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In today’s New York Times, Jim Manly, principal of Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy Charter School, weighs in on a topic that preoccupies many of those concerned about the best way to improve public education. Is change best achieved incrementally – through slow, deliberate steps that marshal buy-in from all stakeholders – or is change best achieved more radically, fueled by a sense of urgency that kids currently trapped in chronically failing schools can’t wait anymore?
The most dramatic example of this dispute between incrementalism and aggressive movement is the falling out of colleagues Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch over the acceptable pace of school reform. Finn has been quoted as saying, “Diane says ‘let’s return to the old school system’ and I say, ‘Let’s blow it up.’”
Here’s Principal Manly. (His references include Eva Moscowitz and Wendy Kopp, who created Teach for America.)
I see a lot of similarities in Eva and Wendy’s drive and determination. There are so many people willing to say you’re going too fast or you’re being too bold or too aggressive and these things are incremental. For me there’s a real urgency to this work. Both Eva and Wendy have been very helpful in making me understand that if you continue to listen to everybody’s take-it-slow approach, we won’t be there at the end of the day. They’ve been big influences on me in terms of how I want our teachers to view their work with their scholars, that there isn’t always tomorrow. That this is day we’ve been given. Some people say, give the public schools more time. We’ve been hearing this for generations. These kids don’t have more time. They don’t get to say I’ll wait five or six more years for this school to get fixed. By then they’ll be in eighth grade, reading at a third grade level.