The holiday we celebrate this coming Monday had its origin at a time when the United States was still very much a divided country. In the aftermath of the Civil War, “Decoration Day”- as it was originally called - was observed in only the northern states. Union veterans’ organizations called for the decoration of only the graves of those who fought and died for the Union. Not until after World War 1 was “Memorial Day” designated to honor Americans who died fighting in all of our wars.
Throughout the one hundred and fifty-one years since the United States was reunited into one common country, we have strived to eliminate any fragments of being separate and unequal in all aspects of American society. During this time, there have been a number of seminal events that reshaped the social and political fabric of America. Most are not as well-known today as they were at the time they occurred. Many have not even been mentioned in history textbooks. Yet, they were significant as to how they forced America to look at itself; and define freedom, equality, and our way of life.
One such event took place sixty-two years ago this month, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education ended legalized racial segregation in all American schools. The impact of the following words – “In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” - resonated far beyond the classroom as it provided impetus and momentum for the Civil Rights Movement, and the later passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In the ensuing years, our nation should be able to stand together proudly and marvel at all that has been accomplished to break down barriers to ensure that ALL our children have an opportunity to be participants in today's knowledge economy. Yet in truth, the pages of history have been turned back, and what is old, is now new again.
In addition to voluminous studies and reports citing growing disparities in the achievement gap, school funding, and disciplinary actions relating to Black and minority students in comparison to their white peers – the following headline appeared last week in news outlets throughout the county:
“Judge orders Mississippi school district to desegregate, 62 years after Brown v. Board of Education.”
As an organization fully committed to improving the achievement outcomes of all students, we are all too aware that many public education systems around the country provide fewer resources to schools serving low-income and disadvantaged students. We also know that strong preconceptions exist that due to some students’ socio-economic circumstances; it is assumed that they will not finish school, will not find a decent job, and will never go to college.
Our Vision and Mission is in many ways linked to the precepts established by Brown v Board of Education, as our work is committed to ensuring equal educational opportunities for all children. So it is essential for all of us to understand that this commitment is not simply a collection of words for marketing purposes. It is who we are, and what we stand for. Therefore, even in the course of our hectic daily workplace activities, we cannot lose sight of the role we play in positively impacting the lives and futures of thousands of young people.
Consider as we honor and commemorate the more than 1.3 million Americans who paid the ultimate price fighting for our country; that there is no racial designation or income status noted on their grave markers. At the moment they were giving the last full measure of devotion to their country – there was no “Separate” – there was no “Unequal” - just “Americans”.
Together, we are a piece of thread in the massive fabric which is America. Let us do all we can to eliminate “Separate” and “Unequal” from the educational lexicon; and in doing so, honor those who gave their all to guarantee the founding principle of our nation that “All Men Are Created Equal”.
Thirty-three years ago, a landmark report was released that triggered an historic wave of change in America’s public education system. A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform clearly stated that our public schools were failing miserably, and reform was needed on the local, state and federal levels. As a result of this call to action, thousands of local communities and groups of parents stepped forward to advance the charter school movement.
As we conclude National Charter School Week, it is appropriate for us to recognize the role our charter school partners have played in what has been a remarkable transformation in American public education.
Today, communities throughout the country benefit from the competition of nearly 7,000 charter schools. Dozens of organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, have emerged to support charter schools and their boards to offer parents distinctive school choices they could not have imagined even a decade ago.
More importantly, the vast majority of students served by charter schools are economically disadvantaged and racial or ethnic minorities. The best evidence indicates that these developments have been a very good thing. Charter students appear to be learning more than they would have had they stayed in their traditional public schools. And, traditional public schools faced with competition have improved as well.
Clearly, there is no denying that public education is now driven by a different dynamic than it was a generation ago—and families that once felt disenfranchised are empowered as never before.
We are proud of the role EdisonLearning has played in bringing about this transformation. In addition to education and administrative services we have provided to our charter school partners, we also raised hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital that enabled dozens of charter schools nationwide to build or acquire facilities, books, computers, and get off the ground.
Since 1995, when EdisonLearning opened its first independent charter school, our company has gone on to serve more charter school students than any other for-profit of not-for-profit organization. However, we could not, and did not do it alone. Our dedicated partners in every single charter school we have been involved in from the beginning have helped bring about the positive reform to public education A Nation at Risk called for in 1983.
As public education continues to adjust to economic and competitive realities, our organization remains steadfast in our support of the charter school movement in this country, and is privileged to work together with our charter partners for student success.
Independent Study: Partnership Between England’s School Leaders’ Union and EdisonLearning is Helping to Improve UK Schools.
