The February 2011 issue of Fast Company has a compelling article on the current conversations around fixing America’s public schools. Author Anya Kamenetz comments on the new energy around education reform and the money that has been allocated to the cause. She quotes Derrell Bradford, an education reformed from Newark New Jersey who said: “for the under-40 set, education reform is what feeding kids in Africa was in 1980”.
This brings the article to focus on Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent $100 million donation to reform of the Newark Public Schools. Although the plans for the $100M haven’t been solidified, Zuckerberg has already gotten behind merit based pay for teachers, closing failing schools and establishing more charter schools. Kamenetz argues though that this $100M might not end up helping anything because Zuckerberg is moving forward on a non-innovative templated reform model that hasn’t been overly successful to date: increase resources; but business people in charge; measure success by standardized test scores.
Fast Company continues this article by asking people from various professional backgrounds what radical ideas that would implement with $100 Million. The first of 13 ideas really struck me as a parent:
“In the first few years of life, there are 700 new neuron connections formed every second. The achievement gap between a child born into extreme poverty and one of the professional class is evident by age 3. Yet public policy doesn’t engage the first five years of life. We still think of those years as belonging to the family, though this period is crucially important to the development of our workforce. With $100 million, I would build new centers for preschoolers, infants, and toddlers, with three teachers per classroom. Data show that kids with this level of instruction and focused play enter kindergarten in a position to compete.”
–Daniel Pedersen, president of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund
Many families make real financial sacrifices so that mom or dad can be home with the kids in those first five years. Should we actually be making an effort to focus less on family during those years and more on “socialization” and instruction? Are we swaddling our kids too much during these important years? If you had $100 Million to help fix our schools, is this where you’d put your focus?
Read the entire Fast Comany article and the “13 Radical Ideas for Education Reform” here.