Posted by Molly
Sometimes I feel like I spend all of my time thinking about the problems in our education system — kids falling through the cracks of a broken system, teachers struggling to effectively teach a class of nearly 30 students, and school districts making tough budget cuts while navigating the levy/bond gauntlet. Reform often seems daunting, intimidating, overwhelming, and at times impossible. However, there are teachers, schools and organizations doing amazing things for our kids. I want to highlight just a few that I have had the opportunity to see firsthand.
The New School is a Seattle public school that receives supplemental funding through a private foundation. With the additional funds, the New School is able to provide a comprehensive curriculum to its students, with a strong emphasis on quality programs and excellent and enthusiastic staff. During my visit, I was amazed to see kindergarteners counting by tens to 100 and second graders making graphs to illustrate data. It was inspiring to see these students rising to the challenge of high standards in such a supportive learning community.
Meany Middle School
Located in the heart of Capitol Hill, Meany is dealing with the typical problems that most urban schools in our country face — large populations of free and reduced-price lunch, ELL, and special needs students. However, the teachers, staff and students of Meany are working hard and doing some really great things. Due to private financial support from the Nesholm Foundation, Meany has recently undertaken the challenge of integrating the arts into the curriculum and the evidence is apparent when you walk into the building. Poems, self-portraits and drawings line the hallways and the students’ pride is palpable. I was lucky enough to be there on a day when students were sharing poems from their poetry portfolios. Some of the themes of the poems were very mature; it was clear that a lot of these students are grappling with some very serious issues in their lives. I was touched by the strength, wisdom and empowerment of the students as they were sharing. This was just one day in one classroom, but it was clear that the students of Meany are flourishing.
The New School and Meany Middle School are combining quality programs, high standards and excellent staff that lead to higher student achievement. Progress does not come without costs however. Private foundation grants provide critical additional funding to allow for smart, strategic investments in programs that work. I was lucky enough to see progress at work in the classroom. With statewide per-student spending lagging far behind (43rd in the nation currently), clearly there is an urgent need to increase smart investments across Washington.
I encourage everyone to look to these great schools and programs for inspiration.