Chicago's anti-violence initiative and a return to the Broader, Bolder debate

You probably remember the debate (over a year ago) between two competing education circles, the Broader, Bolder group and the Education Equality Project, as well as the mountains of press when Arne Duncan signed onto both of their manifestos. (Read Checker's comments and Diane Ravitch's response for a refresher on the crux of the debate. Heavy stuff.)

To those in the Education Equality camp, the Broader, Bolder's focus on the fact that "multitudes of children are growing up in circumstances that hinder their educational achievement," represented a distraction away from holding schools and teachers accountable. Their calls for a "broader partnership and a sturdier bridge across schools, public health, and social services" were, for many of us, just too broad (and expensive). In contrast, Education Equality's get-tough-on-schools mentality was more arguably more doable - focusing on reforms to improve schools, rather than attempting to combat poverty and social problems outside of the school system.

But how does one reconcile this divide when it comes to incidents of student violence?

Recently, a 15 year old girl from West Chester, Ohio was stabbed to death during a brawl outside her home, a reminder that violence doesn't??stop at the borders of America's inner cities. Last week, the NYTimes reported on a stabbing death of a boy at a South Florida High School. And the Chicago Public School's anti-violence plan, which got press late this summer, is back in the news after several shooting deaths of young men this school year. Chicago's anti-violence plan seeks to identify students who are most at risk for violence, and partners with social workers, counselors, and social service agencies in order to intervene on their behalf. The initiative, which costs $30 million, falls squarely into the Broader, Bolder camp.

Some will argue (like Duncan) that alignment with one camp doesn't have to mean rejection of the other. Philosophically, sure. But by virtue of the fact that education reforms cost a lot of money (which nobody seems to have these days) when a school district like Chicago decides to spend $30 million on violence prevention, inevitably that's $30 million not spent on teacher merit pay, data systems, or reforms that Education Equality folks might be more comfortable with.

If Chicago's plan ends up being effective and saves student lives, I'm wondering what that could mean for those of us in the Education Equality camp who have a more narrow focus on schools as the vehicle for reform.?? I still think Education Equality's laser focus on top-notch teachers and accountability is right on. But I have to admit that hearing saddening tales of student violence - and seeing Chicago's political will to create a program to curb it - leaves me rethinking this whole debate.?????????

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