Leading the March of Progress in City Schools

Baltimore's school system has long been plagued by chronic underachievement, dire dropout rates, severe crime, and countless other problems. Yet since becoming CEO of the City Public Schools in 2007, Dr. Andres Alonso has made eye-opening progress in turning the system around. In his Big Think interview, Dr. Alonso recounts some of the daring, often controversial steps he's taken along the way, including revoking the charters of failing schools.

Dr. Alonso had no initial "blueprint” for fixing the troubled system, but he did bring an ironclad standard for progress: do what serves kids best, not grown-ups. He also arrived with a lesson he took away from working with a bright dyslexic child early in his career: always "keep looking for the key" that will help a student—or school, or district—suddenly improve.

Given his job title, you might expect that Dr. Alonso has watched the HBO drama "The Wire," the fourth season of which focuses on the Baltimore public schools. But you would be wrong: no matter how many people gushingly recommend it, Dr. Alonso refuses to watch the show—and he has a reason.

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