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This Land is Your Land: President and Mrs. Bush Visit Boston’s High Performing Brooke Charter School

July 25, 2012 5 minute Read by Patrick Kobler

On Tuesday, the George W. Bush Institute convened four of its Alliance to Reform Education Leadership Programs (AREL) programs – Building Excellent Schools, Harvard Graduate School of Education, KIPP and Achievement First – along with Massachusetts State Commissioner for Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester and The Lynch Foundation, for a roundtable discussion on the impact of school leadership on student achievement.

The Bush Institute was proud to hold this event at Brooke Charter School Mattapan.  Brooke Charter Schools exemplify the Bush Institute’s belief that every child can learn, achieving 100% proficiency in 8th grade math and reading and ranking number one among 7th and 8th grade students across the entire state.  The charter network proves that accountability,  quality principals and excellent teachers make a difference in a child’s academic performance. Before the roundtable, President and Mrs. Bush met with a group of 1st graders who greeted them waving American flags and proudly singing, “This Land is Your Land.”  Even though these scholars were only in 1st grade, each had an idea of what they wanted to be when they grew up.  When President Bush asked the first graders, “who does their homework every night,” all of them raised their hand. The forty-third President and First Lady then surprised a group of Brooke Charter School teachers and thanked them for their commitment to providing an excellent education for all children.  Inspired by the hard-work of these excellent teachers, President Bush expressed his desire to continue serving the country during his post-Presidency.  President Bush talked about how education was a major part of this continued service and stated his belief that accountability for teachers and principals - prevalent throughout Brooke Charter Schools – continues to be a crucial component in improving America’s public schools. Led by the Bush Institute’s Director of Education Reform, Dr. Kerri Briggs, President and Mrs. Bush concluded the day by participating in a roundtable discussion on the impact of principals on student achievement.  One roundtable participant was Thabiti Brown, principal of Codman Academy, who was awarded a Lynch Fellowship for Boston College Graduate School of Education – a prospective program for AREL’s second cohort. Embodying the notion that an effective principal can positively impact a student’s academic performance, Thabiti created a culture of high expectations throughout Codman Academy. In a school where 70% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, Thabiti’s leadership was instrumental in such successes as attendance rising to a 96% daily average and parental engagement reaching 100%. Excelling under a culture of achievement, 100% of Codman’s students received college acceptances upon graduation this past year and will attend impressive universities including Boston College and Loyola University – Maryland in the fall. Another roundtable participant was Andrea “Drea” DeAngelo, founding principal of KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate.  Earning her principal’s license through KIPP Leadership Training, Drea will welcome her school’s first class in the fall.  A former Teach For America corps member, boys basketball coach and KIPP Math Chair whose 7th grade students ranked 12th in math proficiency throughout the state of Massachusetts, Drea exemplifies the reasons for recruiting the best potential to serve as our nation’s public school principals. Thabiti and Drea’s stories demonstrate that school leadership matters.  For all of America’s students to be successful, we must find ways to recruit and prepare individuals like Thabiti and Drea into and for the principalship.  Once at the helm of a school, districts and states must then provide the conditions and autonomy necessary for these individuals to successfully impact their students. On Tuesday, Brooke Charter School Mattapan’s 1st graders sang, “This Land is Your Land” to President and Mrs. Bush.  For America to also be “their land,” we must find ways to give every child a quality education.  Apparent at Tuesday’s roundtable was the fact that the principal is a pivotal part of achieving this goal. This post was written by Patrick Kobler, Program Coordinator for The Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) at the George W. Bush Institute.  Patrick is a Teach For America alumnus and former student body president of Southern Methodist University.