Twenty-five years ago, Union City public schools were on the brink of state takeover. Today, they have a graduation rate 10 points higher than the national average. David Kirp, professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools, discusses the Union City approach, and why he thinks it's an example for poor-performing urban school systems around the country.
"I could have called this book "Tortoise Beats Hare." It was a slow, methodical turnaround." -- David Kirp on Union City schools— Brian Lehrer Show (@BrianLehrer) March 27, 2013
Eight Key Elements to the Union City Turnaround, According to David Kirp
- High-quality full-day preschool for all children starts at age three.
- Word-soaked classrooms give youngsters a rich feel for language.
- Immigrant kids become fluent first in their native language and then in English.
- The curriculum is challenging, consistent from school to school, and tied together from one grade to the next.
- Close-grained analyses of students’ test scores are used to diagnose and address problems.
- Teachers and students get hands-on help to improve their performance.
- The schools reach out to parents, enlisting them as partners in their children’s education.
- The school system sets high expectations for all and maintains a culture of "abrazos" -- caring -- which generates trust.
There are two more essential elements that Kirp identifies: time and patience. "This is a tale of evolution," he reminds us, "not of revolution . . . Or, as he says elsewhere, "no quick fixes, no miracle cures." (Courtesy NJ Spotlight)