Cleveland Uber Alles

Untimely Dispatches from the Neighborhood of the Unrepresented & Inarticulate; Anecdotes that Pedal and Coast Through the Boot-Print of 20th Century American Urbanism

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Savvy with Symbolism. . . Now what about city management? Props to our new mayor for choosing East Tech High School as the site for his inauguration.

No building in the entire city might better embody the non-glamorous and real struggle that is essential for the survival and success of our city. Here's hoping that the comparisons made here between Frank Jackson and G.W. Bush are dead wrong and this smart use of "backdrop" for a political message isn't just aping the sort of stage management that makes the Presidential Administration so odious. Here's hoping that Jackson can translate simple eloquent gestures like these into action for the city itself.

Though it was more ballyhooed for its proposal of dismissing the school board than anything else, Jackson's position paper on education suggests that he does have some good ideas for moving the city's school's forward. In this paper, Jackson is conciliatory regarding vouchers, proposing a tax break for parents who choose to send their children to private schools, but otherwise making it clear that the school system should not be "outsourced" to the private sector. This is good.

Not so good: Jackson also seems determined to pay lip service to all the largely conservative-driven talk about "Outcomes Based Education," which is really, for those of us who care about education, a way of saying that he's concerned about test scores and, like so many other educators, has bought into the lie of the Texas Miracle.

Hopefully, however, the fact that CPS graduate Jackson personalizes the struggle to improve the district will keep him from getting too caught up in all this talk about bench marks to get down to the really good ideas his plan offers, like getting the schools to save money by pooling their buying power with other districts in the region, getting parents back into the school buildings by offering them classes there, and expanding students' apprenticeship and work opportunities. Importantly, Jackson proposes partnering schools, like John Hay High, with institutions like the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve, creating regional magnet schools that draw in tuition revenues from the surrounding area by providing top notch instruction. This is an idea that is long over due, and one wonders if the only thing preventing it is the fact that CWRU doesn't have a very active department of Education. Regardless, Cleveland needs a high school like Bronx Science or the Chicago Lab School--in this regard working to be "like New York" or "like Chicago" would be truly beneficial for the city and its residents. It's now a truism that real growth in downtown can't be sustained in a meaningful way without fixing the schools, and though introducing elite schools into the system might risk creating a two tiered school district, it would have the practical effect of addressing residents concerns that their are literally no good school to send their children to.

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