One of the joys of working in schools is the opportunity to visit and share ideas with other professionals who are often faced with similar challenges and potential opportunities. Last week I was invited to participate in an evaluation of Science Academy, a charter school in New Orleans East, run by Ben Marcovitz. The process, run by New Schools for New Orleans, included former Newman teacher and Summerbridge leader Jay Altman as well as Mike Stone, a Newman alum. The visit included a pre-evaluation meeting, class visits, interviews with faculty, and finally a post-evaluation discussion. It was an extraordinary visit in every respect–people at the school embraced the evaluation and were eager to learn from it and to grow. I was so impressed with the process, the team, and the school.
One theme that is increasingly important in education is the shared relationship of public to private. Public schools, particularly charter schools, have taught independent schools a great deal about adaptive, data-driven instruction; independent schools have provided a model for creating a culture of intellectual autonomy and community values. We had the opportunity last week also to host a team of visitors from Science Academy to Newman. The team visited classes and spoke with our faculty–in the best sense of collaboration, we learned from them and they took away lessons from Newman. In particular, they were interested in how we manage our classes and the relationship of teachers to students, students to content.
In an ideal sense, schools should constantly be reflecting, growing, and sharing ideas with other professionals. We are fortunate to have, in New Orleans, some of the country’s most innovative leaders in the field of education and some of the finest teachers in the country. I hope that this sort of exchange becomes the standard for how public and private schools operate: I know that we grew from the experience and welcome similar exchanges.