Edit ModuleShow Tags

Blueprint Baby


(page 1 of 5)

Recess! Dee Lyon’s second-graders flew to the treeless inner-city school playground like birds landing on a prison exercise yard. One child held back. A tall African-American girl whose guarded eyes looked older than her years, Cielo* towered over her younger classmates, embarrassed by her age, ashamed of her secret. While the younger kids shook out their yah-yahs on the first day of school, Cielo approached her new teacher.

“Mrs. Lyon,” she whispered, shamefaced. “Did you know I did first grade two times?”

Lyon’s heart contracted. Cielo’s previous teachers had warned of the child’s frequent absences, family problems and poor concentration. After three years of schooling, the last spent in an “open classroom,” Cielo was still reading at a kindergarten level. But to Lyon, she seemed paradoxically mature and intelligent, streetwise and illiterate. Lyon looked into the girl’s deep brown eyes. “Cielo, we’re not going to worry. This year is going to be a good year.”

“But I’m not smart!” Cielo cried, eyes welling up. “I can’t read.”

It was September 2000, a tumultuous year in Superintendent Alan Bersin’s campaign to advance San Diego city schools to the vanguard of urban school reform in America. In 1998, Bersin and New York education maven Anthony Alvarado dynamited the cracked foundations of the school district and rushed to construct a new system based on reading, writing and mathematics. Their revolutionary and explosive reforms were later formalized in a plan called the Blueprint for Student Success. The Blueprint provoked a storm of protests, led by teachers’ union president Marc Knapp. Thousands of teachers, especially the veterans, resented being told they didn’t know what they were doing and being forced to participate in “re-education camps.”

Cielo’s classmates had started kindergarten in September 1998, the first year of Bersin’s administration. They were the first class to be taught to read and write according to strategies later outlined in the Blueprint. These “Blueprint babies” were now entering second grade.

This is the story of the reforms through the eyes of one student, Cielo; her second-grade teacher, Dee Lyon; and Angela Bass, principal of Encanto Elementary School. Encanto is a microcosm of the battle for school reform in San Diego city schools—itself a bellwether of the future of school reform in urban districts across America.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Viva, Mexican Food!

The ultimate guide to San Diego’s marquee cuisine, with a taco hall of fame, the best ceviches, the ultimate salsa bar, top taco deals, margaritas, micheladas, and more. Buen provecho!

Health Heroes: Top Doctors 2015

699 physicians in 74 specialties. Plus, a look at local doctors going above and beyond the call of duty, changing the way medicine is practiced, and saving lives

Animal Instinct: Saving Lives at the Zoo

For more than 20 years, UC San Diego’s top docs have been helping save lives at the zoo, one precious species at a time
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Dear Chargers, It's Over
    A pre-emptive breakup letter to the team we love
  2. Healthcare Goes High-Tech
    Dr. Eric Topol is putting health care in the palms of our hands
  3. Be Seen This Fall in Rancho Mirage
    Enter To Win a 2 Night Stay Package at The Luxurious Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa
  4. Growing Up in San Diego
    26 memories of being a kid in America's Finest City
  5. Incoming: Liberty Public Market
    San Diego's big public market unveils three big new concepts
  6. FIRST LOOK: Duke's La Jolla
    For decades, Top of the Cove in La Jolla held one of the most iconic restaurant spots in San Diego. Now they've finally filled that space. Take an exclusive first look at Duke's La Jolla.
Edit ModuleShow Tags


October is Rideshare Month

Join the Rideshare 2015 Challenge and get there together

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Win Dinner for Two at Black&Blue Steakhouse

Win dinner for two at Black&Blue Steakhouse and $25 in Free Slot Play at Valley View Casino

MADE IN AMERICA — Craft Icons of the 50 States

MADE IN AMERICA is the last exhibition in Mingei International Museum’s American Icons series, celebrating 100 years of folk art, craft and design from coast to coast.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags