“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” *
That observation is from A Nation at Risk, a report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, a report that is more than thirty years old. Three decades later, despite dire warnings and accompanying recommendations, our nation’s education system is no better - and, in many ways, much worse. The risks are great. If we don’t provide across-the-board improvements in education, our economy and our country will pay a steep price.
The problem is particularly severe in underserved communities. That is where CSMI focuses its attention and resources. The dismal education track record in communities like Chester, Pennsylvania is testament to the need to unhinge our blind devotion to the old ways of doing things. Innovation is key to solving intractable problems, and at CSMI we are in a constant state of growth and discovery.
There are four key principles that underpin CSMI’s educational philosophy.
First is to focus the time spent by teachers and principals on what they do best: educating our children. So, borrowing from the business sector, we created a model where all of the business functions of a school are performed by non-educators. From budgets to food service to logistics, if certain tasks are not directly related to educating children, we don’t burden teachers and principals with those responsibilities. That way, they can focus on the children without being weighed down by distractions.
Second, we focus not just on academics, but on the whole child. Life is very different in poor communities where children don’t necessarily come to school with the same preparation, foundation, and support that is taken for granted in more affluent districts. We ensure that children get the meals and nutrition they need every day. We provide tutoring and behavioral education in a safe and secure environment. We even go so far as to provide children eyeglasses when necessary. In short, we endeavor to provide our students with a strong basis on which their educational efforts can flourish.
Third, we emphasize, encourage, and reward parental and community engagement. Parents are a critical component of helping infuse our students with the confidence and will to succeed. But it doesn’t end with family. Participation in the world around them begins at the community level for our children.
Finally, technology is at the heart of today’s society, so it is critical to a complete and fulfilling education. All of our schools utilize and provide access to the latest technologies to ensure that all of our students are prepared to advance and compete in 21st century society.
As a manager of public charter schools, CSMI seeks to offer a choice to parents and children in how and where their children get an education. We are accountable directly to parents, not to a sprawling bureaucracy that fails to respond to the clarion call to dramatically innovate.
As President Barack Obama observed: “Our children only get one chance at an education, and charter schools demonstrate what is possible when states, communities, teachers, parents, and students work together.” And President George W. Bush said of charters: “These diverse, creative schools are proof that parents from all walks of life are willing to challenge the status quo if it means a better education for their children.”
We at CSMI are putting vision into practice. We are determined to remove the roadblocks that children in underserved communities face, so that they too can live up to their full potential in becoming valuable, contributing members of a vibrant society. The foundation of our country was built on education, and our future depends on getting it right.
— Vahan H. Gureghian, Founder and CEO of CSMI
* “A Nation at Risk” http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/index.html