Very rarely does our region get mentioned for innovation outside of the high technology sector. Pres. Obama should take note on what is going on behind the scenes in Silicon Valley, in public education and charter schools, and mention it tonight in his State of the Union Speech.
These are very exciting times in public education. Almost everything that I once stood for as a President of a local CTA union in 1980-82 has been challenged by new norms nearly everywhere in America but here. I want our public schools in this county to be at the center of the coming perfect storm. The local CTA affiliates must be at the table to collaborate on their role in creating calm seas. I want to predict that this capital of entrepreneurship and innovation will be a national leader in public education.
So far San Jose/Silicon Valley lags significantly behind other regions of the U.S. on education reform. Yet there are certainly many great stories of success in the midst of huge obstacles in pockets all over this valley. I have written consistently about the incredible accomplishments of schools like Anderson in Moreland, Bracher in Santa Clara Unified, Downtown College Prep, ACE and Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Charter in downtown San Jose.
A few blocks from Rocketship with a similar population of learners is Gardner Elementary in San Jose Unified. Rocketship Mateo is in the top 5 percent and Gardner Elementary is in the bottom 5 percent of county schools relative to student achievement results. The No Child Left Behind Act did nothing for mitigating this checkerboard of poor, average and good schools. In fact it did more harm than good.
Is San Jose/Silicon Valley on the verge of becoming the first major region in the country to eliminate the racial achievement gap? In his speech tonight, will President Obama call on a strong bipartisan effort with collaboration, from National Education Association the and American Federation of Teachers to meet the Department of Education’s Reform Plan of 2010?
The US Department of Education’s Blueprint for Reform states that “a world-class education is a moral imperative—the key to securing a more equal, fair and just society…” Commenting here on SJI, John Galt last was right on target. He wrote: “Schools are about teaching. Teaching, teaching, teaching, teaching. Teach the kids…” The federal government agrees. The Blueprint says:
“Our goal must be to have a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school. We know that from the moment students enter school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents—it is the teacher standing at the front of the classroom.”
Rocketship Education, co-founded by John Danner and Preston Smith, is in the initial stages of expanding throughout the country and Silicon Valley with their hybrid model of instruction. It is possible in the next few months the Santa Clara County Office of Education will be asked to approve 15-20 more Rocketship Charters in San Jose/Silicon Valley. This could send winds gusting at 125 miles per hour through school district board rooms.
Rocketship Education was founded in 2006 as a national network to eliminate the elementary-age achievement gap in high poverty communities. Since 2006 their focus has been San Jose. The Santa Clara County Office of Education authorized their first charter school on appeal from San Jose Unified School District that denied their initial application.
Rocketship’s vision is to create a future in which thousands of low-income elementary school children have graduated from four-year colleges. In addition, their goal is to inspire these new graduates to come back to their former neighborhoods to help eliminate the achievement gap, perhaps even by becoming teachers.
President Obama must address the national teacher recruitment issue in tonight’s speech, especially in the fields of math and science. If you are in the top one-third of your college cohort class, you agree to go into teaching in a K-12 school district and you are recruited to teach in a high need school district then you can get your college loans absolved if you teach for five years.
Teachers perform one of the most important jobs in this country. We must increase the level of respect we have for our teachers and the President can help us begin by the words he uses to inspire us tonight.
As president of the SCCOE I pledge to continue to lead us to talk with a collaborative/cooperative spirit. I will work to put together forums where we bring in reform leaders like Randi Weingarten (President AFT), Michelle Rhee (StudentsFirst), Arnie Duncan (Secretary of Education) to help us kick-start our local conversation.
The perfect storm is brewing right off our coast. Union leaders, superintendents, board members and community leaders must step it up if we are going to be able to thrive after the storm hits. Our children deserve nothing less.