Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 - The year to come

Happy New Year!

As we leave behind the first decade of the 21st Century it's a great time to reflect and think big about what lies ahead.

The end of this first decade came much faster than I anticipated. I wonder how we would score ourselves over the past decade? Let me know what you think, but I feel as if we've been caught at the end of the race without really reaching our full running potential.

In some ways we've done very well, and in other areas we've struggled. And in education you can see examples of how we've done both. We can easily find challenges we have not met, such as the achievement gap. And we can also find great examples of where classrooms across the city are building a love of learning in their students.

So how do we keep moving in the direction of all students succeeding? At the Alliance we are continuing along a path that we've carved out over the past few years which prioritizes working on sustainable programs that will result in equitable support for all students in all schools (equitable does not mean "the same").

Our programs include community schools, teaching quality, college access and success, and engaging all communities in support of students. Our work in these areas is progressing steadily, and we are enjoying the potential that we see in our work, and the work of many other individuals and organizations.

For the community schools initiative we are currently working on two areas of research and outreach. Primarily we are working to get a handle on what services exist for students in Seattle Public Schools, and find out where they are located. Last year we conducted a survey of community based organizations, sending to roughly 300 organizations. We received 147 responses, giving the first real glimpse at what organizations are serving students in our schools. This next level of research adds additional organizations to the original list, and updates the information through a variety of channels including survey, school information, and outreach to the organizations.

This work will also feed into the college access initiative as we better understand the resources available to students. There are many programs providing mentoring, financial assistance, course planning and other support to keep kids on track to be able to choose whichever post-secondary educational opportunities they desire.

Education is an incredibly complex topic. Let's start with the fact that we're dealing with children, the single most important thing in a parent or family's life. And let's compound that by the fact that most of us have been through school with widely varying experiences. Those two things alone make it difficult to start a conversation from the same place. Then add a lot of economic and racial diversity, and we've got a complex mix of ideology, culture, opinion, and reality.

But the bottom line is, we all care about the kids. Let's start the New Year in that place, thinking about what we share. Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to working with you in the coming year.


(Isn't it amazing to think that there are young people out there who have no idea what Y2K means?)

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