When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

Facilitating Community Collaboration for Effective Gains in Education

Facilitating Community Collaboration for Effective Gains in Education

Elane V. Scott
Rick Stephens
Featured Guest:
Dr. Sonya Whitaker

Dear Stakeholder Leaders,

Consider for a moment our current educational model. Based on a generations old formula, this model uses factory-like bells to signal “shift changes” during the day with a June-September break that used to allow kids time to harvest summer crops with their families. This model was built around our agriculturally-based society. Book learning complemented skills and knowledge learned first hand on the farm and helped many with enough new information to go on to higher education and select occupations that were otherwise not open to them. The overall measure of success of the school, though, was not measured in isolation of the broader success of its community. A t what point, then, did “fixing education” become the curative for fixing society’s larger woes, as well as the only prism through which we engage with helping young people become capable citizens?

In truth, it isn’t education that has somehow failed society, but society that has failed the education system. Calls for more money, making schools “perform higher,” and getting “better teachers” in the classroom are all critically important aspects of the education conversation, yet really just the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at the July 14 Charlie Rose program, linked to in this newsletter, with the District of Columbia Chancellor of Public Schools, and the related links on his site with the teacher’s union president, National Teacher of the Year winners in a panel discussion, and others. I am grateful to Mr. Rose for working to facilitate this national conversation, but frankly, it is still years behind where it should be. Leader’s in the trenches, like today’s guest, Dr. Sonya Whitaker, know that schools can not succeed in isolation. They never have. Marked gains are a result of widespread community support expressed in values and language that nurture young people and families in all the out-of-school hours, weekends, holidays, and summer vacations. Kids do not grow up in a school classroom. They spend less than 15% of their time there. They grow up in communities.

One of Birth2Work’s fundamental objectives is to bring together sector leaders, just like Dr. Whitaker, from throughout a community, establish a shared vision and align language in order to make sustainable change. We’ve seen this process succeed in whole communities such as Vermillion County, in Illinois, and Huntsville, Alabama, where the Birth2Work model has been employed over 2 years. Over the course of many years now, our nation’s schools, along with thousands of regional and national organizations, have spent millions of dollars on action plans that aren’t integrated or aligned together to produce lasting results. Our current workforce and skills crisis has not improved, measurably, for more than 30 years, meaninng that as a society we’re not focusing on the right issues related to declining performance by our youngsters .

In one example, Birth2Work is committed to finding common language among stakeholders by calling attention to the discrepancies between “business math” and “education math,” related to drop-out rates and other statistical measurements related to education. The value of correct data is immeasurable. It is, after all, what drives policy and change. Now, read the Associated Press article noted here in our media links. The article, which recently made front page news throughout the state of California, announced a “new” education crisis that Birth2Work pointed to ten years ago , the high school drop out rate. The only difference is now that the state has refined its data collection methods, it has a clear picture of what’s been going on. This example highlights the desperate need for aligned language across stakeholders groups. The 24% dropout rate is now clearly defined and, therefore, an action plan can be put together for change. Problems with accommodating the rising number of children diagnosed with autism are another example where common language is needed.

This education conversation will continue to evolve, and Birth2Work is committed to being on the forefront of the discussion. Please join us in having the courage to stay ahead of the curve. Stay engaged!

Elane V. Scott

July 2008