Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A book about Newark's attempt to rebuild its schools.

The reviewer calls it "one of the most important books on education to come along in years. It serves as a kind of corrective to the dominant narrative of school reformers across the country."

I'll ask two serious questions, because I don't know the answers.

When was the last time a City Hall team in New Albany got genuinely involved in matters of public education?

Conversely, when did school administration last take a serious interest in the city's management?

Yes, the mayor's wife is a principal, so I don't doubt there is interest. School administration cultivates an aura of lofty distance, but I'm equally confident that someone probably there cares how the city is run.

However, the public appearance is one of non-cooperation on the part of both "sides."

Is this accurate? Let me know what you think.

‘The Prize,’ by Dale Russakoff, a book review by Alex Kotlowitz (New York Times)

In America, education was long seen as the great equalizer, but that has become mostly myth. So, over the past decade, there has been a vigorous effort to fortify and rebuild our schools, and in this there is a recognition that we have failed our children, especially those living in poverty, those for whom education could — and should — be transformational. From Chicago to New Orleans, school reform has been engineered by the well heeled and well connected — from hedge fund managers to corporate heads to directors of foundations — who believe that with the right kind of teachers and pedagogy, and with a ­business-like administration, schooling can trump the daily burdens and indignities of growing up poor. “No excuses” has become the rallying cry of the reformers.

Along comes Dale Russakoff’s “The Prize,” a brilliantly reported behind-the-scenes account of one city’s attempt to right its failing public schools. When Russakoff began reporting this book in 2010, fewer than 40 percent of the students in the third through eighth grades in Newark, N.J., were reading or doing math at grade level — and nearly half of the system’s students dropped out before graduating. The schools were so broken that the state had taken them over. Something needed to be done. From this rubble emerged an exciting if not unusual partnership between three individuals who couldn’t have been more different from one another. The city’s black Democratic mayor, the charismatic and ambitious Cory Booker, joined hands with the state’s blustery and ambitious white Republican governor, Chris Christie, to reimagine Newark’s schools. Together, they enlisted Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who pledged a whopping $100 million — to be matched by another $100 million, which the city raised, mostly from foundations and private individuals. It was such an extraordinary gift that Zuckerberg, with Booker and Christie by his side, announced it on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” As Russakoff writes: “Their stated goal was not to repair education in Newark but to develop a model for saving it in all of urban America.” This is what makes “The Prize” essential reading. Newark was to be our compass for school reform.

1 comment:

Iamhoosier said...

Well, Mayor Gahan won't make the appointment of a non voting school board member to the BOW. I'd say that's a pretty good sign that the city isn't interested in talking with the schools. Of course, the Mayor hasn't seemed too interested in talking to anybody that might challenge his "authority"