That there is robust discussion about public education in Newark is, in my view, a very good thing, and it would be unfortunate, no tragic, if this window of opportunity were missed to markedly change the poor quality of education that too many receive in Newark public schools.
There are differing opinions about what to do, but there is little, if any, disagreement about what the broad parameters of what a “good education” is. Some say less dependence on standardized tests and and more emphasis on critical reasoning and writing skills. But by and large, there is more consensus than some may think.
Where disagreement may surface in the days ahead is in how the “good education” will be delivered. Will it come through a massive closing of existing schools, replacing them with alternative charter schools, or will there be a genuine effort to infuse existing schools that are failing with proven best practices, in collaboration with the teacher’s union, as shown in the case of Brockton (Massachusetts) High School, and reported in the 9/27/10 edition of the New York Times? While I expect the current discussion of the content of education and school atmospherics is valuable, more focus should be upon the issue of structural delivery. This is especially important because there is a well-organized, well-funded movement in favor of trashing the old structures and replacing them with something totally new. Whether this latter approach is sustainable over the long term is yet to be proven.
Whatever is to work must be largely homegrown, built from the inside out, like all fundamental social change—with a very measured, cautious dose of what well-meaning folk not directly invested in the outcome have to offer.
Author: Rev. Dr. M. William Howard, Jr., Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church
Originally posted at http://revbillhoward.blogspot.com/2010/11/newark-schools.html