GOOD
Articles

Harlem's Headmaster

Geoffrey Canada is saving education by any means necessary.


Geoffrey Canada is saving education by any means necessary.

You don't have to watch The Wire to know that America's public schools are failing. Nearly one in three seniors won't graduate from high school this year, and one study found that in cities like New York, fewer than half of all high school students graduate on time. "Osama bin Laden is not going to come here and destroy America," says Geoffrey Canada, the director of the New York City youth outreach organization Harlem Children's Zone. "Our education system is doing that just fine."Canada, 54, should know. The HCZ Agency serves more than 9,500 of the neighborhood's most "at-risk" children. It has also expanded to offer a web of twenty programs-providing social services like truancy deterrence and conflict resolution-for children living in a 60-block area of Harlem. Finally, two years ago, the HCZ launched the Promise Academy, a charter school that extends the academic calendar well into the summer and will eventually enroll students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Quote:
Osama Bin Laden is not going to come here and destroy America. Our education system is doing that just fine.
Canada believes there is no system of public service in the United States as undervalued as education, and that a solution will require a comprehensive approach. "Schools have to be run like any other business," he says. "You meet the bottom line or people lose their jobs. The idea that you don't meet the bottom line and no one loses a job? There's hardly any place that happens except in education." Part of running a school like a business means making the profession of teaching as competitive as medicine or law. That, of course, requires competitive wages. But, according to Canada, it also requires a reassessment of how we evaluate teachers. At the Promise Academy, because of its charter status, Canada can hire and fire at will-a power he would never be able to exercise against the teacher's union in a public school. Canada insists that he is not anti-union but that "the problem with the teacher's union is that there is no political force powerful enough that will advocate on behalf of children."In order to help the lowest performing kids, the ones from families with parents unwilling or unable to show up for parent-teacher conferences, Canada has pursued a policy of vigorous recruitment: he offers prizes like movie tickets, gift certificates, and even cash rewards to students and parents who sign up for HCZ services. To those who claim what he's doing is liberal coddling, Canada, not without a hint of anger, wonders "why someone worries about me giving a kid $20 when we are prepared to spend $75,000-a-year on this kid in jail. It's nickel and dime stuff." The stuff they teach you in school.LEARN MORE hcz.org
Trending Stories