You would think if you are doing something and it is not working, you might look to see if someone else is doing it better. If you were under the impression this is only common sense, then you are totally unaware of the idiocy that runs rampant in our public schools today.
While our public schools are failing our children on a daily basis, there are many charter schools across the country providing an excellent education for disadvantaged or at-risk youth. Rather than try to emulate the success these charter schools are achieving, our public school apparatchiks continue to fail our students with the same ineffectual policies and procedures that have been relied upon for decades.
In the 30 years I have lived in Santa Barbara, there has been only one school board member I know of who has refused to go along with the failed status quo. His fellow school board members, the school bureaucracy, the teachers unions and the power elite in Santa Barbara vilified Bob Noel, who served on the Santa Barbara School Board for 12 years, because he refused to settle for mediocrity in our public schools.
Mr. Noel was not interested in getting along with his colleagues or school administrators if it meant the majority of our kids were receiving an inadequate education. He routinely visited other school districts searching for better ways to teach students the academic skills they were sorely lacking. Even though he was a fount of ideas and suggestions challenging the status quo, he was routinely ignored, and even disparaged, by the enablers of our bankrupt educational system.
If Bob Noel were still a school board member today, I am sure he would be a fan of Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City. Success Academy has gone from one school to 46 schools in less than 10 years, serving more than 15,000 kids, mostly blacks and Latinos.
Miraculously, the Success Academy schools have ranked in the top 2 percent in math and English for all schools in New York, despite the overwhelming majority of their students being economically disadvantaged.
In her recently published memoir, "The Education of Eva Moskowitz," she spells out in detail the formula for running great schools. It begins with hiring smart teachers who are passionate about teaching, fostering a school culture that emphasizes high expectations, accountability and strict rules for student behavior, and designing a customized rigorous curriculum that takes a "back to basics" approach to teaching reading, writing and math. Success Academy schools have a longer school day and year, allowing for one-third more instruction time than public schools.
No stone is left unturned to ensure every student succeeds academically. There are sessions on Saturdays to help struggling students with individualized attention. Students are promoted with the requisite academic skills to succeed at each level. Everything is geared to help them succeed once they graduate.
Because teacher unions and the politicians beholden to them are not in charge of her schools, Success Academies are not encumbered with the insane rules and edicts that only serve to undermine teacher performance and student learning in most public schools today. Ms. Moskowitz is a self-admitted bulldog who refuses to take "no" for an answer. She has managed to continue to open new schools, notwithstanding the fierce opposition of teacher unions and the New York City mayor, a recipient of their financial largess.
Bob Noel and Eva Moskowitz are kindred spirits, both rule breakers and trail blazers, who care not a whit for convention or tradition. It is a shame these iconoclastic visionaries have been so fiercely resisted when it is all too evident they are the very people we need to rely upon if we are ever going to reform a fossilized educational system that is massively failing our youth.
So today our Santa Barbara School Board blithely continues down the same disastrous path, which has resulted in two-thirds or more of our students in our elementary schools performing below grade level in English or math. I wonder if it has ever dawned on them that a superior path exists just a stone's throw away from the educational swamp in which they are currently swimming.
The author lives in Santa Barbara and is a regular contributor to Voices
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