Monday, December 26, 2005

Innovation I: Most students are black. They are poor. And they are scholars.

"Located just off I-95 south of the Virginia line, the school sits in a part of the state where poverty rates are high and expectations are often low. But the school's test scores are among the best in the state."

If you care anything about improving the quality of education, this article has to grab your attention.

There are some very interesting facts here, demonstrating that successful innovation in education is not different than innovation in any other area of our lives.

These aren't children from affluent, middle income families siphoned off from public school; they are students not well served by the status quo. "Few children who attend Gaston College Prep and Pride High come from well-educated families. Most parents have completed high school, but many have not. Two-parent families with college degrees can be counted on one hand."

The school provides 100% of the academics that students need to succeed, and doesn't depend on parents, who themselves lack a quality education, to help with algebra homework at night. "Students attend class each day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- and every other Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tutoring takes place at the end of each day. Summer includes a three-week session to prepare for the coming year."

"Discipline is tight. Excuses aren't accepted."

Accountability is taken to a whole new personal level. "Every teacher, for example, is given a cell phone, and students and parents are given the numbers. Students who don't understand their homework are expected to call teachers at home. Teachers quickly learn that a well-taught lesson cuts down on late-night calls. Students soon learn they don't want to be the ones who always call the teacher."

The school builds on a proven model. "Gaston College Prep and Pride High are products of something called KIPP, shorthand for the Knowledge is Power Program. KIPP, which runs more than 40 schools nationwide, started in 1995 with two schools in inner-city Houston and New York's South Bronx."

It took people who were not invested in the status quo to make radical changes in the way education was delivered. Tammi Sutton and Caleb Dolan "decided to build their own high school. This all makes perfect sense to Sutton and Dolan, who weren't trained in a traditional college of education and don't spend much time worrying about the way schools are supposed to operate."

Those who are invested in the status quo are incredibly resistant to change. "Wake schools Superintendent Bill McNeal quickly pointed out that any school with voluntary enrollment enjoys a big advantage... Durham Public Schools Superintendent Ann Denlinger questioned whether traditional schools could legally require teachers to work longer hours."

Until we understand that we must fundamentally reinvent the way education is delivered to children not well served by the status quo, we will not make substantial improvements in education.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think its interesting that the administrators comments were about why they couldn't achieve what this school has done! One does not need to look far to see why the current educational system is in such shambles.

Marvin Rogers, Jr. said...

The cell phone idea is very innovative and conducive toward mutual accountability...it reinforces my belief that much of the problem is due to the fact that in many educational institutions, what's gained by day, is lost by night...Inspiring account!

Steve Bryles said...

Great model of success for everyone concerned about the academic achievement of children--regardelss of background. The establishment can learn a lot about real reform from programs like KIPP. KIPP's success is not exclusive, I am sure that there are other programs achieving similar wonderful results. Not every school can be a KIPP but all public schools
can learn from them and achieve similar results. It will take consideration from everyone involved in establishing policy-- policy--from

Steve Bryles said...

including legislators, state boards, state departments, teachers and administrators, and local school boards. This ought not be that difficult. We can do better. Shame on us.

Olivier Blanchard said...

Whenever "innovation" and "education" are used in the same sentence, I hear angels sing.

(No, like, for real.)

Murray Brockman said...

Yes! It's hard to understand why elementary principles of human behavior and leadership seem so revolutionary when encountered in schools. Set high expectations, work toward the goal, accept no excuses, make sure first line supervisors (read teachers) are closely involved...is this rocket science?