Angel Rodriguez, a parent of children attending Urban Academy in New York City, discusses testing, innovation, and the power of Urban's approach to education.
1. What has been your own experience with tests and test preparation in the professional world?
I'm a CPA by profession. I took what some people consider the hardest exam -- a three-day exam. I don't remember anymore it was so long ago, but I think it was eight hours a day. You rehearse for this exam for a year, and take a review course which just means that when you walk into the review course, they say, "We are not here to teach you accounting. We're here to teach you how to pass this exam." You pay thousands of dollars to be able to do that, so I know what that means. And I know that that doesn't work, because I know that I didn't learn any accounting when I took that review course. I didn't learn anything except how to pass the exam.
2. How would you characterize Urban's approach to education and its impact on your son?
Urban is saying, "We don't want you to study for the exam, we want to teach you. We want to take this period of time that you have in school, which is limited, and teach you something." I think the approach that Urban has taken is an approach that clearly works for my son. My son has grown in the last year and half tremendously, and I attribute that almost exclusively to the kind of attention, to the kind of work, to the kind of teachers, to the commitment to education that he gets at Urban Academy.
3. What will it take to extend the educational model used by the Consortium (including Urban Academy) to other schools?
Everyone agrees that education is the number-one priority for our city, probably for our nation. Everyone agrees with that. The will for change isn't there. Every time something new comes up, you get resistance from one place or another. I don't know what place that can be, so there's always resistance to change. We all agree it has to be changed, but we always say, "Well, this can't be changed or that can't be changed," which, in essence, brings us back to where we've been all along. I think the curriculum at Urban Academy works. I think the challenge for the bureaucracy, the bureaucrats, and the challenge for government is to see what it is about that curriculum that works, and how do we move that forward so that other children can benefit from it. As opposed to closing that down, and preventing it from flourishing.