Governor Christie and Geoffrey Canada on Education Reform

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Published on 1 Oct 2010, 3:23
Governor Christie and Geoffrey Canada from the Harlem Children's Zone have a conversation about education reform at a town hall meeting in Hoboken, NJ. September 30, 2010. (Transcript Below)

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: For those of you who aren't familiar with Geoff, you should know something about the Harlem Children's Zone if you don't know already. It's an area in Manhattan obviously that covers less than one square mile, and it's home to about 10,000 children. The neighborhood is coming back to life, newly renovated townhouses are side by side with buildings that have fallen victim to violence, drug use and despair, local businesses next to national chain stores, but despite all the renewal nearly all the children live in poverty. We know two-thirds of them score below grade-level on standardized tests. And that's why Geoff, who had a good education himself, went to Bowdoin and Harvard School of Education, came back and claimed this territory as his own and tried to save it...
Q:
CANADA: I think that the big difference, is we as a team, as administrators and teachers, figure out what we need to do, and do it, and we don't have to talk to another person. It's just those of us in a room, we sit down and we say, you know what, that didn't work. So we need to come up with a new plan, and if the plan is we need to work Saturdays, then that's the plan, then we need to work Saturdays. If the plan is we need to work July, because it's not happening for our kids, then we work July... If you come in and we find out having made the mistake of bringing you in that you can't teach; and we work with you and we try and we support you and then the kids don't learn? Well then you have to do something else, you cannot be inside our schools. And I think that kind of freedom to make the decisions -- you know if you run a business I don't think there's anything controversial about these kinds of decisions. Everybody I know who runs a business in America meets with their team, figures out what they need to do and then does it, when people don't work out they let them go and replace them with better people, that's the way most businesses run, if businesses are not successful they go out of business, that happens everywhere except in education! Education's the only place you have the option to fail...
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: One of the things that you also hear, and Geoff and I have been on a few different panels together, we were hanging with Oprah last Friday, and one of the things we did, you hear all the time is about parents. The school can't do this because the parents are the problem, and so the excuse or the blame is pointed toward the parents. So I wonder if you'd respond to that Geoff, also how you include parents in the process in what you're doing up in Harlem.
CANADA: ... our message to parents is you are part of the education of your child. But we also recognize that some of our parents, maybe they have substance abuse problems, maybe they have medical problems, they're not ready to be full partners in this, or sometimes partners at all. And we still have to educate those children. So while we say we need parent engagement, we cannot use the lack of parent engagement as an excuse to not educating children, right? That's the challenge.
GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: We spoke about accountability and results that you demand from your teachers. And the response I've gotten from some corners and you know what corners those are, this isn't the right way to compensate teachers, you shouldn't be looking at testing or other things to gauge accountability and success. You've had success up there, how do you deal with the issues, accountability, engaging in success, tracking it, why it's worked up there and why it might work here.
CANADA: I think in the end this is one of those issues that again people get upset about. This issue of can we measure teacher effectiveness, can we hold teachers and principals accountable for the results of young people. There are a group of folk who want to argue that you can't do that. Now that to me is one of those things that if you start down that road, that you can't measure, then let anybody teach. Bring in people off the street and say teach because it doesn't matter we can't measure it anyhow. We don't know what a good teacher looks like, I think we actually can measure whether or not a person is a good teacher... I think this issue of measuring teacher effectiveness is critical because only then can you figure out how to hold people accountable. In the current system if you don't measure anything then you can't say it was you Geoff who failed those kids. When you got them they were fine and when they left you they were not fine. So guess whose fault that is? I don't want to hear about the mamas, see that is so simple, right and direct that it pulls the covers off what the issue is. And the accountability goes straight up to the top...

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