Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Difference a School Can Make

vonzastrowc's picture

Yesterday I spent the morning at Viers Mill Elementary School In Maryland. You might know the school. President Obama paid it an unexpected visit a couple of weeks ago. If ever you want to renew your spirits in these dismal days, visit a school like Viers Mill. Those teachers and kids knocked my socks off.

We've published a lot of public school success stories on this website. But it's another thing altogether to see one of these schools in action. The school is certainly impressive on paper. Almost half the students are still learning English. Most are from low-income families. And almost all students score proficient or better on Maryland state assessments.

But come to Viers Mill, and you'll see enthusiastic children, a passionate staff, gleaming hallways festooned with student work. You'll see teachers collaborating with each other--and other school staff--to meet individual students' needs. You'll see a school that has made itself a national exemplar without firing its staff or importing outside talent.  You'll see a singular devotion to children.

We'll be publishing much more on Viers Mill in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I wanted to stress an important point. Viers Mill makes an enormous difference in the lives of children. We strongly support policies that address students' needs outside of schools: better health care, after-school programs, help for families, etc. Such policies actually help children succeed in school, and schools that serve our most vulnerable children need all the help they can get. 

But don't believe those who say such arguments are defeatist. No one can diminish the incredible accomplishments of families, staff and students at Viers Mill. I'd send my own daughter there in a minute.

So go visit a school like Viers Mill. You'll be glad you did.