In this report, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) blends policy recommendations and "best practices" to create a clear picture of how well-run education programs can inform policy making; and how wise policies can encourage the spread of effective education reforms. With an emphasis on programs that are delivering high-quality education in low-income and high-minority districts, especially in math, science, and technology, LCCREF has illustrated how basic principles of education reform are being carried out by successful schools, districts, after-school programs, teacher training and recruitment programs, and through school financing and legal reforms.
No single policy recommendation or idea can create a successful school or ensure real and meaningful access to educational opportunity. The programs described in this report share certain features. Most importantly, they rely on strong, energetic, and committed leadership that filters down to create a supportive and nurturing environment. Successful school districts have dedicated superintendents who empower their principals. Successful principals recruit quality teachers and ensure that they have the resources and support they need to focus their energy on the students; and serve as an inspiration for parents whose own school experiences may have not been positive. Successful after-school and teacher training programs rely on committed and visionary leaders who inspire their staffs and the community.
As the focus on the crisis in American public education increases, national and state political leadership must rise to the occasion. We can be encouraged that a growing number of committed young people stand ready to take on the daunting challenge of bringing educational opportunity to children, families, and communities mired in poverty. They’re coming from all fields - law, business, social and physical sciences - to teach at and to start new schools; and they are inspiring others to join them. For their initiative and leadership to thrive, policymakers and advocates - regardless of their political parties or philosophy - must join together to support and encourage them.
The test of national leadership in ensuring quality education for all in the 21st century may be the most important test of all.
William L. Taylor
Chair, LCCREF Board of Directors