If you don’t have a kid in public school, and the last time you attended one yourself was the 1980’s (like me) or earlier, you’re scratching your head about how it is that our schools have declined so much – graduating less and less students – even though spending keeps going up. At an average of $10,000 a year, we spend more money per student than every other country in the world (except Luxembourg). In New York, it’s double that. Teachers earn on average $55,000 per year with summers off. While less than other professions that require a Master’s Degree, that’s 10% more than the U.S. median household income.
Despite more and more spending on education, U.S. proficiency in math, science and reading lags far behind the rest of the industrialized world. 25 of the 34 large industrialized nations have higher high school graduation rates than the U.S. How do we compete in this global economy when we rank #13 in sending our kids to college?
Let’s face it – if our public school system were a sprocket company trying to compete with the rest of the sprocket companies around the world, they would’ve gone out of business a long time ago. Those that run the company would’ve been fired by the shareholders instead of allowed to spend their money year after year producing less than mediocre products no one wants to buy. We’re all shareholders in our public education system, so, why should we treat the teaching profession any differently?
Lack of Competition Breeds Complacency
School reformer, Albert Shanker once said that “public schools had fallen into the same trap as the U.S. auto industry of old, thinking quality didn’t matter because it had a largely captive audience for its products. It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve; it more resembles the communist economy than our own economy.” – Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in any School.
Mission Possible is co-authored by Eva Moskowitz, the Founder and CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools featured in The Lottery and Waiting for Superman, and Arin Lavinia, the designer and developer of the THINK literacy program being implemented in the Success Academies. The book outlines how to bring innovation and results to any school, be it public, charter, private or home school. The key is focusing on the adults, not the kids.
“With highly effective, well-trained principals and teachers, kids will soak up knowledge and ace even the toughest of tests.” – Mission Possible.
At a Harlem school that admits kids by random lottery, giving preference to kids attending a failed school or whose native language isn’t English, The Success Academies have proven it. They’ve emerged as the top schools in New York City and the state in just three years by investing a tremendous amount of time and resources into training their teachers and principals, and supporting their growth.
Raise the Bar
After hearing many horror stories from friends about their schools, I certainly have not been looking forward to experiencing the public education system firsthand once my daughter, Reagan, starts Kindergarten in a couple weeks. Instead of being excited for her to start her educational journey, I’ve been filled with worry about the type of education she will get. With good reason. We live in Aurora: the worst school district in Colorado. After reading Mission Possible, I feel better prepared for how to make sure the level of instruction in Reagan’s classroom is raising the bar for her and her classmates. In fact, I plan to share the book with our new school principal.
Win a Copy of Mission Possible
Win a copy of Mission Possible to read yourself and/or share with your child’s teacher or principal. Alongside the book is a DVD of real-life learning situations. At the end of each chapter is a summary of takeaways for teachers, principals, parents and reformers, making it useful for everyone.
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.