I've visited a lot of schools. So many, in fact, that I can sense which ones are working well. Good schools have a charged atmosphere and engaged, confident students who are comfortable with their teachers. People smile: students, teachers, and support staff. They are fun places to be, even for visitors. When I walked into the John A. Reisenbach Charter School in New York City's Harlem and started taking pictures, I liked it right away. I saw creative teaching and boisterous learning taking place. This particular first-grade class was acting out verbs. Every child wanted to participate. They were practically jumping out of their skins to be chosen to act out "tickle," "hug," "whisper," and "giggle."
A Monitor reporter and I visited the school because state evaluators were threatening to close it, partly based on poor results on statewide standardized tests. To me it was clear that this school was rich in intangibles, qualities no standardized test could measure. Parents fought hard to save the school. The neighborhood's public schools were considered to be some of the worst in the city. Sadly, two weeks after our story ran, the decision was made to close Reisenbach. Can you act out "disappointed"?