Brown University: Interview with Prof. Kenneth Wong
The Obama administration established innovation grants and improvement grants to affect change on state and local levels. The administration has also focused on selecting a new crop of teachers and providing new research and data to evaluate charter school performance.
The allocation of education resources, the intrinsic bias in standardized tests, and inefficient resource allocation to poorer communities have contributed to widening these achievement gaps. But the system is adapting. Programs like Teach for America, and its local offspring, the New York Teaching Programs [inaugurated by Former School Chancellor Joel Klein], have been influential in helping to bridge these gaps. The goal of these programs has been to empower underperforming schools with the teachers and the tools to deliver a higher quality of education. These programs place newly graduated teachers in failing schools located in disadvantaged neighborhoods and provide them with mentors, who can train them over a two-year period, and challenge them to reach a higher level.
Wong sees a correlative relationship between the improvement of test scores and higher rates of high school graduation and college graduation. As the director of the Masters program in Urban Policy, Wong strives to cultivate a community of leaders who will go on to play a meaningful role in shaping school reform and creating school policy.
Wong’s goal has been to graduate a community of leaders who will become policy experts, consultants and leading researchers in the field. Recent graduates of the program have gone on to work in think tanks throughout the country, create charter schools and as policy experts in education non-profits throughout the world.
Wong is trying to develop more global exchange opportunities among teachers in different countries. He developed an international exchange program with China, hoping to broaden their understanding of how to integrate principles of diversity and democratic principles in their curricula. The exchange program teaches the history of Brown vs. Board of education and gives them the knowledge and skills to integrate these lessons in their curricula when they return to China. He hopes to instill these democratic values and multicultural strategies of education in foreign teachers to motivate them to use techniques in their home country. “ I want to create global and state agents who have the skill sets to analyze data and use social science data, manage and design schools and work to recruit talented teachers more effectively.”
Wong and other professors have collaborated on research for the Annenberg Institute at Brown to provide consulting services to schools throughout the country on issues of school choice, reform, and the role of charter schools.
The Choices for the 21st Century Education Program is a national education initiative developed at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. The Choices Program provides teaching resources on historical and current international issues, offers professional development for classroom teachers, and sponsors programs that engage students beyond the classroom.
Wong explains that the challenge school reformers face today is creating change in a climate where tenured, unionized teachers and administrators are reluctant to embrace innovative teaching methods and new school policies that may threaten their job security. To meet this challenge, mediators are needed to help bridge the dialogue between traditionalists and reformers.
Programs like Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows program have provided a tool to train new teachers to go into the most underperforming school in the poorest neighborhoods to help raise the standards and challenge the low expectations of student achievement in these communities. #