Large City Struggles

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

            Nelson Mandela in a May 8, 1995 speech in Pretoria, South Africa

On December 1st I went to Oak Park High School in Oak Park, MI.  A first ring school just outside of Detroit.  Principal Kwame Stephens along with Solution Tree Author Dr. Anthony Muhammad, provided myself and Stefan Kohler with a morning tour of the school, and some great conversation about struggling schools and what needs to happen to help the students.  Kwame is working hard to change the culture of the school, and Anthony is a best selling author on school culture, a very critical first steps to getting students to proficiency levels.  Kwame has only been at this school since August, but already he is making a big difference, and you can see excitement in both the faculty and the students.  I’ll keep us all posted on their success.

This morning I was reading an article summary in Marshall Memo and was reminded of the efforts taking place at Oak Park, and reminded why we do what we do.

In a recent Education Gadfly article written by Andy Smarick he says the just-released National Assessment of Educational Progress data from 20 large U.S. cities contain lots of sad news about disadvantaged students.  Which indeed it did.  Here are a couple of points about the Detroit schools.  Oak Park is were many families have moved their children to attempt to avoid similar results.  I truly support a parent doing what is necessary to help their child, but that is not a fix for Detroit, it is a flee.  The fix is our job.

   Detroit is an educational emergency, says Smarick, with the lowest performance in all four areas and a nose-dive in 8th-grade math to 3 percent of students proficient, 9 percent in 8th-grade reading. Cleveland and Milwaukee are close behind. “We should all hang our heads in shame if we don’t dramatically intervene in these districts,” he says.

   “Once you disaggregate results, your heart truly breaks,” says Smarick. White and non-poor students in several districts did quite well, pulling up the numbers. But the average proficiency rate for African-American students across all 20 cities was 12 percent.


For more information on this report you can go to ‘The 10 Things to Know About NAEP TUDA 2013″by Andy Smarick in The Education Gadfly, Dec. 19, 2013 (Vol. 13, #48),

Travel Successes!

I had a half-dozen topics picked out to blog on during my flight to NYC today.  Relevant items on the recent planning processes for next year, our three year goal, the year end panic by students compared to shoppers, the release of a good friend who was a Principal in a very tough school, etc etc etc.  But after leaving my house at 11:00 this morning following a snow storm, sitting a collective 4 hours in a plane on a tarmac, being in Chicago now at 11:00pm when I was to go through Philly on my way to NYC and enjoy a nice dinner with Author Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and attend the Association of Educational Publishers meeting Monday, I decided to go with a different topic and to point out a positive.

This year Solution Tree has booked close to 3,500 days of professional development speaking engagements either in schools or at our events.  3,500!!!  Probably the most agnostic PD contracted by anyone in the country or the world.  And as I sit here in O’Hare whimpering about my woes, I began thinking about travel and those numbers. I do not believe we have missed more than 4 days all year long due to weather or sickness.

Now that is a WOW!!!!!

Remember, we market it, book it, schedule delivery, produce handouts, send out evaluations, do significant quality control, and our communication with both customers (host and speaker) are the best in the business. But we don’t drive our presenters to the airports.  We don’t offer limo service.  We don’t do wake-up calls or remind them to leave early for the school or the airport.  We tee it up, but they do the hard work.

Let me repeat myself…my kids hate that part..3,500 days and less than four days missed!  That is only a .001% failure rate.  That gets you into any Hall Of Fame.

These experts are committed to helping districts, schools, teachers and kids succeed.  They leave family and friends on a regular basis to travel to some not so pleasant places. They sleep in airports and ratty hotels. They prepare, and most important to remember, they are professionals. The best in the business.  They CARE.

I may have said it before but let me please repeat myself, travel is not glamorous. Travel the third time is not fun. Let’s be blunt shall we…travel sucks, but travel is a huge part of the work for these authors and consultants, who chose this profession to make a difference…and that is why THEY do it!