Posted by mdruckman on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Trey Whitfield on Collaborating for a Quality Education
By: Michael Druckman and AB Whitfield
We helped save a school in Brooklyn in 2002. The Trey Whitfield School, an independent school in East New York, had lost its lease and faced the possibility that almost 500 children would have to find a new school within weeks. Trey Whitfield had no where to go and no treasury to fund a solution. We built a collaboration of foundation, banking and community leaders who believed in us and helped our finding a new home. Three years later we moved into a totally renovated six story building within one mile of our prior location. Today, this same school is considered among the best middle schools in New York State measured by performance and outcomes. Imagine the impact on so many families if our collaborative efforts had failed.
This story needs to be told to balance the attention that has been given in recent years towards reforming failing schools, and starting new school models in an effort to end the devastating achievement gap. There is another option that has been largely ignored: supporting high-performing schools that already exist in the community.
Telling our story is one of the reasons why we are so proud to be attending the sixth annual Schools That Can (STC) Forum as a member school. The Forum is being held on May 21 in Newark and will attract many of the best school and education thought leaders in the country. STC is a not-for-profit network of high-performing urban schools in low-income communities that serve over 16,000 children nationwide. It is made up of a diverse group of independent, faith-based, charter and district schools that share common records of academic achievement, impressive student outcomes and strong leadership with can-do cultures. Member schools in many cases have overcome the odds to survive and thrive. Much like the Trey Whitfield School, they have gone on to become anchors to their community, and the Forum offers the opportunity for these leaders to gather and share their experiences.
We are particularly looking forward to this years Forum where a unique alliance between eight schools in Milwaukee will be discussed. These schools are comprised of district, charter, independent and faith-based with proven track records. This partnership eliminates artificial barriers between schools, and focuses on the common attributes that lead to student success. Our colleagues at STC Milwaukee have developed an innovative approach to growing quality education in their city. This has the potential to transform urban education by using the knowledge and experience of leaders in existing high-performing Milwaukee schools to mentor other schools from the bottom up, where the power to create change lies within the schools themselves. The vision of “collaborating for quality education” is an exciting development that will affect children of our cities for years to come.
The Milwaukee initiative has set a ten year objective to double the number of quality education seats through organic growth and replication, where leadership of mature schools will coach emerging schools. If this vision is achieved, 15% of the urban student population will experience quality education by 2020. That is transformational change.
Milwaukee is not alone in this effort. Similar STC initiatives have begun to take shape in Cleveland and Newark. These are all at an early stage in a movement that seeks educational reform by leveraging the assets of existing educational resources in the community – schools that have already proven they can provide a quality education.
Our nation’s educational system is experiencing a period of unprecedented change, and it is time to eliminate the focus on the differences between schools, and concentrate on the common attributes that lead to student success. Is it possible that the answer to such a complicated challenge as education revitalization simply lies with utilizing the existing assets we already have? This is what we experienced at Trey Whitfield with the collaborative support of community leaders . This is what we are now seeing develop in Milwaukee and other STC cities. We think we are on to something important and worthy of attention in the national debate for reforming education in our country.
The above is written by AB Whitfield, Co-Founder and President of the Trey Whitfield School and Michael Druckman, Chairman and CEO of Schools That Can and Board Chair of the Trey Whitfield School.