New Trustees Andrés Alonso and Reveta Bowers are giants on the education landscape
Bullish on Education’s Future Andrés Alonso sees the glass half full
“I ’ve never felt better about the future of schooling,” says new TC Trustee Andrés Alonso. “I see a new imperative about learning and real improvement.”
Alonso arrived in the United States from Cuba at age 12 speaking no English. He attended Columbia and Harvard, then left a successful law practice to teach in one of New Jersey’s poorest districts. He rose to become deputy schools chancellor in New York City and then in 2007 be-came schools chief in Baltimore. High schools there were graduating fewer than half of all entering students, and math and reading proficiency significantly lagged national and state averages. Yet, when Alonso stepped down in 2013 to be-come Professor of Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, graduation rates and state exam scores stood at an all-time high, the drop-out rate had been halved, the state had approved $1 billion to rebuild infrastructure and teachers had signed a pay-for-performance contract.
Nationally, Alonso credits the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) with ensuring better outcomes for needy students, citing near universal improvement by big urban school systems on the National
Assessment of Educational Progress. (He serves on the NAEP governing board.) Charter schools and technology have sparked “discussion of what’s possible and necessary,” and teachers are being “properly socialized” to their profession.
“When I changed careers, there were no mentors, no support, no structure in schools to create learning,” he says. “Now, we’re flooded with tools. There’s an expectation for collaboration, planning time, data around kids.”
Certainly, he has concerns. NCLB’s emphasis on testing has penalized schools in poverty, and cities must provide greater social supports and align with community-based organizations. Perhaps his biggest worry, though, is that the nation will reverse course. “The conversation about structure and policy takes all the oxygen,” he says. “We can accomplish more by agreeing on how to teach algebra to eighth graders.”
Alonso misses the front lines but enjoys teaching, assisting school districts through Harvard’s Public Education Leadership Project, and serving on TC’s board. “I’ve seen how teaching and teachers stem from TC. It’s a great place for me to keep learning.” —JOE LEVINE
Homecoming For Reveta Bowers, TC has been a place of renewal. Now she’s going to the well again
In 1995, Reveta bowers, head of the pre-k–6 Center for Early Education (CEE) in West Hollywood, California, spent a month at TC’s Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership.
“I’d been at CEE for 20 years and was considering leaving or entering another field,” recalls Bowers, who joined TC’s Board this past fall. “But talking with other leaders about research, best practices and pedagogy freed me to think of new things to take back to the school I loved. I started collecting books for CEE parents on children’s development. Today, we’ve got 4,000 volumes.” She laughs. “And I’m still here.”
On Bowers’ remarkable 43-year watch, CEE has become internationally known for modeling cultural diversity, team teaching and a focus on children’s emotional and social growth. Through the National Association of Independent Schools and as a Klingenstein advisory board member, Bowers has also helped prepare thousands of new heads of school.
“It’s so important for all educators to keep having the kind of deeply immersive school experiences that Klingenstein offers,” she says.
The daughter of third-generation public school teachers, Bowers began her own career in the LA Unified system, but signed on to teach at CEE when the city furloughed its most recent hires.
“I thought, I’m educating children, just as I would be in a public school,” she recalls. “And as head, I felt I could create joy in a broader range of children so they would remain part of a school community for the rest of their lives.”
Today, Bowers believes the line between independent and public schools must be bridged. “We all need to talk to one other, because while our methods might be different, we have a shared mission: to prepare the next generation of learners.”
In 2016 — CEE’s 75th anniversary year Bowers will finally retire. But she has no plans “to sit at home.”
“The old mission of teaching all children in the same way, at the same pace, is passé. TC understands that we’ve got to look at blended learning, at technology; that we must enable kids to fail, repeat, learn and succeed so they develop the grit and resiliency they’ll need for the workplace. So, while I’ve never really left, I’m very excited to be back.” — JOE LEVINE
Published Friday, Jun. 5, 2015