The Real Life Story of Charter School Change
Here is an interesting read for those who care about the problematic process of instituting educational change. Joe and Carol Reich have just released Getting to Bartlett Street, a book about their tumultuous and ultimately successful efforts to establish one of the country's first charter schools in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Eleven Bartlett Street is the address of their first Beginning with Children school, opened in 1992. Since starting their initial elementary school, the Reich's and their Beginning with Children Foundation have expanded to middle school, as well as opened other schools in other parts of Brookyn. The Manhattan Institute's Charles Sahm writes an excellent overview of the Reich's history and passion for education in his review of the book.
I interviewed for a potential job with the Beginning with Children Foundation when I first moved to New York in the mid 90s. It scared me. I was recently out of graduate school and had little real world experience. I remember sitting across from Carol Reich and feeling overwhelmed by her immense energy and intensity. Her eyes stared at me reflecting a commitment and urgency about the kids her school was serving. I could not keep up. If I remember correctly, what the foundation was looking for at the time was a way to capture and communicate their model. The job did not pan out. I was sorely disappointed at the time because the Reich's seemed to be on to something. They cared about it deeply, and they had the wits and resources to make it happen.
Charter schools have become much politicized in a city with contradictory and conflicting opinions about the best way to ensure high quality education for the largest number of students. But it is still worth admiring, or at least studying, the path to success of those who manage to pull off change. For that reason alone, you read the Reich's story. It may anger some, but it will also inspire.