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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 7, 2005 / 4 Tishrei, 5765

Why some public schools work

By Clarence Page


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Before she enrolled her daughter in kindergarten at Jordan Community School in a rough section of Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, Rhonda Jones stopped to share a marijuana cigarette with her daughter's father in a nearby park. Just a little taste treat before facing the bureaucrats.

"I smoked reefer for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Jones recalls in "Making Schools Work" a PBS documentary by award-winning journalist Hedrick Smith that premiered on PBS stations Wednesday (Oct. 4. Check local listings for possible repeats.).

If that was all that you knew about Rhonda Jones, she would be an unlikely role model for a report on education. But stay tuned.

In a scary episode straight out of an anti-drug ad, she overslept one afternoon and missed the pickup time for her daughter after school. When she called the school, no one knew where her daughter was. Fortunately, her daughter eventually made it home safely, but Jones, frantic and outraged, channeled her anger at school officials. "After I blessed 'em out," she says, "I said they might as well find something for me to do because, from that day on, I was not leaving my child with them again."

That was just fine with Maurice Harvey. He's been Jordan's principal since it opened in 1993. He had walked into a boiling ethnic stew of low-income, heavily immigrant families, mostly black, Mexico, Haitian and African. He was happy to put her to work at the school. He wanted parents to get involved.

"A lot of parents in our school were drug users," we see Harvey recall. "A lot. So when she was saying she can change, I said now we have someone who can help us help our children."

Jones changed her life. She stopped doing drugs and became a parent leader, coaxing and coaching other parents to get on board with their children's education.

And since Jordan embraced the Comer Process, a classroom management and conflict reduction program developed by Yale psychiatrist James Comer, about 50 percent of its students perform at grade level or above in math and reading, compared to 19 percent for math and 12 percent for reading 10 years ago.

In his quest for schools that work, Smith visits the kids of Hispanic migrant workers at Centennial Elementary School in rural Seattle and the kids of white mine workers in Corbin High School in rural Kentucky, among other schools.

In Houston, he follows Reynaldo Garcia, 16, finally getting turned on about academics as he finishes the eighth grade at the nationally acclaimed charter school KIPP 3D (Desire, Discipline, Dedication) Academy middle school. Left back twice at a conventional school, he entered KIPP angry and arrogant. Soon he was "KIPP-notized," as one cheerful faculty member put, after learning to understand, that "we're a team and a family."

Yet, Smith's quest for good news hardly masks some agonizingly persistent bad news. He shows impressive district-wide progress in Charlotte, N.C., schools, for example, especially at narrowing the achievement gap between whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians in one of the state's poorest performing elementary schools since 1995. But the program does not visit the district's high schools, whose poor performance is a major local political issue.

How do we replicate the success in some schools to help other schools? That challenge triggers the program's heated climax. After exploring the nationally acclaimed success of East Harlem District 2 in New York, the documentary recaps how its reformers were invited to San Diego, where they ran up against a buzz saw of local politics and resentment, especially from teachers union officials. After a few years of struggle, the reformers were sent packing back to New York, but not before their reforms actually produced some measurable, if modest, improvements in San Diego students' performance. Here, as in many other under-performing districts, one longs for what might have been.

After two decades of education crusades by presidents from both parties, we Americans still bicker as much as we ever did about what's best for our schools.

No matter how heroic the teachers or adorably energized the students may be, the best school improvement efforts can be trampled underfoot in the grind of political suspicions, ambitions, resentments and power plays.

"You have to be dissatisfied with something in order to make change," one school reformer tells Smith. Absolutely dissatisfied." Absolutely. In love, politics and school reform, it is only when circumstances become too desperate for us to argue any more that real change begins to happens.

That's how dissatisfied Rhonda Jones became when her school lost her kid. The rest of us need to be dissatisfied, too.

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