Always Personal Best

By 10/25/2012

By Candace Browdy, Executive Director

In September the MDRC released another evaluation of the controversial Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards program, a comprehensive conditional cash transfer program launched in 2007 in which low-income parents and their teenage students (most of whom scored at the proficient level on baseline tests) were offered cash incentives to attend school and pass exams. It is no surprise that the program had no effect on teenagers’ sense of academic competence or their engagement in school.

Yet, take a group of Schuler Scholars from the same demographic and for the same data points the results are through the roof. Why? Because the Schuler Scholar Program invests in the human resources needed to help Scholars develop the critical skills necessary for success in and outside of the classroom, skills that should be fostered throughout one’s lifetime. What’s the return on that investment? Young men and women who live by the Schuler creed: Always Personal Best.

Clearly poverty affects student performance and we should be creative in attempting to level the playing field. But we must be mindful of the ultimate goal of sustainable changes in behavior and attitudes. Those changes don’t happen because kids get a stipend for going to school. It happens when adults inspire students and students believe that Always Personal Best equals opportunity.

Johnny Reed, WHS Class of 2009, Colorado College Class of 2013, writes about his senior year of college being a challenge, his excitement about a career in law, and the possibility of serving as an AmeriCorps member with Schuler. Dr. Connie Collins, Superintendent of Round Lake Area Schools District 116, speaks passionately about moving the once-failing district, which until recently was run by the state, from good to great. She and her team are making sure that college and work readiness is embedded in everything they do. Josh Bill, American History and AP Government teacher at a school where only 25% of students matriculate to four-year colleges, has a cult-like following among students. He’s demanding and sets high expectations for his students. But he’s not paying kids to work on mock debates and National History Day projects.

Johnny, Dr. Collins and Mr. Bill are inspired. They are inspiring. They remind us that the most effective way to transform a system, a school or a district in serious need of change is through investment in human resources: adults and students who accept nothing less than Always Personal Best.


Related: Josh Bill named National History Teacher of the Year by Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Read more.

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