School Reform in Charm City

Here's an interesting piece on Andres Alonso. In the wake of Michelle Rhee and Bloomberg's appointment of Cathleen Black, this really stood out to me:


The system had churned through six superintendents in six years, so Dr. Alonso's priority was to persuade people that things would be different this time. For his changes to work, he needed a lot of support, but that took some convincing. 

"The community felt alienated," said Bishop Douglas I. Miles, a pastor at Koinonia Baptist Church and a major sponsor of youth programs in the city. "There was a sense that we weren't wanted except to do bake sales." 

So Dr. Alonso held public meetings, inviting parents, librarians and leaders of nonprofits and churches. He directed community organizers to knock on doors in a campaign to bring back high school dropouts. Students as young as fifth graders were allowed to choose their schools in a boisterous annual fair. 

"Everything was about creating a surge of energy into the schools," he said. "I wanted people to have to push to get past each other." Next he took on the culture of the schools, which relied heavily on suspensions for discipline, a practice Dr. Alonso strongly opposed. "Kids come as is," he likes to say, "and it's our job to engage them."

I don't know much about Alonso--I've definitely read less about him him, then other reformers. Still, it seems he's excelled at not making enemies out of people who don't actually have to be. Moreover, he doesn't seem contemptuous of local democracy. I'd like to hear more.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in National

From This Author

Just In