Shortly after I took this job, I assembled a coalition of diverse interests civic, labor, business, government, education and community advocates — and asked them to put aside their differences to chart a course of action for the improvement of the St. Louis Public Schools.
In the past week, we’ve been able to measure the progress: improved test scores; a successful first day of classes; a dynamic superintendent; and, finally, some reasons to be optimistic. We’ve shown that all our children can learn.
Remember how we got here.
Four citizens, led by Darnetta Clinkscale, agreed to step up and serve on the Board of Education. With the support of the coalition, they were elected. Working together, they brought in the right people, with the right skills, to get the right jobs done. They worked systematically, addressing the district’s bloated budget, its entrenched bureaucracy, and the operational failures that had long kept the district from focusing on its mission of providing the chance of a quality education for all children.
Transportation, maintenance, and nutrition programs were professionalized. Textbooks and supplies were ordered on time and went to the right classrooms. A unified reading curriculum was introduced. Teachers underwent hundreds of thousands of hours of professional development as part of a new “learn-to-earn” contract. Dr. Creg Williams was recruited to bring strong, dynamic leadership and high expectations.
We have learned a hundred lessons over the past several years, but none more important than this: It is possible to make rapid and dramatic improvements in public education.
We know that, because we’ve just seen it happen.