Saturday, April 03, 2010

Why Obama's education reform plan can't work

Many people have opinions on how to help more kids get the education and skills needed for 21st century jobs and careers. Here's a Washington Post article that enables readers to post feedback.

You can see that I posted a comment, and pointed to the maps the Tutor/Mentor Connection creates. Yesterday we were visited by a young woman who leads a youth program in Toronto. She found us on Facebook.

She spent a lot of time sharing ideas with El Da'Sheon Nix, who holds a similar role at Cabrini Connections, then she talked with me for a while.

I described my background in retail advertising, and how I think of a tutor mentor store as a "retail store" where the goods and services are tutoring, mentoring, enrichment, social/emotional, and other age-appropriate activities that help students take ownership of their own future, and help volunteers become more effective mentors and coaches in this process.

In every company with multiple locations they have teams of people working to make sure stores are in places where there are customers, and that the stores are well designed, have friendly, well-trained sales people, and have products and services that customers want, at prices they can afford. Then they have other teams creating advertising and public awareness every day, so that people choose one of their stores when they are looking for specific things.

Our interactive program locator maps enable planners/leaders to make sure tutor/mentor programs are located in neighborhoods where they are needed. In this case, where there is high poverty, poorly performing schools, and other indicators, such as youth violence, high rates of incarcerated adults, or adults who have been incarcerated, etc.

If you read the education reform articles, many people gloss over the disadvantages youth in poor neighborhoods face, and talk about how "great teachers" can overcome those. You can participate in as many of these arguments as you want, but who is looking at ways to make more resources available in these neighborhoods, so kids come to school better prepared to learn and succeed in life?

After I described this to my guest from Toronto, she said "I've never heard any one describe a strategy like this. Maybe it's because of your retail advertising background."

She's right. I don't find many people talking about ways individuals, churches, business, etc. can use their own initiative, and leadership, and creativity, to build a distribution of world-class non-school tutor/mentor learning centers in poverty neighborhoods throughout the country.

Follow the tags on the left side of this blog and I point to many places where leaders in business, health care and universities say we need to do more to prepare youth for 21st century careers. However, I don't see a "retail store development mentality" where they are mobilizing customers and employees and congregations to become leadership teams at non-school tutor/mentor programs throughout the country.

If you know where such discussions are taking place, please share the web address with me and others. Or join in on the T/MC forum and help us grow this discussion there.

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