Jun 11, 2009 Herm Card Uncategorized
Welcome to the City Eagle series on the Syracuse city School District’s Say Yes to education:
In a seemingly radical departure from the typical urban school philosophy of struggling to maintain a level of achievement that satisfies the testing standards of the New York State Education Department, the Syracuse City School District is embracing an educational philosophy that encourages success through providing students the opportunity to succeed in ways that may not seem typical in an urban setting, through programs that might seem more at home in suburban districts where “eclectic” education is more common.
In a remarkably extensive cooperative effort among the Syracuse City School District, Say Yes to Education, Inc. and Syracuse University, the SCSD has implemented the “Syracuse Say Yes to Education and Economic Development Demonstration Program.”
The City Eagle’s Say Yes in the SCSD Series will explore the program in depth, looking at its origin, its implementation, its purpose, its connection to the community, its programs, its financial impact and its current outcomes.
At the same time, we must remember that SAY YES is by no means the only energizing force within the educational community of Syracuse. It is merely one aspect, albeit a very significant one, of an urban school district that is striving to provide meaningful education on all levels. Those other aspects will also be examined as this series progresses, keeping in mind that the majority of the personnel involved in the “hands on” part of this program are the teachers and staff members of the SCSD.
Syracuse Says “Yes” to Education
Part 1: Kung Fu, Marionettes and a Whole Lot of Energy
In December 2008, the Syracuse City School District implemented the Say Yes program in its Corcoran Quadrant. The program will expand to the Fowler Quadrant in the fall, and will eventually include the Henninger and Nottingham Quadrants as well. Thus, Syracuse will become the first school district to embrace and employ the Say Yes program district wide.
In the past month I have had the opportunity to observe end of the year celebrations of the Say Yes program in three Corcoran Quadrant schools, Van Duyn, Elmwood and Roberts. In each school, I witnessed the type of enthusiasm and energy that all teachers strive to instill in their students. I saw the results of teacher/student cooperation that more than belies the stereotypical image of downtrodden teachers trying to educate the uneducable in an urban setting, fighting against the standards and assessments rather than truly educating their students.
At Van Duyn, I saw several dozen students performing martial arts moves under the guidance of their kung fu instructor, Sharif Bey. At Roberts, Mrs. Merola’s students performed an updated version of Charlotte’s Web, a performance brought to life with the props and sets they had created themselves. At Elmwood, under the direction of art teacher Joe Foster, four students presented “The Crane Wife,” a Japanese fable, bringing the characters to life through the marionettes they had created.
What does this have to do with education? Everything. It has to do with giving students a chance to excel through achievement — through creating a tangible product, be it a piece of visual art, a theatrical performance, or the verbal explanation of the meaning of kung fu to a packed house at an assembly. Students are able to realize that nothing comes without effort and that the end result can fill them with pride. Students can gain a sense that there is more to school than the drudgery they may hear of from those whose experience was not successful, or from those who think that “school ain’t cool.”
A tenet of the Say Yes program is that everyone should be given the opportunity to succeed, and that ultimately, education is the backbone of that success. Through its ability to provide college funding for those who qualify, the SAY YES program has the ability to help insure the availability of a college education, but the ability to be accepted in college begins at the level I have been witnessing.
There is no question that not every student is a willing participant in every program offered. Not everyone can succeed at everything they try. There is never a guarantee of success. What is currently being guaranteed is the opportunity for success — the opportunity to work hard and to benefit from the results.
NEXT: A look at some of the people doing the work.
About Herm Card:
Herm Card has been a teacher for most of his adult life.
He honed his appreciation for education as a college baseball coach, military instructor, and as a middle and high school English teacher for more than three decades.
He serves on the board of the New York State English Council, and is co-editor of the council’s professional journal, The English Record. He is a former policy board member of the Central New York Teaching Center. He has worked with the New York State Education Department on all levels of the state’s ELA testing program and is the author of Barron’s New York State Grade 5 Achievemant Test Preparation Book. In addition, he has been a professional development consultant for more than 20 years and has extensive publishing credits in education journals, has won a couple of dozen grants for his teaching programs, and is a New York State English Council “Educator of Excellence.”
In short, he knows education from the inside. As the Eagle’s “street reporter” he has had the opportunity to explore the SCSD’s education system with the inside eye of a professional educator and the outside eye of a reporter.
In this series, he will explore that system, focusing on the SAY YES initiative, but also examining the programs and events that exemplify the philosophy of Say Yes, but were already part of the energetic, educational programming in our schools.