Three points from the November 10, 2014 community meeting organized by Great Schools for All particularly impressed me. From them I conclude that yes, this effort has an excellent probability of improving public-school education in our region.
- Mark Hare reminded us in the audience that concentrated poverty in part of the area can’t be solved in that part alone. And no one is elected or appointed to work on the regional challenges. Therefore active citizens have a role
- The Great Schools for All effort is directed at identifying and encouraging voluntary actions that community leaders, schools, parents, elected officials, and ordinary citizens can take. In other words, progress does not have to wait for any comprehensive “master plan,” buy-in, or vote
- I found especially enlightening comments by Kara Finnigan of the University of Rochester. Much of her research focuses on struggling schools. In particular she talked about findings in the Twin Cities, Richmond VA, and Omaha NE. From those studies and others she’s formed concepts about what’s likely to produce meaningful change. She provided a taxonomy of solutions highlighting four broad areas, which I took to be in increasing probability of benefit from (my terminology) minimal to significant:
- Standards and accountability factors: incentives, sanctions, governance structures
- Place-based strategies: increased investment, children’s zones, neighborhood revitalization
- Urban-suburban systems: remove/reduce boundaries, consolidation, annexation, choice and mobility across systems
- Regional strategies: voluntary/legislated councils, inter-local agreements, metropolitan planning organizations, federated regionalism
The November 10 meeting led to six working groups outlined elsewhere on this web site. Group members are all volunteers seeking to identify actions in their group’s area of focus and report those at the next Great Schools for All general meeting on May 5, 2015.