In 1975, Marva Collins founded Westside Preparatory School in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood, a place of persistent and concentrated poverty. Renamed Marva Collins Prep, the school targeted disadvantaged students, many of whom had been classified by the public school as learning disabled. She was able to spur them to achieve at levels comparable to students in high income neighborhoods. Collins’ success was profiled by CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1979 and became the subject of a movie in 1981 starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman.
This example (and others like it) proved that concentrated poverty, while predictive of low academic achievement, does not assure it. The Holy Grail of education reform has been the “pursuit of Marva Collins.” For many years, it appeared that you couldn’t replicate Marva Collins’ success without Marva Collins—i.e. someone who combined unusual gifts of charisma, dedication and energy with exceptional teaching and leadership ability. Read more »
Since No Child Left Behind took effect in 2001, tens of thousands of our country’s schools have been tagged “persistently low performing” and “in need of improvement.” Here in NYS, those names are poised to change to the less punitive “priority” and “focus” schools, if the waiver applied for last month is approved by the US Department of Education. Do the names matter?
The cynical point of view is that some of the fundamental critiques of NCLB—that it points a finger instead of lending a hand, and that it sets an impossible target of 100% student proficiency by 2014—were not taken seriously until they began adversely affecting high-performing schools in more affluent districts. But there is a bit more going on behind this waiver story—and it raises difficult questions about the role of the feds in education. Read more »
Ontario County’s discussion of regionalizing high schools has made a few headlines of late, and dovetails with potential policy moves at the state level. Part of the Rochester metro area, Ontario encompasses urban, suburban and rural communities. Its 760 square miles are home to nine school districts each with its own high school. In aggregate, these districts educate 5,500 students in grades 9-12, spending at least $50 million per year. Read more »
The Center for Governmental Research has begun a partnership with the Rochester City School District. We’ve been invited to support implementation of Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard’s Five Year Strategic Plan.
I’m a planning skeptic. Often the process of planning is so exhausting that we declare, “It’s done!” when the ink is dry. We forget that the plan serves only to lay out the course and load the starter pistol. The plan is too-often ignored. We continue going about our tasks as though nothing had changed. To the Superintendent’s credit, many of plan’s strategies codify activities already underway. In fact, the first of the five years was 2008-09. Like all good leaders, Brizard is impatient about his plan.
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