Public education is not “broken”, but federal education policy is
Earlier this week, I was in San Diego to speak to the annual meeting of the National School Boards Association. My message was this: American public education is not “broken,” but federal education policy is.
Anthony Cody joined me and after my speech, we met with a large number of teachers from the San Diego public schools and some nearby districts.
We were joined by Richard Barrera, the president of the school board, Bill Kowba, the superintendent of San Diego schools, Bill Freeman, president of the San Diego Education Association, incoming superintendent Cindy Marten, and Dean Vogel, the president of the California Teachers Association.
I was excited to be in San Diego because it has a vision that sets it apart from the rest of urban America, indeed, from most of the nation.
San Diego has purposefully set out to improve its schools through a process built on collaboration and trust. There is amazing respect among the local school board, the administration, and the teachers’ union.
Together they have embarked on what they call community-based school reform. That means that every school is expected to embrace students, parents, and the local community and work together on behalf of the students.
Of course, they take tests, and the scores look good, but the San Diego Vision is not about data, it’s about the children.
Perhaps the most impressive symbol of San Diego’s commitment to this vision was the board’s decision to invite Cindy Marten to become the new superintendent when the current superintendent Bill Kowba steps down.
Cindy was principal of Central Elementary School, a very successful high-poverty school, where she implemented a child-centered community-centered approach. She is respected by her staff and parents. I met Cindy when I was in San Diego two years ago and toured her school.
Imagine a local school board choosing an experienced educator from within its own ranks! That is truly innovative!
Let’s keep our eyes on San Diego. Their vision of trust, collaboration, and respect is far superior to NCLB and Race to the Top.