The DeHavilland Blog

Friday, October 21, 2005

Cities and schools, working together

I met Paul Houston, president of the American Association of School Administrators, several years ago at an Educational Publishers Association conference, and have either heard him speak or read his essays several times since. He’s one of those people who can make great ideas very accessible – I’m always glad when I come across something he’s written.

I bring this up because he’s listed as co-author of a commentary in the 9/21 Education Week (I know I’m late, but it just arrived!). The article can be found
here (don't know if EdWeek considers this premium content or not - let me know if you can't access it.) He, along with Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities and Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, wrote about the fact that cities and schools have strikingly similar goals for education, and that their needs to be a much higher level of collaboration and coordination to achieve their common goals.

In a series of similar surveys administered to their respective constituencies, the authors found that all see the value in a strong local education system, recognizing benefits in workforce capabilities, economic growth, community life, population retention, and higher real estate values. They also agreed on the challenges: hiring challenges, a lack of parental involvement, the achievement gap, and funding limitations. This, they argue, provides a new recognition of common ground for local schools and local governments to begin working in a more collaborative way in areas such as public awareness and engagement, establishment of “wraparound” services (such as after school programs), and even cost-sharing for some facilities.

The article wraps up as follows:

…each organization acknowledges that the education of our children is too
important to be left solely to schools. Education must be a collective
enterprise and community-wide priority…

Strong cities need strong schools. Strong schools, in turn, need the
active support of city and community leaders. Municipal and school officials can
embrace their interdependency while still acknowledging and respecting their
unique roles and responsibilities. But “business as usual” is no longer an
option. Only with a renewed sense of urgency on both sides will effective
city-school partnerships sprout and put down the deep roots that are essential
to improve our public schools and help all the children reach the high standards
we have set for them.

I’m going to be looking into what practical steps are behind this inspiring talk – what their respective organizations are doing to drive change – and hope to report further on this. In the meantime, I will say it’s encouraging to see that these organizations have been talking and working towards these conclusions.

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