It has been unsettling to see the crisis of our public school system. It felt as though we were sweeping the ocean with a broomstick. Then two years ago, Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber, PhD introduced me to one of the most innovative and effective programs in education reform today.

Turnaround For Children, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization, founded by Pamela Cantor, M.D., that transforms schools once considered to be “chronically failing” into vibrant institutions for learning. Once underperforming in the lowest 20% in the city, these schools now produce high levels of academic accomplishment. Working with more than 50 schools to date throughout New York, Turnaround provides tools and methods for positive and sustainable change.

The public schools of New York City have enjoyed great strides over the past seven years since Mayoral Control was passed. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein asked to be held accountable and were given the governance to get the job done. The graduation rate is now the highest in decades, having increased 22% from 2002 to 2007. This year alone there has been an increase of 11.2 points on English Language Arts (ELA) exams and a 7.5 point increase on Math exams. What makes the Turnaround story even more compelling is that our schools realized a 13.7 point increase on ELA exams and a 12.5 point increase on Math exams. Some of these results have occurred in schools within just nine months of having been exposed to the Turnaround team and model. Turnaround outpaced the already impressive citywide gains by a substantial margin…and all at a cost of $3.75/per child per day.

We are also grateful to the charter schools for shattering the racial achievement gap. The percent of African American and Hispanic students performing at grade level has increased almost 50% in the past four years. They have led the way to showing what is possible for these children - and all children - when organizational systems are put in place that reward success and foster hope.

Even so, it is not enough. With 1,100,000 children in our school system, charter schools with an enrollment of 24,000 children only service the tip of the iceberg. Turnaround For Children creates the systemic changes we need now in order to protect the future of the remaining 1,075,000 children in a structure that is so desperate for what this organization provides.

It has been through such visionary funders as Robin Hood, The Tiger Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Starr Foundation and JP Morgan Chase and as well as countless individuals that have enabled this development and growth. We are also embarking on our Inaugural Benefit for Spring 2010, when we honor Joel Klein, Peri Peltz and Merryl Tisch.

As a mother of a seven year old son, James, and a 20 month old daughter, Lauren, I think about what their lives will look like 30 years from now, and what kind of city and country they will inherit. We all know that the quality of education children receive today will shape the doctors, law makers and citizens that inhabit our world tomorrow.

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