“Doing it Right?” Pedro Noguera on Refocusing School Reform

“Schools exist that are showing us how to educate all kinds of children,” Dr. Pedro Noguera said this week on The Education Town Hall, broadcast on We Act Radio, 1480 AM. “We have to spend more time looking at schools that are doing it right.”

Doing it Right?What’s Wrong Here?

We Act Radio experienced telephone trouble on the morning of this broadcast. We apologize for glitches and interruptions in sound quality. In the context of exploring resources and achievement in education, however, perhaps these communication challenges can serve as an unintended illustration of how “conditions of learning” impact everyone’s experience.

Doing it Right?

Dr. Noguera is an urban sociologist, professor of education, and leading voice for healthy public schools. He engaged in a free-ranging conversation about schools that are “doing it right,” failures of recent approaches to education reform, and some essential issues often overlooked in considering the realities of public schools and their students’ lives.

For example, Noguera notes, “We know from research that when parents are involved children do better academically,” but not all parent-child relationships immediately support education. “If those relationships are strained, if there is poor communication or distrust, then you’re not going to get that kind of a partnership that is so vital to learning.”

Meanwhile, ignoring a student’s culture — including the intellectual potential evidenced in mastery of complex video games — “does not tap into that intellectual potential, and instead it produces young people who are bored in school, who are disinterested and unmotivated and whose ability to use their intellectual skills is not really being cultivated.”

Focusing one one “Achievement Gap” can miss opportunities for transformation and lasting reform, Noguera argues.

What’s Wrong Here?

“What’s wrong here? We’ve been focused on reforming public schools for many years now….we’ve been pouring money into reform…. Eventually, people start to believe that the problem is the children. Or maybe the parents don’t value education….But the problem is our inability as a nation to meet the needs of all children.”
— Pedro Noguera
January 3, 2013, The Education Town Hall on We Act Radio

Noguera comments on the legacy of Michelle Rhee, within the context of “the relentless push to privatize” our schools nationally, and the failures of national policy which has not yet managed to address the needs of all children.

As an alternative, he suggests the “integrated approach” being adopted in Hartford, CT. The mayor, nonprofit sector, churches and a mosque have joined with the schools to consider: “How do we make sure that all children in Hartford receive a good education, and How do we make sure that resources are fairly distributed?”

The essential realization behind this approach, Noguera concludes: “You will never have a great city without great schools.”

Listen and Participate!

Listen to the recorded conversation — January 3, 2013 Education Town Hall — and add your comments here.

Tune in to The Education Town Hall, Thursdays at 11 a.m., on We Act Radio (1480 AM in the DC metropolitan area) or listen live via internet, and add your thoughts live by calling 202-889-9797.

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