The Face of a Rebounding School System

Question: What does your job entail on a day-to-day basis?

\r\n

Andres Alonso:  Well, I’m the head of a large urban school district.  I have 201 schools, 83,000 kids, 12,000 employees, 6,600 of them teachers.  Because I’m the face of the district, the work is about interacting with parents, with stakeholders.  Because I’m the lead manager in the district, it’s also about visiting schools, meeting principals, having the kinds of interactions that are about the operations of the district.  I try to be in school three, four times a week.  It’s not always possible and it’s a 24/7 job with very long hours, lots of frustration but also lots of energy and great, great moments in terms of what we see in classrooms and in schools.

\r\n

Question: What are the biggest challenges facing you as CEO, and what specific steps have you taken to address them?

\r\n

Andres Alonso:  Well, the most serious problem, of course, is chronic underachievement.  We have a school system where traditionally fewer than 50 percent of the kids were graduating every single year.  It was also our school system that over time had lost tens of thousands of students from its enrollment.  Part of it because the city went from a city of a million people in the 1960’s to a city with 600,000 people in the early 2000.  Lots of poverty, serious crime issues, tremendous issues of compliance in terms of its relationship with the state, a 25 year old special education lawsuit that has just refused to go away.

\r\n

So, many, many issues similar in some cases, unfortunately, to the issues that other cities like Detroit, Cleveland, DC, have had over time, but with their own unique flavoring of course.  And the work for me from the beginning was about, first of all, create a sense of energy and hope about the district.  The sense that we were going to get the kids the graduate, give parents the choices that they had felt over time they didn’t have which caused them to leave, establish norms of accountability and norms of effectiveness in the district and engage, engage, engage with parents, teachers, business, community folks so that we would all reach a consensus about what needed to be done in the schools.

\r\n

In, you know, three years into the job, I’m on my 31st month in the job, I think that we have been remarkably successful in terms of beginning to turn around a school district and having quick wins in making significant leaps in a relatively short amount of time.

Recorded on January 29, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

\r\n

The Baltimore schools CEO discusses the remarkable strides he’s made in turning around one of the poorest, most under-served districts in the nation.

Ethnic chauvinism: Why the whole world shouldn’t look like America

We are constantly trying to force the world to look like us — we need to move on.

Videos
  • When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many Americans jumped for joy. At the time, some believed there weren't going to be any more political disagreements anywhere in the world. They thought American democracy had won the "war of ideas."
  • American exceptionalism has sought to create a world order that's really a mirror image of ourselves — a liberal world order founded on the DNA of American thinking. To many abroad this looks like ethnic chauvinism.
  • We need to move on from this way of thinking, and consider that sometimes "problem-solving," in global affairs, means the world makes us look like how it wants to be.
Keep reading Show less

Physicists find new state of matter that can supercharge technology

Scientists make an important discovery for the future of computing.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new state of matter called "topological superconductivity".
  • The state can lead to important advancements in quantum computing.
  • Utilizing special particles that emerge during this state can lead to error-free data storage and blazing calculation speed.
Keep reading Show less

First solar roadway in France turned out to be a 'total disaster'

French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.

Image source: Charly Triballeau / AFP / Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
  • French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
  • Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
Keep reading Show less