A love of learning. That's what Pamela Brown, the new superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, wants to instill in all the students of the district. Brown, who has been all over the United States working as an educator, hopes to tackle her new job head-on, and already has been working hard to turn around the foundering BPS.
However, doing that is more than a one-woman job, and Brown is working to partner with parents and the community to improve the opportunities of students.
NeXt recently had a chance to talk with Brown about her plans.
"We all have a common interest in making sure all of the children in this community are educated well," she said. "We know that children who are well-educated are much more likely to graduate on time, pursue college, and the more opportunities, the greater their potential to support themselves and the community financially.
"I spend quite a bit of time in the community, with individuals and groups, and they are all interested in providing opportunities for students," she continued. "One of the things that I want to do is to really develop focused partnerships with a variety of organizations and individuals in the community so that we are very clear on the role they can play in making sure that our schools are great places for children to learn."
One such partnership is with places of worship. These organizations have a desire to help the children in their congregations learn and grow, and Brown is working with these groups to help them toward that goal. For example, Brown is working with one church to promote a summer reading program, developing book lists and providing follow-up activities such as book reports.
Encouraging learning outside of school is something Brown hopes to accomplish among students in 2013.
Her top priority for 2013, though? Increasing student achievement.
"We have to be willing to put students first in all the decisions that we make, and sometimes that presents challenges," said Brown. "Some of the practices, some of the priorities that have been in place will need to be thought of differently."
While Brown views this as a challenge, she does not view it as an insurmountable one. She does believe there are many problems to be solved that include increasing attendance as well as increasing student achievement and improving practices in the district. Brown wants to make sure her staff is focused on the kids, and is "as effective as possible" in providing students with a good education.
In a perfect world, what is a child's education? Well, that varies depending on whom you ask. For Brown, a child's education must include the skills and abilities students need to master to succeed in life.
"We are living in a global economy, and it's going to be much more competitive," Brown said. "Our students aren't just going to be competing against kids from Buffalo or New York, they're going to be competing against kids from all over the world."
But it's not a perfect world, so what can Brown do to improve education in the BPS? Well, Brown wants to "ratchet up" the standards for learning, and one of the ways she hopes to accomplish this is by rolling out common core learning standards, which are being implemented across New York State and the U.S. These standards will incorporate tasks and goals for students that will be much harder than in previous years, and Brown hopes to deliver better courses and materials than in previous years, in order to help students meet these higher standards.
"First and foremost," she says, "we have to make sure that every child has access to a rigorous course of study, and we have to make sure that the instruction being provided is of the standards seen in the common core learning standards."
Brown made it clear that she wanted to make sure that each teacher has knowledge of the standards in the common core curriculum and that they are well-versed in such standards.
Throughout the interview with Brown, the word intervention kept popping up. Interventions are a key part of Brown's plans to turn around the district.
"An intervention is a strategy or a process that is put into place for students who are struggling, falling behind, have low attendance, disciplinary issues or problems outside the classroom," she said. "These interventions will be put in place to address any problems students have in school that are getting in the way of them being successful. Anytime a student is having trouble, they can talk to their teacher to work out how the student can be more successful, and build a plan to help them work through that challenge."
Brown said in order for an intervention to be successful it requires teachers working with students and families, students working with parents and teachers, administration working with faculty, staff, students and families – everyone must play their part to ensure every child achieves his or her full potential.
Brown may be new, but it seems as if she has hit the ground running, working to make the Buffalo Public Schools better.