To the Editor:
Paul Reville’s Commentary “Stop the Tinkering: We Need a New K-12 Engine” is a hardheaded reminder of what makes many of us so uneasy—children spend about 20 percent of their lives in school, and the inequities in the lives of many of these children are enormous.
Many of us would love to see major changes in tax structures, affordable housing, and the minimum wage. However, in the meantime, we are left with our present societal structures and obligated to do the very best with what we have.
Over the course of my research, I have interviewed principals of racially and economically diverse schools who have created schools where children and families thrive. These principals had commonalities. Much as Mr. Reville identifies three challenges, these principals saw their schools as comprising three circles.
The first circle was the classroom. These principals had outstanding professional development and focused on one or two main themes each year.
The second circle was the broader school community. Their priority was building relationships and having all families feel like they were part of the school. Their motto seemed to align with one of Maya Angelou’s famous quotes: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” These principals were nurturing and nonjudgmental.
The third circle comprised social programs that the principals had learned about and utilized for their students, such as free dental care, low-cost eyeglasses, and food programs.
These principals were risk-takers. They were willing to take on the challenges and bring about the change for which Mr. Reville calls.
The writer is a former elementary school principal in California.
A version of this article appeared in the July 10, 2014 edition of Education Week as Risk-Taking Principals Already Answering Call for Change