The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Teens Represent Successful Education Reform Programs; LCCREF Releases Report on 'Best Practices'

Feature Story by Tyler Lewis - 9/14/2006

Seventy-five percent of white students graduate from high school, but only half of black and Latino students graduate.

Two out of three children will not have the skills to compete in today's society.

Seventy percent of 8th graders are reading below grade level.

Statistics on failing American students like these abound. However, strong examples of education reform and the kids who benefit from it are often missing from the debate over how to best educate the nation's children.

On Sept. 13, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) released a report on 13 education reform programs that are providing high quality education to minority and poor children and getting outstanding results.

"These are solutions that are working right now, in some of the nation's most difficult and most distressed school districts, for kids with the greatest need for help," said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and LCCREF counselor. "The schools ... are examples of what public schools can and should be in every community across the nation."

Three students talked about how high-quality education programs have impacted their lives for the better at a briefing for Hill education and policy staff and the media that was simulcast via the internet in Washington D.C. and San Diego, CA.

Kristian Smith, 15, who grew up in a tough Washington D.C. neighborhood, credited the Higher Achievement After School & Summer Program with making him a "scholar." "I learned how to think critically, and instead of accepting the way things are, I am inspired to ask the thought-provoking questions and push for answers ... I am always thinking harder and pushing further with everyone I meet and everything I do," said Smith.

Smith insisted that the high quality programs are essential for millions of youth just like him. "This program has improved every facet of my life ... With Higher Achievement, and programs like it, my neighborhood becomes a breeding ground for hope and optimism where the American dream is real," Smith said.

The students from High Tech High in San Diego are part of a state-wide program well on its way toward being the first charter school district in the nation. The rigorous, hands-on program requires its students to integrate various disciplines and create working projects, which Tuyaymya Osuna, 15, and Isaac Jackson, 17, displayed at the event.

Osuna, who built a working pinhole camera with cardboard and duct tape, said that she is "glad to go to a school where the teachers motivate you." Jackson took great pleasure in explaining the complicated integrated math and physics required to build his projectile launcher, which can throw a small object the length of two football fields.

High Tech High will open more two more schools in 2007 and is mandated to open 10 in California over the next few years.

Former West Virginia Governer Bob Wise said that "building the public will" in areas that need education reform will ensure that local and state governments will be willing and able to bring innovative programs. "We need to use these programs and turn them into models," said Gov. Wise.

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