Students in many of our nation’s most challenged schools realizing that things have changed.
They are facing teachers and administrators who have raised the level of accountability. They are having to deal with rules on dress and behavior. Some are even having to adapt to a longer school day.
Many of these students are upset with the changes. They liked things the way they were. But even more students are accepting and welcoming the positive changes to their learning environment -- and their parents are thrilled that their children might actually now receive a quality education.
Aside from the parochial interests and politics that hover around such efforts, the reason that turnaround and improvement initiatives are taking place in many of our low performing schools is clear-cut: Things need to change for these students to have any hope of a future.
Recently, I was pleased to experience firsthand the initial stages of a turnaround initiative in Gary, as the oldest and most revered high school in the city – Theodore Roosevelt – marked the start of a new beginning and, more important, a new educational experience for its students.
The school is now known as Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy, because it will be focusing students’ learning in ways that will prepare them for higher education and/or the workplace. They will learn to communicate, to create and to become contributing members of the community, like so many Roosevelt graduates before them.
Its dynamic principal, Terrance Little, and his academic team will help the students realize and understand that higher education and career education are not mutually exclusive. They will infuse students with the following message: Go to college or go to work, but have the confidence to know that you've been prepared for both.
Most of all, Little and his team will be driven by the belief that children are eager to learn – and they can learn.
Our organization is committed to doing everything we can to help improve the quality of the education Gary students receive at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy. This effort will take hard work, dedication and cooperation – and time. Just as academic progress is not graded on the first day of school – everything planned for this school will be assessed and graded over the course of the year.
We are also extremely pleased that countless members of the Gary community – parents, alumni, public officials, and business people share our passion for learning – and have made significant contributions to Roosevelt’s new beginning.
School turnaround initiatives are about change – they are designed to challenge the status quo of under-performing schools. As Brenda Daniel, the parent of a seventh- and ninth-grader at Roosevelt, said, “I don't want my kids just passed from grade to grade. I want them to learn something."
Jeff Wahl is president and CEO of EdisonLearning. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.