Educators: Are The Schools We “Love” Good Enough For Our Own Children?

Some of the most contentious decisions in a city often involve schools that are struggling – many for generations. While everyone can give solutions that they believe (but haven’t often seen) work, there is a lot of evidence that school turnarounds actually work; same students, different adults, different expectations, and, ultimately, different results.

But, who determines when a school turnaround is needed? What happens during a turnaround? Is there a way that turnarounds can represent a win-win situation, instead of how it is portrayed now; a battle between winners and losers?

In Philadelphia, you will likely to see a scenario play out where Black and Brown families are simultaneously faced with a desire to see “radical” interventions in the schools that underserve their children and a voracious (and very White) opposition. The clash here in Philly can often be found at the soon-to-transition School Reform Commission meetings; many Black and Brown parents of the attending students demanding changes at the school (not all parents favor turnarounds) and many White staff and their supporters stoking fears about what turnaround means…mainly for themselves.

It has always intrigued me watching each group retreat to their corners at the end of these meetings. One group goes back to the neighborhood the school in question is in. The other group heads to the suburbs, a New Jersey bridge, or some newly gentrified area of Philadelphia.

I also recognize there are nuances in stories, in communities, in schools. So, I look forward to this season’s series, Schooled, by Kevin McCorry. The year’s episodes of Schooled will begin this Wednesday and will take a look at Wister’s turnaround with three framing questions: Did the turnaround make a difference for students? Why? At what cost?

The series also features my friend, Jovan Weaver. A turnaround school principal, a founding member and Treasurer of The Fellowship: Black Male Educator for Social Justice, and a father of school-aged children.

Weaver’s days begin and end with the question we should all ask ourselves consistently, is this good enough for my child?

I look forward to engaging with my readers about the content of this series. Check out the trailer here.

What do you think?

About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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