Schools today still operate as they did when our grandparents headed off to kindergarten. Most educate students for six-plus hours a day from September to June as if we still need our “children home to work the fields,” as New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently said. Reinventing schools for the 21st century requires re-thinking the school day and year and re-wiring how schools and communities work together to educate all children effectively. But taking this step will first require a fundamental change in how New Yorkers envision what learning looks like.
The Governor’s education reform plan would offer incentives for struggling schools to expand the day or year and bring community partners and services right into their buildings. The plan not only offers strategies to strengthen teaching and learning, but also says that we need to broaden responsibility for children’s success to entire communities, with a focus on addressing students’ social, health and financial barriers to post-secondary success.
The world has changed, and so have the demands our children face. We need to put old-school sentiment aside and embrace the governor’s vision for schools that make more time for subjects squeezed out of the curriculum, and that make room for talented community educators to work beside teachers, helping students overcome the challenges of poverty.
Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget would help us move forward by investing $20 million in funding for school districts to expand high quality learning time, and $15 million in support of community schools that become hubs of student and family services. This is our chance not just to re-arrange school schedules, but to get expanded learning right by combining elements of two of the governor’s proposals: giving youth the counseling and other help they need, and more ways to learn and thrive.
The governor is proposing we change how government works to make more effective use of communities’ collective efforts, for example by breaking down bureaucratic barriers to shared delivery of services like tutoring. This partnership approach is what’s been missing from many previous education efforts, and what will yield the greatest impact from the investments taxpayers already make in schools and families.
The governor’s plan builds off initiatives by the state and cities like New York, under Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council, to coordinate the efforts of schools, community organizations and government. It builds on the successful strategy of Say Yes to Education, which works across Syracuse and Buffalo to mobilize government, universities, businesses and foundations to collectively remove the barriers associated with the delivery of academic and social services to children and families. Over the last five years, the dynamic public-private partnership in Syracuse has boosted graduation rates, provided hundreds of college scholarships, placed mental health clinics in every Syracuse public school and extended the school day and year to provide more time for both academics and enrichment.
It builds on the model of TASC ExpandED Schools, elementary and middle schools that partner with strong youth-serving community organizations, such as settlement houses, to keep children safe and facilitate learning until 6 PM. These New York City public schools work collectively with parents and community partners to restore arts and athletics to the curriculum, engage young people with science and technology and customize interventions like intensive literacy support. They give students both more time and ways to achieve and more motivation to persist.
We know from experience that these are cost-effective ways to give all students opportunities, and to give communities more reason to believe in and support their local schools and teachers.
Dramatic changes in family schedules and needs, technology, and the workplace all point to the eventual extinction of our 19th century-style school. We need to stop treating schools as islands within their communities and start building stronger, cost-effective partnerships. The governor and members of the New New York Education Reform Commission have given us a roadmap.
Bios: Lucy N. Friedman is the President of TASC. Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey is the President of Say Yes to Education and a member of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s New New York Education Reform Commission.
Check out the Full Op-Ed Here: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Schools-are-trapped-in-the-past-4221901.php