Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Duncan Secretary of Education - Former Non-School Program Leader

Today Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools was named to be the new Secretary of Education in the Obama administration. Congratulations. We wish you well.

Readers of this blog can Google Arne Duncan's name today and find literally thousands of stories and commentaries like this and this.

I've known Arne Duncan since 1994 when he attended a Tutor/Mentor Conference in his role as Executive Director of the Ariel Education Initiative. I met with him the year prior to Paul Vallas leaving CPS, and exchanged an email discussion about support for the Tutor/Mentor Connection just the week prior to him being named CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

He's given small grants to support Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences in the past (2003, 2004, 2005), but has never taken on the leadership and advocacy role I feel we need from the public schools leader to make comprehensive, career focused, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs available in every high poverty neighborhood, and around every poorly performing school.

So, I've put in three graphics I hope he'll point to over the next four to eight years. Hopefully, he will show them to President and Mrs. Obama, and they will champion these concepts as well.

The first shows three time frames in which kids need learning opportunities. The third time frame, after 5PM, evenings and weekends is when business volunteers are more available and more likely to make weekly commitments that last for many years. This does not mean that business volunteers and donations are not needed at schools and Boys & Girls Clubs during the school day, and right after school during the 3pm to 5:30 pm time frame.

This second graphic shows the same three timeframes, but on a chart that reinforces the need for learning supports and mentoring, starting in preschool and elementary school and staying connected to kids all the way through high school and college and into careers. In this graphic, parents, teachers, social workers, mentors, are all PUSHING kids to make good decisions that we know will help make their lives better. What we need is the partnership of businesses and universities who will use their resources (people, jobs, learning, dollars, technology, facilities) to PULL kids through school and into careers. When there are thinking teams in each industry, and in colleges, brainstorming ways to influence the decisions kids make, and the way the resources of the business and university are used to connect kids with non-school learning programs, there will be more leadership, and more good ideas, being circulated in more places.

Generals use maps to position troops and supplies in their efforts to win wars. Obama is the Commander in Chief, and Duncan is about to become a 4-Star General. If they learn to use maps like these, to focus resources and strategies in all of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities, so that a wide variety of constantly improving, mentor rich, volunteer-based programs grow AT THE SAME TIME, in all of these places, then they can mobilize resources from businesses, hospitals, universities, faith groups, etc. and point them to places where they are needed.

Finally, we don't need to reinvent the wheel. We don't need to build a new government in Iraq. We need to help existing programs already operating in Chicago and other cities get the resources, ideas, volunteers, leaders, dollars they each need on a continuous basis to operate in one or more of these places, building and sustaining connections with kids and volunteers, and each other, that build quality and impact at the same time as the PUSH kids through school and PULL them toward careers.

Every city needs a Program Locator database to help volunteers and donors locate existing tutor/mentor programs and to help Generals understand the existing deployment of troops, and where reinforcements are needed. If our new leaders borrow some of these ideas instead of creating brand new ideas of their own, maybe they can make some progress over the next 8 years of winning this war.

Along the left side of this blog are tags to maps, strategies, articles, and links that we hope the staff of these new generals will read and use as ammunition for the upcoming battles.

If we're called upon, we'd be happy to serve as mentors to these leaders or to anyone else who wants to become more strategic in mobilizing and sustaining resources to help kids through school and into careers.

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