Recently released independent research shows that the Aspire Project, a school improvement program developed by the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers – a trade union and professional association representing more than 28,500 members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), in partnership with the international education services provider -EdisonLearning, has proven to be, “an effective and sustainable way of helping schools to improve standards.”
The research conducted by the University of Derby’s College of Education shows that:
- Aspire pilot schools have made twice the improvement of schools nationally for both progress and attainment with exceptional gains in Mathematics at level 5 as compared to national averages.
- Half of the schools have demonstrated a transformational improvement of 10 per cent or more in the percentage of pupils attaining Level 4 or above in Reading, Writing and Mathematics combined.
- 63 per cent of pilot schools have been inspected by Ofsted (the United Kingdom’s Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) and rated as good over the course of the NAHT Aspire programme with more forecast by the end of the third year.
- Both case studies and survey respondents (90 per cent) were overwhelmingly positive about their experiences and the impact on the whole school.
Commenting on the report, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “we created Aspire to offer a credible, school to school system to help boost standards. The government is keen to talk about the structures in education, evidenced by its fixation with schools becoming academies, but is less keen to talk about school improvement as well.
“This independent report shows that NAHT Aspire is a credible pathway for school improvement. Aspire is value for money, it’s an example of the profession taking responsibility for school standards, and above all it works.
“NAHT believes Aspire should be recognised as a sustainable, successful and realistic response to the question of raising standards. The ambition now is to roll out the programme to a wider audience, including primaries, secondaries and special schools. It’s not just about helping a particular type of school, but will be about school improvement across the board, including helping good schools to become outstanding.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says: “The Aspire project demonstrates the potential of what can be achieved when schools work together to share expertise and drive up standards.
"As we move towards a more school-led system then collaboration will soon be commonplace across the country, ensuring every child has access to the excellent education they deserve."
Tim Nash at EdisonLearning, NAHT’s partner in the Aspire programme, says: “It has been a privilege to work with the schools involved in the pilot, and we thank them for the energy, enthusiasm and commitment they have shown over the past three years. It is impossible to overstate the vital part they have played in helping Aspire develop into the ‘blueprint for the future of school improvement’.
“With more than 100 schools and 13 networks now engaged in the programme, involving schools of every character and context, Aspire is now well on its way to becoming established as a national school improvement movement, reflecting the power of research and evidence to guide in-school practice, building collaboration and trust between schools, and investing in the development of the current and prospective leaders that are so critical to the future health of our education system.”
Commenting on the report, lead researcher Dr Siobhan Neary from the University of Derby’s College of Education says: “Our analysis shows that NAHT’s Aspire programme has successfully supported school improvement. Many schools reported that Aspire is a transformative programme, changing the way they see themselves. This has improved progress, attainment and pupil behavior, whilst increasing the confidence levels of many staff.”
Additional information can be found at: http://nahtaspire.co.uk/accolades-and-national-endorsement-for-naht-aspire/.
We are currently in the middle of “National Teacher Appreciation Week” – a rightful recognition for talented and dedicated professionals who are real-life superheroes.
Yet, our organization does not need to wait for a special occasion to express our support and thanks for the significant role teachers play every day as they touch the lives of young people far beyond the boundaries of the classroom – because these remarkable individuals are among us on a daily basis.
Whether in our brick & mortar school partnerships, in our virtual service center in Pittsburgh or Provost Academies, in our Bridgescape Learning Academies, across the ocean in the UK, and even in remote office locations – EdisonLearning is a company of teachers.
A founding principle of this company, which is relevant even more so today, is that a student’s life circumstances do not dictate their potential for success and attainment of their dreams. Therefore, we know that having an effective teacher is the most important in-school factor for student success.
Our teacher-colleagues bear an enormous responsibility of passing on their wisdom and knowledge. They instill the value of education in each and every one of their students - the kind of education that molds a human being for life.
Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo expressed, "You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help them discover it in themself." Good teachers enable discovery. They open new avenues, and encourage students to explore and achieve their true potential.
I am certain that each of us has a favorite teacher. Some of our best memories of childhood may revolve around a great teacher, who inspired and changed our life. Their charisma, enthusiasm, and knowledge linger in our memory. Subconsciously, we emulate them as we pass on our knowledge to the next generation. This is how a great teacher's influence can last for many generations.
Throughout our organization’s existence, we have been blessed with the presence of some of the finest professional educators to ever practice their craft. Today, the legacy continues with our current team. So for this week, and every week, we express our appreciation to them for all that they do for our organization, and for the young people we serve.