Reforming a School System, Reviving a City: The Promise of Say Yes to Education in Syracuse
- The Stakes At the heart of a multi-million-dollar wager in Syracuse is a guarantee that qualifying graduates of the city’s five public schools will be eligible for free tuition at almost 100 colleges and universities in a High Education Compact.
- Say Yes to Education Say Yes spent a quarter-century rehearsing for its prime-time performance in Syracuse, running programs in four other cities with small groups of students in a few schools to make them college-ready and, then, providing the wherewithal for them to pursue higher education.
- Elements of Collaboration Say Yes was shrewd when it came to winning support from Syracuse’s City Council, the mayor, the county, and the New York State government, seeking influence and money wherever it could be found.
- Getting Started in Syracuse Say Yes and its partners recognized that success would rest on building a coalition, mostly locally-based, to endorse and advance efforts for systemic school reform.
- Teaching and Learning The greatest challenge in Syracuse was the district’s need to improve teaching and learning.
- Outside Influences on the Classroom The positions and policies of the school board and the teacher union represent the kind of influence that can readily confound the hopes and wishes that others have for the educational reform.
- Extended Time for Learning Given the high rate of poverty in Syracuse and the fact that so many children enter school lagging behind their more advantages peers, Say Yes, at the heart of its program, sought a commitment by the district to extend the school day and the school year.
- Making Time More Productive A longer school day and an extended school calendar are not the only ways to claim more time for learning.
- Weaving a Web of Social and Emotional Support Health needs of all sorts—social, emotional, and physical—tend to get overlooked in school reform, but Say Yes proceeded on the assumption that children not readily learn when they hungry, homeless, or living in dysfunctional settings.
- Getting Ready for College The lure of free college tuition was the flashing neon sign that drew attention to Say Yes in Syracuse, blinding some people to the essence of the program, which seeks to boost aspirations and underscore the importance of hard work in elementary and secondary school.
- A Summer Bridge Say Yes, in collaboration with Onondaga Community College, launched its Summer Success Academy in 2011 for a select group of tuition-scholarship students from Syracuse to deal with their failure to pass one or more of the college’s placement tests.
- Paying the Bills From the start, Say Yes wanted a program that would eventually sustain itself financially and which the school system, with support from its community, could institutionalize .
- Lifting the City Say Yes wanted to give Syracuse a boost by helping to improve the city itself by making the school district more successful and more attractive.
- Putting It All in Perspective Say Yes readily acknowledged its mistake, learning from them, and applied the lessons learned when it moved on to implement a similar program in Buffalo.