“I’ll never forget the man at the camp who spoke to us about the magic.”
Alepho Deng, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, shared his story and the lessons he learned from surviving the horrors of war as a child in Sudan with students at Palisades Charter High School last Friday.
The ‘magic’ he spoke about was an education.
Photo by Rich Schmitt
Alepho was seven years old when he was forced to join tens of thousands of other fleeing boys whose villages were attacked by government militias. The children escaped in the dead of night with no food, water, shoes or parents, travelling by foot more than a thousand miles across three countries. After five years of walking, Alepho made it to a refugee camp in Kenya where he stayed for another nine years. He was one of 3,800 Lost Boys resettled to the United States in 2001. He and his brother and cousin chronicled their ordeal in the poignant account, They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys of Sudan. Continue reading
The L.A. County Office of Education- whose board I serve on- oversees the schools at the juvenile probation camps. Each time I visit one I am struck by a devastating contrast: students just like these – from the same challenging neighborhoods- are thriving in high-performing charter schools in their home communities. The charter school kids got a break and are learning what it means to be on the path to success. Statistics tell us that the incarcerated kids, on the other hand, will churn through the revolving door of the juvenile justice system and on into adult incarceration. Not a path to success.
My visit last week to the Christa McAuliffe School at Challenger Memorial Youth Center in Lancaster, however, was unexpectedly inspiring. Continue reading
In my last post I wrote about witnessing the frightening gulf in outcomes for children who have access to a great education and those who don’t. I also said that I have had the opportunity to see children getting a good education in vastly different settings.
Regardless of the school, it doesn’t take long for the visitor to recognize that the very obvious difference between the successful classrooms and the failing ones is the teaching. This is not news. Over and over we see that excellent results are achieved when schools can choose to hire the best teachers. Decades of research confirm the impact of good teachers on student outcomes, the paucity of good teachers in the neediest schools, and the problems in both the teacher preparation and the public education systems that discourage the top college graduates from seeking a career in teaching (It’s worth downloading “Good Teaching Matters- A Lot”, Kati Haycock’s 1998 review of value-added research available at the time. ) While Congress continues its attempts to muster the bipartisan support to pass an overhaul of NCLB, I thought it would be a good time to examine some of the latest efforts to address one of the greatest obstacles to quality education in America: attracting the top individuals into the teaching profession. Continue reading
Since the start of the 2011-12 school year, donning my different hats, I have had the opportunity to visit some of the highest performing and some of the most challenged educational environments in Los Angeles County. As a consultant to charter schools, I witness children from low-income, gang-ridden communities getting an outstanding education and the opportunity to move beyond the low expectations and doomed futures of their less fortunate peers. As a member of the LA County Board of Education, I see youngsters from the very same communities who have not had the same benefits. These children are in the juvenile court system schools. In some cases- in well-administered probation camps- they are getting the support that should have been there in the first place, and some are even completing high school graduation requirements. Many, however, are not progressing and have an excellent chance of returning to the camps and ending up in the adult prison system. Recently, David A., a student at Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy near South LA, shared his poignant personal experience with members of his school community. Better than anything I can report, his story illustrates this stark dichotomy in educational and social outcomes.
My name is David A., and I am a senior at Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy.
When I first entered Bright Star as a seventh grader, I was on the verge of being expelled from my middle school because of the people I hung around with. My family thought about moving to Texas to get me away from it all, but they were pretty sure I would take the trouble with me. About the same time, I had a neighbor who attended Bright Star. I would see him come home every day from school, in his clean little uniform, all tucked in, and think, “Wow, I’m glad I don’t go to that school. He comes home pretty late!” Continue reading