If you are a parent then you get a glimpse into education at some level. Elementary school, junior high school, high school and hopefully college. Each are different and many have not moved forward at the speed of everything else around us.
My interactions with the NY city public education system started with MOUSE. Through that experience I have remained connected to education at some level. Fred and I got behind the Academy for Software Engineering. A public high school in NYC where STEM is the main curriculum. Fred has really taken the lead on this.
Over the past twenty years our school system has lost its luster. When I grew up the public education system, although not perfect, it allowed for left brain and right brain thinkers. With the passage of No Child Left Behind that mandated testing in order to get results and with that funding something got lost on the way. The diversification of schools is most definitely one of the things that got lost. More people of wealth particularly in urban areas are sending their kids to private schools and opting out of the public. The mixture of everyone in a school makes for a much more interesting classroom with all different thinkers from different walks of life. Perhaps more difficult for the teacher but in the long run that diversity, I believe, is a good thing.
The more we live in a world driven by technology the more there are several reasons to rethink education. There are now MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), there are schools that have integrated technology in their curriculum and there are schools that do not use technology at all. As our society becomes more separated by a digital divide there will be more than one silver bullet to think about making an impact in the education system.
I went up to the Success Academy Charter school that is the brainchild of Eva Moskowitz last week. Impressive to say the least. There are over 7000 kids that have the good fortune to attend. They started with elementary school and are now adding on a high school next year. The curriculum is tough, the rules are tight, the are teaching these kids to feel good about themselves and learn boundaries. Watching the kindergartners enter their class in the morning by standing in line and shaking the teachers hand saying "good morning" before taking each of their places on the circled rugs (each circle in for your own space) is impressive. They are taking some of the parental responsibilities into the system as they know who the kid is that they are teaching. Many of them come from high risk areas.
I get the power of the charter school. The numbers that Eva is churning out prove how powerful they can be. They most definitely need to be a part of our system. As I said, there is no silver bullet. What is painful is we had one of the most amazing public school systems in the world and have let it slowly crumble. Like large nonprofit organizations that spend 50% of their funding on management, the schools have done the same. That management is not including teachers. The system needs to be taken apart piece by piece. New curriculum need to be developed that reflect the needs for the next generation not the past generation. Rules should be applied. Parents should be involved. I could go on forever.
I keep thinking about the Success Academy and as impressed as I was when I walked out the door I could not help but think about how one of the best ways to change anything is from outside not inside. That is exactly what charter schools have done. They have worked outside the system to make a change. How do we make those changes in the public school system so that there are options and opportunities for all instead of the lucky ones that draw the right straw to end up in a local charter school.