After reading tons of articles and reports about the successes in charter schools, I was pleased to read about a regular public school in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn that seems to be beating the odds.
A good friend of mine recently left her Wall Street job to teach math in a charter school in Newark. She's working her butt off. It's a seven day per week job. She's fueled by the commitment of the newly initiated and a devoted stay at home husband. There's no question that her school is making a difference in a poor neighborhood, but I always worry that her school could never be replicated beyond the walls of her school. It's not easy to find people who are willing to work eighty hours a week for teacher pay and with the zealotry of crusader.
The New York Times points to a school in Brooklyn that is making a difference within the bounds of a normal public school. Despite high poverty levels and high rates of learning disabilities, the kids are out performing middle class kids in nearby schools.
What is it doing differently? Well, reading between the lines in the article, the school benefits from having a smart principal who has a consistent philosophy about education. The kids are drilled on taking standardized tests. The teachers identify problems quickly and offer after school help. The got rid of ESL classes and immediately plopped non-English speakers in regular classrooms.
These "best practices" could be replicated everywhere.