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Pedro Noguera shares bolder approach to education at January Series

NYU Education professor and urban sociologist Pedro Nogeura spoke Tuesday at Calvin College as part of The January Series.
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Calvin College January Series

Calvin College

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The January Series

Pedro Noguera presented "A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education" Tuesday afternoon at Calvin College's Covenant Fine Arts Center as part of the college's ongoing January Series of speakers.

Noguera sees education initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top as steps forward but not enough- because they rely almost entirely on testing. Noguera advocated for a more decentralized approach to education where test scores are not the only thing that matters and educators are able to use their own techniques to do what is best for their students.

"You have to figure out why [schools] are failing," Noguera said. "This is too complicated for policy-makers."

Noguera believes many factors in public school decline are sociological, citing examples such as poverty, unsafe conditions and broken homes. He sees a lack of vision and clear understanding of real solutions. He gave the example of the Florida state practice of giving letter grades to individual schools and posting the school's grade publicly on the front of the building. If a school is given an "F" four years in a row, Noguera said that the state then takes it over.

"States that take over schools [then] don't know what to do with them," Noguera said.

Noguera believes there are bright spots, like P.S. 28, a school in the Bedford-Styuvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Many of the children who attend P.S. 28, he said, were homeless- but still thriving in school. At P.S. 28, the principal serves as the main teacher and her secretary runs the school day to day. The principal, he said, wasn't just following the standard practices of the New York City Public School system. She had forged relationships with the local YMCA to provide after-school programs till 6 p.m. (when the homeless shelters open) according to Noguera. The school had established a relationship with a job training agency to provide training for parents, many of whom do not have high school degrees, Noguera said. Each class has three or four adults in the room assisting the teacher, ranging from a social worker to a librarian.

"Nothing is left to chance," Noguera stated. "Everything is deliberate and each student is known...[the principal] was not 'Waiting for Superman,'" Noguera said.

Noguera serves as the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at NYU. He frequently contributes to publications such as The Nation and has appeared on NPR and CNN to discuss issues facing education in America.

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