“Your cause may be unpopular, but history has demonstrated again and again that it will look kindly on the just.” Charles Blow, A Lesson Before Dying, The New York Times, December 06, 2013
The headline read Children’s Pioneer To Depart (Wall Street Journal 02/11/2014) and with that the education reformer who started the Harlem Children’s Zone twenty years ago can sit back to witness the fruits of his labor.
Or will he?
As the center piece of a movement Mr. Canada is in the position of calling his own shots. He has been consistent in his passion for children and unflinching in his approach. Unfortunately there is no viable way to measure his outcomes. On the one hand Mr. Canada has taken the reform rhetoric of blaming teachers for failure of the public school system yet by operating a charter his results have not been measured under the same New York State education microscope. That allows the journal article to point out Mr. Canada’s ambitious agenda resulting in 95% of his high school seniors being accepted to college. Where does attrition, the closing of community schools, displacement of kids, confusion of families and a lottery system for admission come into factor?
Harlem Children’s Zone has a $101 million budget in which the leader was compensated nearly a half million dollars a year. I work within two Westchester, New York school districts that would love to have that type of flexible financial conditioning. However they are obligated to educate every kid that walks through the door, with highly favourable teacher contracts, under extremely tight budget constraints and archaic rate-setting methodology.
I am certainly willing to applaud a mission structured as a privately owned corporation that produces 12,000 academically/career ready young people prepared to take on this harsh cruel global world, that would be a great outcome. The village of Harlem should be better off for it and that may be the template for other communities to follow. What I don’t support is takeover of public properties for private consumption, neighborhood trashing, zero accountability, and political decision-making based on billionaire/hedge fund support. I’m concerned about the volume of kids that are Special Education, ELA, At-Risk, or just don’t make the charter cut. As long as their dumped into the public schools, without the resources to prepare them, the comparison measurement of success will continue to be skewed favoring the reform movement.
I’m anxiously awaiting Mr. Canada’s next act because my gut says he’s not quite done.
And we’ll eventually find out if he was right.
“Signed…An Educated Brother!”