The following are Thom Jackson’s remarks to the Ohio Bridgescape educators on August 3 in Columbus.
This morning marks the beginning of the new school year. Wow! Think about that for a moment...a new school year.
I have not known what that means as a teacher, counselor or instructional leader. I do remember what it meant as a student.
For much of my primary and secondary education, a new school year meant three words: Breakfast and Lunch. It meant that I could get two regular meals each day, which I saw as the real reward for showing up. What happened in between -- classes, quizzes, tests and homework, well that was a necessary by-product until...until wonderfully committed teachers, like you, helped me to realize that I had it backwards.
The best meals were served over Shakespeare, Emerson and Frost. Following the drinking gourd was not just a song, but a lens into the strength, character and culture of a people and a nation that really is pregnant with opportunity and potential. Conquering Polynomials and understanding Pythagorean built mental toughness.
Many of the students with whom you will work will not have such an idyllic view. Some have failed of their own volition; others have frankly failed because they have been failed. All, however, will look to each of you to give them one thing...hope – an enduring belief that they are in the right place --- the place where they can turn things around, where someone believes in their innate ability to learn.
I have often said that "Education is the hardest job you'll ever love." It is hard not just because our country has yet to truly commit the resources necessary to ensure educational equity regardless of a child's socioeconomic circumstances. It is hard not just because of the adult agendas that generate polices which frustrate academic progress and perpetuate dropout factories in our communities.
It is hard because of the cumulative effect of each of these and the sheer battle ground of issues our children face even before they walk through our doors: personal safety, extreme poverty, verbal, physical and emotional abuse, and failed schools.
These are the issues our students carry through our doors. They are the issues that only a profound sense of hope can help them overcome. And so, they look to you....to each of you.
As I thought about my remarks today, it occurred to me that your job not only underscores the importance of our 8 Core Values, but actually exposes their incompleteness. Think about it. As you succeed in creating an environment of hope, our students learn how to endure, how to work from “I can't” to “I can”. In progressing from drop out to drop in to graduate, they not only learn hope, they become resilient.
Resilience is the ability to overcome and ultimately be strengthened by life’s challenges. My great grandmother used to say, "Trouble don't come all ways, but it always comes." Each day during this new year, you will help our students develop the academic tools that will become the life skills they will need to overcome many and varied challenges they will face throughout their lives.
Therefore, I find it no better setting than today, here in Columbus, to announce a 9th Core Value. Resilience: The ability to overcome and ultimately be strengthened by life’s challenges.
When we announced our 8 Core Values nearly a generation ago, we recognized that indelible link between character and education, or as Aristotle said: "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."
Each day, in our Bridgescape Learning Academies across the country, we are educating mind and heart, teaching and building grit and determination -- helping our students to mature into strong, resilient adults. Indeed, even as we teach them, we, too, become more resilient.
As you plan and prepare for the new school year, I ask that you think intentionally about this new core value. Indeed, you may conclude, even as I did, that it is not only an appropriate Core Value, but that it is the end product of successfully teach its 8 predecessors.
Thank you for your time, and in advance, I thank each of you personally for what you will do for our students throughout this new year.
Dayton, OH -- With the number one predictor of success in life being a high school diploma, the leading alternative learning program for students who are at risk of leaving school or have already left school, is now open to young people in Dayton.
The Bridgescape Learning Academy of Dayton, located at 3237 W. Siebenthaler Avenue, will provide an effective and personalized educational option for those students who want to earn a standard high school diploma.
Dayton-area students interested in learning more about Bridgescape should visit the website at: www.bridgescape.com; or call an enrollment counselor directly at 937-639-3192.
During the recently concluded school year, more than 2,000 high school dropouts and at risk students attended Bridgescape Learning Academies in Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Norfolk, Durham, and Bridgeton, NJ.
Understanding that personal issues and challenges may have interfered with a student’s academic progress, Bridgescape offers a flexible program so students can attend on-site classes in the morning, afternoon or evening to suit their needs.
Unlike a traditional school setting, the Bridgescape program is a blend of one-on-one and group instruction, infused with interactive online offerings specifically tailored for each individual student. Each Academy is staffed with on-site education teams to assist students in their daily studies. Two-thirds of the student’s instruction is provided by EdisonLearning’s eCourses and eSchoolware.
With the 2016-17 school year, Bridgescape Learning Academies will be adding a project-based learning curriculum, developed by Global Learning Models (GLM), to help students capitalize on their own strengths, learning styles, and interests by applying them to coursework. The 48 GLM project-based learning courses in English, Math & Science core curriculum for grades 9 – 12 will be integrated with the existing EdisonLearning eCourses.
Since its inception in 2010, Bridgescape has awarded diplomas to 2,000 at-risk and dropped-out high school students, and helped prepare them to enter college or receive the necessary credentials to get a job upon graduation.
Eighty-two percent (82%) of students, who enroll in Bridgescape, complete the program and earn their diploma - which is higher than the national graduation rate for all schools.
On June 14, the five Chicago area Bridgescape Academies held their third graduation ceremony at Roberto Clemente High School. Before a packed audience of more than 800 parents, guardians, family members, friends, and Bridgescape staff, Ms. Tara Lawrence conferred high school diplomas upon 203 graduates. It was an evening of excitement, tears, smiles, and so many positive emotions. These students, who were on the verge of not being successful in achieving their high school diploma, have been given the chance to progress forward through Bridgescape Learning Academies.
