Edit ModuleShow Tags

Blueprint Baby


Published:

(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

Best of San Diego in Pictures

A look at the stories behind 15 of our favorite images

Back to School

Meet a few of the most popular professors teaching at our biggest universities this fall. Now, have a seat; class is in session.

Best of San Diego 2015

137 of our favorite things to see, sip, taste, and love
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Farm to Fable
    Deception, fraud, and honest mistakes in the farm-to-table movement
  2. Anthony's Out at Embarcadero?
    After 60 years, it looks like Anthony's Fish Grotto might be out in The Embarcadero. That means 31,608 square feet of prime, landmark restaurant space in San Diego is up for grabs. Our bet is...
  3. FIRST LOOK: Park & Rec
    After 30 years, Bourbon Street is gone. In its place in University Heights comes cocktail village Park & Rec, designed as the ultimate patio party. Negroni lovers meet sunscreen.
  4. 2015 Best Restaurants in San Diego
    Brunch, burritos, brewpubs, and more! It's our annual, reader-voted list of the best food and drink in town
  5. FIRST LOOK: Bracero
    The hottest thing in San Diego food right now is Mexico. And there is no chef more primed to show what Baja can do than Javier Plascencia. Take a first look at his new spot in San Diego, Bracero Cocina De Raiz.
  6. San Diego Summer Guide 2015: From A to Z
    Here’s our guide to buying the right tickets, getting the good seats, eating the best tacos, drinking the best cocktails, and more
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

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

Sponsored

Everything is Just Two Wheels Away

Get ready to GO by BIKE!

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
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags