The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

A Ray of Sunshine in California

on October 7, 2015

My post today was taken from Diane Ravitch’s blog, which I read every day.  It’s a good place to find out what’s going on in the world of education. But I often leave it  depressed because so much of what she posts is bad news for all of us who care about public education. That’s not Diane’s fault; she is just being honest with her readers.  And, every once in a while there is a bit of good news that makes me hopeful. So I feel justified in repeating it here–slightly edited for coherence.


California has established a new agency to help and monitor struggling schools, and it will be led by a veteran educator, Carl Cohn.  I know him; he is the paradigm of a sensible and wise leader. He opposes punitive measures. He understands that what matters most is capacity-building and that requires collaboration and trust.

In a recent interview Cohn said:

“I think this is a dramatic departure from the past. Most of those other efforts were driven by state capitols and the federal government, but this is a major departure. The reason that I’m involved is that it is an opportunity to prove that the state of California has it right to emphasize teaching and learning and support for schools as opposed to embarrassing and punishing and shaming, which is what some have been all about since No Child Left Behind.

“This isn’t a new version of previous CDE [California Department of Education] efforts at intervention. It’s a completely new philosophy and execution independent of the state bureaucracy. It’s designed to listen to people in the field and to bring them together around improvement. It also draws heavily on the principle of subsidiarity where those at the local level actually know better how to rescue kids that we care about. So, I see this as a fundamental departure from what we’ve done in the past.

“Question: How does that look different on the ground? I’ve got the 30,000 foot view.

“Sure, I think as opposed to a lot of dictates and mandates coming from Sacramento, we start with the idea of collaboration, which is very different from what we’ve seen in the past. We start with best practice that is developed and honed at the local level. The idea is a powerful one in that you actually spend time in these places that have been labeled as failing, and you build their capacity.

“In the past, it was a lot of one-off luminaries coming in and regaling people with their skill set, how to reach poor kids, how to reach ELs. In stark contrast, this is about embedding people in schools so that once you leave after an extensive period of time, the locals have the capacity to better serve kids who are poor, kids who are in foster care, kids who are learning English, kids who have special needs. Very different on the ground than what we have seen in the past.”


P.S. Diane and I are with you, Carl!

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