Martin Luther King, Jr. said the goal of true education is intelligence plus character. One could also say the main purpose of the American school is to provide for the fullest possible development of each learner for living morally, creatively, and productively in a democratic society.
We can certainly have robust debate about the degree to which we are even pursuing, much less fulfilling, these lofty goals in our American educational system. However, our commitment at OnePurpose to serve the specific short and long term needs of the students and families in the Bayview and Southeast San Francisco is without ambiguity. In this, we are clear.
We say specific needs because there are likely few communities in SFUSD that require as coordinated an effort of as many dimensions of engagement to ensure academic success. Bayview kids are bright and capable AND they live in a community where most children are challenged by poverty and violence, do not achieve proficiency on the math and English state assessments, and do not graduate from high school, much less college. So, what the students, families, and teachers at OnePurpose have achieved in our short 18-month history is striking for all, surprising to a few, and expected by us. Perhaps most notably, we have raised each of our scholars at least 1 year in their reading level with 80% of our students reaching age-appropriate reading proficiency by the end of the school’s first year.
We expected these results because we have capable learners, supportive families, and terrifically dedicated teachers. We expected these results because we take a comprehensive approach to educating our students, including differentiating instruction, educating the whole child, using frequent assessments, and making data-driven instructional decisions. We expected these results because we address both the emotional and intellectual needs of our students and families with professional support from a bevy of community partners. And we expected these results because we know that Inquiry and Project Based Learning (PBL) is an innovative and effective pedagogical model for students in our demographic profile.
What we learned is that engaging our students in PBL is both inspiring and rigorous. The rote learning that bores and discourages many African-American and Latino children from neighborhoods like Bayview is NOT part of our pedagogical approach and this affords us a much greater chance of keeping our students in school, equipping them with transferrable skills, and slowing/ending the cycle of disillusionment-dropping out-underproduction that has plagued many children in this community.
When you combine an innovative design, a comprehensive approach, and a demanding set of expectations, you come to expect success.
And success is no accident, requiring tremendous effort by numerous agents. And families have an important role in supporting our students, whether in school or out, on vacation or not.
In closing, as we go into the winter break, I’d like to share a few suggestions we are giving our parents to keep our students sharp while they are away from school:
- Ask students to think about what they’d like to do over the break and build a routine for them to keep that helps them accomplish their goals
- Talk with students about their interests and agree to do an activity related to one of them during the break
- Read to students at least 15 minutes every day of the break
- Play a non-electronic game with students for at least 30 minutes every day of the break
- Try to learn one new thing over the break
By taking an active and partnering role in student’s education, our families develop their own capacities and further prepare their students to achieve beyond their dreams and succeed despite the odds.
Have a terrific and safe New Year’s.