Public school reform activist speaks at Dartmouth - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Public school reform activist speaks at Dartmouth

Hanover, New Hampshire - April 25, 2011

Geoffrey Canada was featured in the documentary "Waiting for Superman," which presented a harsh criticism of public education in this country. On Monday, the social activist spoke at Dartmouth College.

"There are lots of places that public education is doing just fine, but there are place where we have had failing education systems for decades," Canada said.

Geoffrey Canada has made it his mission to revolutionize the inner city school systems in Harlem. He is currently the CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone Project, which aims to increase high school and college graduation rates in New York City. But Canada says when it comes to change, teachers unions have been one the biggest barriers.

"The problem arises -- when I begin to say why can't we change things in public education -- and I kept running into that it is against the collective bargaining. That you can't get rid of lousy teachers because that's not apart of collective bargaining. And some of the things that they are doing is just wrong," he said.

"It's very easy to make the union out as the straw man," said Deb Kennedy. The special needs teacher works for the Lebanon School District and is a member of the New Hampshire National Education Association. Kennedy admits there have been times when unions have hampered progress when it comes to improving outcomes, but she says the blame can not just be placed on unions. She says administrators and parents also play a key role in educating kids. "We are all trying to do the best for our children. We all want a good education for our kids. I don't know anyone that's in teaching that gets up every day and says I really want to do a terrible job and I don't care about kids," Kennedy said. Kennedy says that in order to change the system, everyone needs to be apart of the solution. "Are there more effective teachers -- sure. Do we need to do a better job of supporting teachers who are not as effective as others -- yes," she said.

That is something Canada agrees with-- along with longer school days and higher pay for proficient educators. But Canada also says that increased funding alone is not the solution.

"The argument that folks have made is that we have paid more and more for education and we have gotten flat line results. So there is this sense that paying more does not give you results and I would agree with that," he said.

Canada says his measure of success is simple. A college education. But he says in order to achieve that for all kids, changing the current system is necessary.

Adam Sullivan - WCAX News

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