I had the opportunity to spend this week in Philadelphia at the Relay Graduate School Principal Academy Fellowship. I am here learning and sitting among some of the highest performing schools in the country. There are schools here that are doing exceptional work closing the achievement gap. Many of these schools are located in the same cities and states. There are schools from New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. These schools, despite being from different charter networks, understand they serve the same children. With this core idea in mind, they collaborate. School leaders from various schools in the same city know one another and they have visited each other schools. They have the mindset that we have to do what is best for kids regardless of the school type because as neighbors in the same city and state, we share kids and we share the results.
Indianapolis needs to do better.
Reason 1 – We Shouldn’t Be Crabs in Barrel.
There is an old saying about crabs in a barrel. If you put crabs in a barrel, they will try to get out by climbing on the top of each other and pulling each other down. It seems right now in Indy in a race for the highest school letter grade, we will pull another school down just to get on top. It shouldn’t be that way. We should pull one another up. We are all trying to get out of the barrel of low test scores and low student achievement. Your way out should not impede another school. How much easier would getting out of the barrel be if we collaborated and did it together? We should be sharing and working together, not keep everything close to the vest. If we continue down this road, schools will continue to be stuck at the bottom of the barrel.
Reason 2 – We are only as great as the least of us.
I was listening to a panel and heard IPS School Superintendent Dr. Ferebee say in reference to having many high performing and quality schools in his district, “We are only as great as the least of us.” That could not be truer. What is our city and state’s education identity? Unfortunately, we are defined by the fact that we have so many low performing schools, especially in underserved areas. Everyone is looking at how we educate the least of these. We have to come together for their sake. We need high performing schools for the wealthy and the underserved populations. We will only be a great city if we are all great.
Reason 3 – These are ALL of our children.
The prolific writer James Baldwin was correct. We will ultimately profit or fail based on what our children become. If we continue with this mindset and this attitude that we only want to help the children in our school, then the children at the schools that fail will dictate what we become as a society. High performing schools and high-quality schools should collaborate with lower performing and lower quality schools to share resources, in particular, the resources that have helped the high performing school close the achievement gap. In Indy, it makes no sense for schools within the same zip codes, where students bounce between, that schools and school leaders do not meet and collaborate monthly or quarterly on what works in their school.
Reason 4 – Our kids are on a journey without a map.
Right now, in our country, children who are descendants of generational poverty have no map to find seats at the best colleges/universities, an opportunity to interview at the best jobs, or how to end the cycle of generational poverty. They do not have the map because our schools are not providing them. We are not equipping our students with what they need. At this conference, charter schools in the same city and practically the same neighborhood have no issue with going to one another and sharing resources. They are willing to do what it takes to help students find and navigate the map to success. Schools such as Uncommon and Achievement First were sitting at tables together and having healthy debates on best practices. They shared and collaborated on resources. Even though each school wants to be the best, that does not mean they want the other schools to fail because when a school fails, children fail.
I am calling Indy out. School leaders, we must do something different to change this narrative. We do not have the time to wait for the city to create an opportunity for us to network; let’s do it ourselves. I attended this training in Philadelphia with Indy leaders from KIPP, Lighthouse, Herron, and Cold Spring, and we saw the power in collaboration. We have made some connections with one another that I hope we will maintain them. I am willing to host the first collaboration session at my school. Any school leaders who are interested in coming together to collaborate and do what is best for kids, you can find me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: MrMcGuire_Teach, or you can drop your information in the comment section of this blog.