The graduates were encouraged through an inspiring commencement address given by Dr. Sabrena L. Davis, Student Success Director of EdisonLearning’s Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary, Indiana. She told them her personal account of how she overcame the struggles of her youth as she matriculated through school to ultimately obtain her post-secondary and post-graduate degrees. Dr. Davis told the graduates that “Tea Bags Live on Bridges”. The central theme of her message was one of hope, determination, and faith.
The “Magic Award” was bestowed upon five of the graduates, who were honored and recognized by their principals for reaching their high school educational goals despite having to overcome various obstacles in their personal lives. Like many of the students who seek out Bridgescape, these outstanding students also had stories, ones of travailing, persisting, and triumphing. The graduates were Shermaine Sewell – Brainerd Campus, Telan Lucas – North Lawndale Campus, Titochie Figures – Englewood Campus, Tatiana Brown – Roseland Campus, and Martin Ovalle – Humboldt Campus.
The success of Bridgescape Learning Academies in Chicago has been realized through the support of our many partners. Each year during graduation, Alderman Carrie Austin, alderman of the 34th Ward, where our Roseland Campus resides, recognizes two of our outstanding students: Jayla Lott and Tatiana Brown. Each student received a plaque and monetary gift from the Alderman’s Education Foundation. These gifts were presented during the graduation ceremony by a representative from the Alderman’s Office.
From their opening in 2013, Chicago Bridgescape Academies have graduated 320 students who, otherwise, may have been unsuccessful in the traditional high school environment in achieving their high school diploma.
Two hundred and forty years ago this July 4, delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence. While the optimal phrase: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” is known world-wide, lost to history is the fact that the final declaration was significantly modified from the original drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
The Declaration's central point – “that all men are created equal” - was an obvious rebuke to the institution of slavery. However, delegates from primarily slave colonies pushed, and prevailed, for the deletion of Jefferson's more detailed passage on slavery, which was removed from the final document. The inconsistency of the institution of slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented, but never rectified until the adoption of the 13th Amendment to Constitution in 1865.
Throughout its history, the United States has struggled to maintain its founding principles, while at the same time address the ever-present questions that derive from a diverse multi-racial, multi-ethnic pluralistic society. Such challenges are especially prevalent in the current presidential election campaign.
The vast majority of our citizens believe that “equal” does in fact mean “equal”. Yet, as much as the United States was founded on the idea that we are all created equal; economic, racial, and educational inequality have become key themes in our civic discourse. Once thought to be “the great equalizer,” American education today is not providing equal opportunity to all children.
According the Education Equity Index:
- Only two in 10 students from low-income families attend schools that have successfully closed the achievement gap.
- In most major U.S. cities, the achievement gap between students from low-income families and their more advantaged peers stagnated or grew since 2010.
- Only six percent of students from low-income families in the largest 100 U.S. cities attend a school with no achievement gap.
In addition, countless school districts – in large urban centers, cities, towns, and rural areas – are confronted with dramatic shortfalls in education funding. The Chicago Public Schools has a $1 Billion deficit; Detroit Schools a $617 Million deficit; Durham Schools a $16 Million deficit; Norfolk Schools an $8.6 Million deficit; and the Gary Community School Corporation’s total deficit is estimated at $75 Million – which is larger than their actual annual budget.
Equal opportunity to quality education is facing the harsh reality of lower local tax revenues and rising costs. Most distressing is that collateral impacts of these conditions are falling disproportionately on low-income students, and their families. But, regardless of the challenges, roadblocks, and socio-economic status there are young people who are rising up to persevere, overcome, and succeed.
Over the past month, 600 young people received high school diplomas from EdisonLearning partnership schools. This impressive number includes students who never thought they would ever finish school – but are now graduates of Bridgescape Learning Academies in five states, Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy, Provost Academy Ohio, and Provost Academy South Carolina.
Having attended the recent Bridgescape commencement ceremony in Columbus, I was overwhelmed by the grit and determination shown by so many of the graduates. Faced with unimaginable life circumstances; homelessness, averse poverty, parenthood, bullying, and abuse – each of them beamed with pride when they were handed that hard earned diploma.
Our company has accepted a significant role in shaping the future. Our product is education: the transformative power that learning, curiosity and thinking can have not only on the lives of individuals, but on society. Our ability to succeed in carrying out this role is dependent on the passion and professionalism of each and every one of us. We owe it to those young people we serve to show them the same hard work, determination, and competence they have displayed in achieving their goals.
Alone, we cannot fill education funding gaps, or ameliorate socio-economic disparities. But, we do have the ability and capacity to eliminate achievement gaps, and to prepare young people both academically and in character development to overcome socio-economic disparities.
July 4, 1776 marks the first time in human history that individuals, bound together by a common purpose, sense of commitment, and drive to succeed rose up against domination by a monarch. They did so to create a society in which every citizen had equal opportunity to succeed. It was the ultimate “team effort”, and the continued impetus for all of us to work together for the benefit of others.
On June 24, Norfolk Public Schools’ (NPS) Open Campus/Bridgescape program awarded high school diplomas to its class of 2016.
In congratulating the students, NPS said: “This program has given you the support and direction to overcome obstacles experienced in a traditional high school environment. The demands outside of school can sometimes make traditional classes difficult to attend - that’s why we developed a customized program to meet your needs. School counselors have helped you get back on track. Now, you've earned a standard diploma by outlining the critical steps toward finding a career, enrolling in college or completing a technical degree. Congratulations! You are prepared for the next chapter of your lives.”