I know I'm supposed to be on hiatus, but a lot of people have been asking me my opinion on Bloomberg's recently announced Young Men's Initiative (read about it in the New York Times here). In-depth detail on the initiative and their goals can be found here.
To summarize, the program has approximately $130 million to use in a variety of ways to help reduce the "disparities slowing the advancement of black and Latino young men." This targeted strategy wiill include establishing new fatherhood classes, mentoring and literacy services, opening job-recruitment centers in public-housing complexes, retraining probation officers to help those who have been incarcerated from repeating criminal offenses, and finally, assessing schools based on black and Latino students' academic progress.
Overall, I'm very excited that we're finally not taking a "one size fits all" strategy to fix education.
In my two years of teaching thus far, I probably haven't seen shit compared to master teachers who have ten, twenty, even thirty years of experience. However, I have learned a lot about education, family, poverty, and class. I don't think programs like Teach for America are the answer in closing the achievement gap; Teach for America is great in that it gets people who normally wouldn't have considered education to take a look. But it's not going to fix a deep-seated issue such as educational inequity or poverty by itself. You need the will of the people and political backing for that.
It's my belief that the answer will ultimately come from fixing a child's support system and extended network. Then, we can focus on better teachers, schools, etc. The Young Men's Initiative seems to target just what we need to target first. If a student has a strong foundation of people to push him or her, then it really doesn't matter how great or terrible their teacher, school or district is. They will find a way to learn, prosper and succeed.
I have to say, I respect Mayor Bloomberg. The guy may have made some bad choices with regards to education in the past, but he doesn't stop trying. He isn't afraid to try something new, see that it doesn't work, and then try something else. This is more than what we can say about others in his field. Plus, he's pumping $30 million of his own wealth into this program, that's admirable. What politicians do you know who have the balls and heart to do that? I can think of a few who did quite the opposite, local and international.
I still think Bloomberg is in the wrong about his "testing and accountability" initiative, which hurts students more than anyone else. Let's hope he figures that out soon.