“We halted the long slide in our schools, where the dropout rate is now the lowest it’s been in fifteen years, and test scores are climbing faster than in recent memory.”
“Our schools still have a way to go.”
“All of this is only part of the effort to create opportunity in our city. To be successful, a city must create pathways for its residents to reach their full potential. More than anything else, that means we must offer our city’s children a public school education that enables them to thrive as adults.
Our schools have come a long way in the last four years. The days when hiring was based on whom you knew, and when the needs of adults were put before children, are in the rearview mirror.
We have a school system now that is clear in its academic goals, manages taxpayer dollars reliably, and has raised the standard by which we judge academic success. We have two new schools underway, new technology upgrades, new textbooks for the first time in years, and new ways of instructing second language and special education students.
And perhaps most importantly, the school system now holds itself accountable. Just like in the private sector, everyone in the system is expected to perform, and evaluations are very real. Everyone must do their job now, and do it well.
The profound changes in our schools have been difficult, but absolutely necessary, given where we were four years ago. We knew this wasn’t going to be an overnight exercise, but it’s clear now that the hard work of reform is taking hold. The acceleration of test scores and the falling dropout rate are themselves encouraging, but so is the reaction of the state Department of Education, which was threatening to take over our schools back then, and now is saying they are on the right track.
But the biggest difference is the customer feedback. Surveys show that the overwhelming number of parents believe that the system is heading in the right direction.
There is still much work to do. What’s needed is a persistent commitment to the new practices and systems in place. We can’t tap brakes on reform. It is working.
That said, sustained improvement will take root only when those technical reforms are combined with a school culture that acknowledges and validates the hard work of teachers. People in every line of work should be expected to work hard. There is no substitute for hard work. But no one can be at their best if they feel constantly pushed. Pressure cooker work environments are prone to backfiring.
Hard work and job satisfaction can co-exist, and if our efforts are ultimately to succeed, they must.”
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