An inner-city Chicago school implemented a fairly simple and highly successful program to address the out-of-control violence and low probability of success (or even, in some cases, survival) that its students faced: Identify those most at risk, and pair them up with community mentors ( As one mentor said, he believes his mentee is college bound, though he didn’t think that when he first met him.

This is a model I’ve been advocating here in Jefferson County, both when I was a teacher, and now as a father and resident. It’s an obvious direction to take, clearly a good investment and good for our kids. Unfortunately, Jeffco Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson is too much of an autocrat to risk any significant degree of community involvement. I’ve encountered nothing but obstructionism from her.

But our school districts ultimately belong to us, not to those we hire as our agents in their administration. We all need to start organizing a community-school partnership movement, in all of our school districts. it’s the next logical step in the evolution of public education, increasing again the amount and variety of human capital to which children are exposed and from which children can benefit, just as the original institutionalization of public education did.

One thing is certain: Show me a kid who has an adult taking an interest in him or her, and engaging in intellectually stimulating and optimistic-about-the-kid’s-future conversations and interactions, and I’ll show you a kid who’s going to succeed in school and beyond. The first most important step we can take in education reform is to make sure that every kid has such an adult in their life.

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