Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Obama: "How our schools should be" = An Essential School

So Obama made a surprise visit to a DC charter school yesterday. Unless you're fighting a rear guard action against the very idea of charters, or perhaps if you're convinced despite all evidence that charters are the answer, the fact that it is a charter is not hugely significant in 2009. The more important question is: what kind of charter is it? Is it a pre-NCLB progressive, child-centered, community-driven charter, or a post-NCLB, philantropy-driven, test-score focused, franchise model?

The answer is decidedly the former: The Capital City Public Charter School is a Essential School and an Expeditionary Learning school:

Capital City Public Charter School was founded in 2000 by a group of D.C. Public School parents working with teachers and other education professionals to create a school dedicated to the best practices in education reform.

Mission statement:

To enable a diverse group of children to meet high expectations, develop creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, and achieve deep understanding of complex subjects, while acquiring a love of learning and a strong sense of community and character.

I imagine they don't have a union, which isn't that surprising considering the historical weakness (i.e., corruption) of the DC teachers' union, but they do have something you don't see much: one of the founding teachers of the school (as well as a social worker from another school) on the Board of Trustees. That is, in my book, a big deal.

Obama didn't go to a KIPP school, he didn't go to one of Michelle Rhee's schools, he didn't go to TJ; he and his wife and his Secretary of Education went to a small, progressive, community-governed urban public school, exactly the kind of school I love and advocate for; he planted his feet and said "This kind of innovative school…is an example of how all our schools should be." I couldn't ask for a more clear statement.

And it isn't surprising, Capital City is just the kind of small school promoted by the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, of which Barack Obama was Chairman of the Board of Directors. We've been told not to read too much into that somewhat cermonial position, but how could it not have a big influence on his thinking about school reform? And it isn't surprising because Barack and Michelle Obama can't help but look at DC schools as parents and think about what they want for Sasha and Malia, and somehow I doubt that maximizing their test scores is at the top of that list.

So... could we have a little horn-tooting about this please? It is a big deal. Maybe add it to the news on the CES website? Perhaps bug Capital City for a CES badge or something on their website? Could we make a little hay over this please? 'Cause you know if he went to a KIPP school first we'd never hear the end of it.


Jill Davidson said...

Ask and ye shall receive. On the CES home page, and blogged on

Nancy Flanagan said...

Thanks so much for this post. I hereby nominate you for a small, but growing cadre of education writers and thinkers that I just made up (seconds ago): the Neo-Reformers.

The Neo-Reformers will do to what currently is labeled "reform" what the Neo-Cons did to the classic, time-honored principle of conservatism.

Thanks. You rock.