Commentary: August 22, 2012

Commentary: August 22, 2012

Statement by Becca Bracy Knight

The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems

Aug. 22, 2012


There are few things as important today as efforts to help teachers and students succeed in our public schools.  It’s critical that we openly discuss how to best get there and never stop looking for ways to improve.


Conspiracy theories don’t help students and teachers succeed.  A good ole’ conspiracy theory is much like a soap opera.  It can be riveting to watch or read, but at the end of the day, it’s still based entirely on fiction, not fact.


The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems – and our funder The Broad Foundation – support efforts to strengthen public schools.  Graduates of our programs are working to create environments that enable good teachers to do great work and students of all backgrounds to learn and thrive.  These professionals are passionate about public education, have educational expertise and deep experience ensuring organizations run successfully. 


Most of them are intimately familiar with classroom realities because they are lifelong educators – something the Aug. 21 Answer Sheet guest bloggers get wrong.  And all of them have spent time intensively studying best practices in teaching and learning and efforts nationwide that help students and teachers succeed at scale. 


You’ll get a sense of the enormity of bureaucratic challenges facing America’s urban public schools – which is the core problem that these leaders, and now parents, voters and taxpayers are faced with – by reading 75 Examples of How Bureaucracy Stands in the Way of America’s Students and Teachers.


Before America’s students and teachers can succeed, leaders must work closely with their communities to clear bureaucratic hurdles like these. 


The good news is that research shows that the school systems that have made the most progress in raising urban student achievement and reducing achievement gaps nationwide use similar approaches. 


They all set world-class standards for teaching, learning and operations.  They all push resources to the classroom.   They all empower teachers with the time, flexibility, creativity and support they need to help students of all backgrounds learn.  And they all hold leaders and teachers reasonably responsible for student growth.


If we have an agenda, this is it.  To help leaders nationwide learn about efforts to strengthen public school systems so that students and teachers can succeed.


We are proud that the men and women who have participated in our programs are helping their communities make progress.  Seventy-five percent of the communities served by academy graduates who have been superintendents for three years are raising student achievement faster than their peers.  This number rises to 86 percent after four years.


What the Aug. 21 Answer sheet blog post doesn’t tell you is that nowhere in the memo referred to are the words “privatize public schools,” “run schools like businesses,” “corporate school reform” or “influence schools.” 


That is because these are not our goals.  We don’t believe in these things, which is why you won’t see that language in any correspondence we produce. 


School districts are accountable to the public.  The core problem is that teachers, parents, voters and taxpayers have been given little information about the extent of the bureaucratic challenges facing their schools. 


Our dedication to play a role in contributing to the solution – by providing philanthropic resources to help leaders access the best available information regarding efforts to strengthen public schools – has only grown over the last decade.  We invite anyone who shares this goal to join us in calling for the removal of numerous bureaucratic barriers that currently stand in the way of teachers and students succeeding.