Since 2000, when I became General Counsel of the Los Angeles Unified School District, my focus and passion has been education reform: fomenting innovative and systemic change to create a system where every child can learn. I had been a staff member in the United State Congress and the California State Senate, as well as a political consultant and lawyer whose practice required an extensive knowledge of management theory and practice, but none of that work ever again seemed as important to our future as creating high quality education in the United States.
In Los Angeles, I was part of a management team that was committed to overhauling one of the most troubled school systems in the United States. It did not take long to see that there had to be a radical and systemic change not only in Los Angeles, but in many, if not most, districts in the United States. The real stumbling block was not a lack of vision; there have been successful schools operating in difficult circumstances that produce extraordinary results for many years. The problem has been that educators, parents, and taxpayers haven’t been able to join together, district-by-district, across the country, to push aside the status quo in favor of a new way of operating schools and instructing students that will guarantee every child can learn.
Over the last several years, I have written about education reform and about the politics and policies around the issue. In the winter of 2011-12, Rowman and Littlefield will publish Renewal, Remaking America’s Schools for the 21st Century, which describes and analyzes how 40 school districts, charters, private and parochial schools are making great education happen. The book gives everyone who is interested in school reform a comprehensive guide to the kind of systemic change, from how we train teachers, to how superintendents have to build trust in the community, to how to deal with providing immediate help to struggling students. Taken together, the changes can be daunting, but I designed Renewal to make them understandable, along with a clear road map to make all of them happen.