By Bill Hartman and Jane Conover
A wise but unnamed person once said “Vision is Seeing the Opportunity Inside the Challenge”. It is a good reminder that today’s challenges actually create an opportunity to act boldly to achieve significant results. Public education is one of those challenges that is debated in movies, news articles, in books and in the halls of government. The public discourse over school improvement is complex but also incredibly valuable because it keeps the education of young people front and center. More people than ever are willing to consider new ways to resolve problems, making collaboration among educators, parents and policy makers more viable.
With the recent release of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s System of School Assessment (PSSA) data from York County schools, we learned that in the 2010-2011 academic year, every school district had some students that failed to meet the goals set by the No Child Left Behind Act. While some progress is being made, student test scores in the School District of the City of York still lag behind their counterparts in other districts by almost 20 percentage points in math, reading and science.
There are signs of hope. First, PSSA test scores overall are improving slightly throughout the County, including in the School District of the City of York. Secondly, there are many committed and competent education professionals and community members who are eager to dramatically improve these results. Dr. Wortham, the new Superintendent of the School District of the City of York, is leading the charge for a transformation in culture that will create the environment where children and teachers thrive. The Community Foundation has met with Dr. Wortham and her leadership team several times and they are committed and eager to work hard for the children they serve every day. We endorse Dr. Wortham’s priorities to ensure adequate teacher/student ratios, create safe schools, and give educators the tools and skills they need to support the development of the whole child.
While it would be nice if there was one magic solution to fix all of the problems with public education, Elaine Weiss, National Coordinator for Broader, Bolder Approach to Education reminded us at the April YorkCounts Summit to give up that fantasy. The reality is that children, families and schools need many things to succeed. YorkCounts and York County Community Foundation seek to bring all the stakeholders together to identify, research, evaluate and advocate for solutions. Fortunately, the ingredients of success are here…public awareness, competent leadership and community commitment to do better for our students.
Bill Hartman is the President of York County Community Foundation. Jane Conover is the Vice President of Community Investment at York County Community Foundation and is the lead staff for the YorkCounts Initiative. YorkCounts became an initiative of York County Community Foundation in May, 2011.