everyone. 2011 brings many challenges, not the least of which is how to solve our continuing public education crisis. Two of the nations most effective reformers — Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee stepped down in 2010 as education leaders in New York and Washington and we wait to see if their successors will continue and expand the reforms they have begun. Several prominent leaders have criticized their efforts to make teachers and principals more accountable, but the improvements that have been made in those two systems are undeniable. And most of their critics have not come forward with viable alternatives that could produce major change in reducing the achievement gap.
America is in an educational decline. While we continue to have the same effectiveness we had 30 years ago, almost all other nations have dramatically improved. This has dropped the United States from first in education to the bottom half of the pack. Our public education system is no longer the envy of the world. The silver lining may be that it will help us reduce our arrogance toward other countries. But it is not a good thing for urban young people of color, nor young people who are poor everywhere or families who do not have alternatives to send their children to private schools.
As we start the new year, I am hopeful we will begin to make progress; that innovations being attempted in Bridgeport and other places will spread to our lower performing schools and will be taken to scale. I am hopeful that parents and community leaders will rise up and demand the same high quality education that benefits our wealthy suburbs. And I am hopeful that leaders will lead — that the mayor, superintendent, principals, teachers, business leaders, faith leaders, nonprofit leaders, parent leaders and students will take bold steps without regard to their personal futures to benefit our children. They deserve nothing less. Another generation of young people cannot be discarded while we wait!
Watch this space to be linked with promising ideas regarding urban education in Bridgeport, in Connecticut and across the country and the many other issues that weigh heavily against urban youth like poverty, unemployment, lack of community and family supports, low expectations, public safety, homelessness and many other issues.