Professional Educators

California: Transformation Tour in San Francisco

By Christy Levings, NEA Executive Committee

If you are a fan of science and space films, the phrase Houston, we have a problem is a clear warning of danger ahead.  After spending two days in San Francisco visiting two schools identified as NEA Priority Schools that will receive School Improvement Grants, I feel that phrase sums up the message I would like to share with Education Secretary Arne Duncan:

Mr. Secretary, you are creating a launch problem for schools that are already filled with hard-working professionals who work with kids that bring tough problems to school with them every day. The schools I visited have not been given time to implement the models for major change that the U. S. Department of Education told school districts they must adopt.  Mr. Secretary, you must carve out time for schools to determine what programs are needed in their schools. They must have time to plan and collaborate together.

The new funds are arriving at a time when the school year is well underway, which makes it all the more difficult for the schools to change course.

The School Improvement Grants will be a lost opportunity if all the professionals in the school are not part of the planning and making collaboratively arrived at decisions on how to move their students and their schools forward.

Secretary Duncan, these schools are getting the much-needed funding and attention they deserve, but they cannot grow if you do not carve out more time for them.  They need to bring about systemic change that can only be accomplished with enough time to plan, provide job-embedded professional development, and create an environment of reflective practice.

The whole country is watching the School Improvement Grant program to see whether giving troubled schools significant new resources can lead to dramatic change. That means it is not just important to these schools and their school districts that they succeed.  It is important for the continued public support of all public schools in this nation.

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