This NY Times Magazine cover story from this Sunday titled “The Fragile Success of School Reform in the Bronx” is one of the best things I have read in a long time.
The article follows the daily and ongoing struggles of MS 223, a public school in the Bronx first opened by Joel Klein in 2003. In just one morning, the principal Ramón González had to deal with writing a proposal to expand the MS into a HS, tracking down free text books from a nonprofit that never showed, handling a new student from out of town extremely behind and wandering the halls looking lost who showed up like most students “with no more than a utility bill to prove she lived in the neighborhood“, and he still prioritized greeting students on their way in to class. This school is a testament to Klein’s philosophy – elect a great principal and watch the school bloom. However, high grades also means this public school misses out on federal money given to failing school, and each year when more failing schools are closed, more kids that are failing behind flood in. González isn’t deterred though, he is proud of the school’s ability to provide a quality education for every student. Any student that fills a seat at his school will receive one, and this is our mission as well. All of our schools deal with these issues and ensure seats of quality education for every student that enrolls.
Of further interest is that this is about a district school. Popular rhetoric prevalent right now seems to say success at this level is an impossibility, that obstacles confronted when educating low income students are too great to overcome. In NYC alone we have five district school candidates who attended our last Roundtable (read the inspiring recap here). In Boston we have just validated our second district school (an amazing school) with three more prospects coming to our next roundtable. In Cleveland we will experience a session about District-Charter cooperation in their city. So the future of district schools, charter schools and cooperation between district and charter and independent schools are burning issues for our country and our STC schools. At STC, however, we are uniquely bringing different school leaders together based on the high-quality education they are delivering. We hope in practice that we will find there is greater value in the capacity to help each other than the silos that have kept us all apart at the cost of our children’s futures.