On Tuesday, February 9th community members packed Kane Hall at the University of Washington to hear a provocative lecture by Geoffrey Canada. Since 1990, Mr. Canada has been the President and Chief Executive Officer for Harlem Children's Zone, which The New York Times Magazine called "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time." In October 2005, Mr. Canada was named one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report. Over the years, the agency introduced several ground-breaking efforts: in 2000, The Baby College® parenting workshops; in 2001, the Harlem Gems® pre-school program; also in 2001, the HCZ Asthma Initiative, which teaches families to better manage the disease; in 2004, the Promise Academy, a high-quality public charter school; and in 2006, an obesity program to help children stay healthy.
His speech was filled with alarming statistics on the state of America’s education system, thoughtful personal stories, proven success, and inspiring recommendations. Below are a few of Mr. Canada's key points:
· If we are going to save our kids, we (the community) have to do it. We can’t wait for our education and government leaders.
· Start early with supports for our students and families – cradle to college.
· We must weave the safety net so tight, that our students cannot fall through the cracks.
· College education should be the benchmark. I have never met a wealthy or successful person who did not value higher education.
· Schools have to be redesigned for success. They are currently designed for the negative results that are getting.
· We have not allowed innovation to take root in education. We have allowed for innovation in other fields such as technology. But If we are going to dramatically affect student success; we must continue to think “outside of the box” and allow for innovation inside and outside the classroom.
· Changing the model of education will cost more money, teachers will have to work harder, and all adults will have to be responsible for student learning. Communities are part of the equation.
· Evaluation has to be a tool that drives student performance.
· Hope [in education] is as infectious as despair.
I think it is safe to say that the majority of attendees left the lecture inspired, renewed, and determined to be bold as we all work toward improving our educational system.
For more information on Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone, please go to www.hcz.org.
-Solynn McCurdy, AFE