Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great School Districts

I had the pleasure of attending the Broad Prize for Urban Education in New York City yesterday. It was a pretty amazing event and if you have the chance to go next year, I suggest that you make the time and understand what great school districts do to become great.

To listen to the five superintendents who were the finalists for the prize is to be amazed. It was difficult to keep up with the many great ideas they had implemented and it became very clear why they were there and how they had accomplished such great things with their students.

A partial list:
  1. Each one of thanked their students for their success – it is so rare to give credit to students for success in education. We focus far too much on adults. But these successful school districts thank the students first.
  2. No Excuses – successful school superintendents don’t fix the blame on the environment. They accept the environment and find out how to be successful no matter what.
  3. A thorough belief by all staff that every child can learn.
  4. A focus on ninth grade to keep those students engaged and in school.
  5. A change in focus. In most schools elementary teachers say they teach students and secondary teachers say they teach their subject. Changing the mindset that all teachers teach students.
  6. No “lectern lizards” – you must have teachers who engage their students in the subjects.
  7. Parental involvement – one district asked the dads to take their students to the first day of school to show the importance of learning. 27,000 fathers showed up with their student this year.
  8. Every single one of the superintendents had a school board that understood that things had to change and helped push the changes that resulted in improved student performance. They held the superintendent accountable for results but supported the difficult that had to happen. They all brought their enthusiastic school board members with them.
It was incredibly motivating to hear these innovative superintendents talk about their dedication to their students. The ceremony finished with Tom Brokaw and he is a truly gifted speaker. Note that when he was retiring, the head of GE asked people what he should do for Tom to thank him for his years of service. Tom’s wife said he would be happy if GE create a scholarship for New York City students to go to college. GE created the Greatest Generation Scholarship program with $2 million.

His thoughts for why this country is in trouble right now:
  1. We are in this situation because values gave way to desire
  2. As a society we have lost our priorities, our ability to sacrifice and our focus on common cause
  3. In the past, people lived without so they could have what they need – we no longer do that
  4. The solution begins with education

We can have no greater legacy than providing a great education to all students
And if that kind of day doesn't motivate you, you should just not be in education. Thank you Elie and Edyth Broad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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