Inspirational School Success Story from Harlem Right for Colorado, Too?

Not all kids are as blessed as I am, yet their families have opportunities to find a successful education, too. Business Week has such an inspirational story from Harlem. Former media executive Deborah Kenny has created the successful Village Academies charter schools to reach a population of mostly black and Latino kids in an area where other schools are failing:

A former Time Warner executive herself, Kenny has applied a business management style to running her schools, focusing on attracting smart teachers, nurturing talent, using reams of data to improve performance, and putting a huge emphasis on rewarding results. In June, she announced that 100% of Village Academies’ eighth grade students had passed the state math test, a first for Harlem that was lauded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “I was proud,” says Kenny. “But this should not be some historic, amazing achievement. It should be a given.”

You really ought to read the whole story. It tells why Ms. Kenny left the business world for education, how she carefully studied the practices of successful schools, and how she views the parents of her students:

Kenny also tells her staff, which now numbers more than 65, that they need to follow the “Ritz-Carlton” model. “We think of the parents as customers, and we pay as much attention to them and pay them as much respect as Ritz-Carlton workers are trained to treat their guests.” In turn, Kenny every several weeks puts data for each student onto spreadsheets—everything from hallway infractions to how often students are late handing in homework. This, she says, enables teachers to see trends and communicate with parents and students before it’s too late.

Treating parents like customers? Sounds like success to me. It will be exciting to see Village Academies continue to grow as quickly as it can while still effectively serving the needs of students. Maybe someone else can study what Deborah Kenny has done and bring a new successful education model to Colorado.