I put David Kirp’s Improbable Scholars
on hold at the library (I love the NYPL), but while I await it for further review, I’d like to pull out some great pieces from this excerpt
on The Daily Beast
Kirp is writing about Union City and three other school systems that have demonstrated consistent academic excellence and growth for students living in challenging circumstances.
“What do these effective school systems have in common? Core principles.
· They put the needs of students, not the preferences of the staff, at the center of decision making.
· They start early by investing in quality preschool.
· They rely on a rigorous, consistent, and integrated curriculum.
· They make extensive use of data to diagnose problems and pinpoint what’s required to solve them.
· They build a culture that combines high expectations with respect and a “we can do it” emphasis on the positive.
· They value stability and avoid political drama.
· They are continuously improving—planning, doing, reviewing—turning a system comprised of schools into a school system. “
These principles stood out to me as wonderful demonstrations of what happens when we recognize a school (and a school system) as an ecosystem. A sustainable, long-term focus that applies multiple efforts in a comprehensive manner. A strong curriculum, a culture driven by collegiality and a focus on the students, an investment in preventative, proactive measures–no gimmicks, no quick fixes, no silver bullets.
“The bottom line is simple enough—running an exemplary school system doesn’t demand heroes or heroics, just hard and steady work. Stick to your knitting, as the saying goes, stay with what’s been proven to make a difference and don’t be tempted by every trendy idea that comes along.”
This is what it takes. We estadounidenses are too easily attracted to short cuts and singular, short-term, and shallow measures. It’s not just money that we need. It’s groundedness. We need to be willing to invest the hard work and sustained focus that it takes to nurture and educate our most challenged students.