Thursday, June 12

Big Picture: Two New Initiatives

This week marks the launch of two new initiatives that share strikingly similar aims -- improving school outcomes for high-need urban kids.

The first report, produced by a superstar task force at the Economic Policy Institute, aims to address shortfalls of NCLB's test-driven strictures by turning attention to the whole child, especially the socioeconomically challenged. Schools have long stood in loco parentis, despite mixed feelings and lean resources; this project endorses stronger engagement and a bigger investment in children's development (social, emotional, academic, everything) from the earliest years. It's a stance that's hard to argue, and reminds some of Geoffrey Canada's groundbreaking Harlem Childrens Zone.

The second, headed by the unlikely alliance of Chancellor Joel Klein and Brooklyn's own Rev. Al Sharpton, the Educational Equality Project, was announced yesterday in Washington, DC. (A roster of notable participants include Newark mayor Cory Booker and DC Schools Chief Michelle Rhee.)

This effort reframes the guaranteed right to public education as the pressing civil rights issue of the 21st century -- a point made even sharper in the context of vastly different graduation rates for urban students of color, compared with white and Asian peers: Although grad-rate gaps are narrowing slightly, about half of all African-American and Hispanic high school boys in New York City won't graduate.

The end of the school year is always a time for taking stock and planning for the future. Executing those plans, and achieving lofty goals dearly held, is the challenge that awaits.

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