Albuquerque – The Magazine

I have been honored to have been selected by Albuquerque -The Magazine to be featured in their May Issue. For those of you who do not receive it. I am attaching the article.

Franklin Schargel: Persuasive and Persistent about Quality Education

He travels around the world as a renowned expert. He’s written eight books on how to cure the problems that lead to low graduation rates at high schools. He’s hobnobbed with the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev and other government leaders. He’s been written about in 25 books. And Franklin Schargel calls Albuquerque home. It’s a change from his New York City roots and he still says, “I’m holding my New York tongue so I don’t get in trouble here.”

His only “trouble”, if that’s the term for it, is that he can’t stop talking about the importance of “improving” rather than simply “changing” our schools. From politicians to entrenched administrators, he hears the words “we are making changes” and cringes. “Changing the flavor of Coke was a change, but not an improvement. No Child Left Behind was a change but not an improvement. Changing from handheld luggage to luggage-on-wheels was an improvement, not just a change. We need improvements in our schools.”

He has worked with others on a global level to research the problems in education and point out answers. He says there are fifteen data-driven solutions. The problem now is getting schools and elected representatives to commit the money, take action and give up complacency.

Schargel has spent fifteen years traveling back and forth to Spain consulting with government officials there about the schools. The result is that of the 38 schools he has consulted with, the graduates of those schools are all gainfully employed and few drop out.

The process of turning schools toward a success mode, began for Schargel when he became an assistant principal at a low-income, minority school in Brooklyn, New York. The George Westinghouse Vocational & Technical High School had a 12.9% dropout rate. Only 12 parents participated in the PTA. Of the 2000+ students, most were the first in their families to attend high school. Using business principals, and beginning with hiring some new faculty members, Schargel said to the staff, “Convince me that you love children.”

Rather than dumbing down the coursework to push kids through the system, Schargel insisted on more rigorous studies, better relationships among all those involved in education and increased relevance. The work needed to apply to their lives.

“Kids want to become drivers. So why not use the Driver’s Education Manual as one of the reading textbooks? It’s relevant and kids learn when the subject matter speaks to them,” says the fiery Schargel.

His goal was to work first with the teachers and staff at Westinghouse. Then he reached out to parents and finally he asked businesses to participate at Westinghouse. As a result of his efforts, that school made a huge turn around. Dropout rates are low and 72.1% of the graduates in 1992 went on to college. A photocopier business set up a repair shop within the school, paying kids to work and learn at the same time.

Flourishing large stacks of paper, Schargel insists, to anyone and everyone, that there are characteristics of a quality school that can be followed by all schools. Among those characteristics are: school-community collaboration, a safe learning environment, family engagement, early literacy programs, active learning, individualized instruction and career/technical education.

For disruptive kids who interrupt the teaching time in almost every school, Schargel says, “Alternative schools are necessary. Take those kids out. Address them individually.”

Schargel has examined and written about what he calls the 90-90-90 model. These schools include 90% from minority groups and 90% from poverty backgrounds. And these schools also have 90% academic success. He says two Albuquerque schools meet the 90-90-90 criteria. Amy Biehl High School and Southwest Technical Charter School. “These schools are focused on student achievement using some non-traditional methods.”

When Schargel and his wife, Sandy, an interior designer were raising their two sons, a teacher told his oldest, David, that he’d be a failure all his life. At age 30 David announced that he could retire since he had just made his first million. His father said, “Go back and talk to that teacher who called you a failure. He needs to know.”

Schargel’s youngest, Howard, is a successful game designer at Microsoft Games Division.

Creating high performing, world-class schools is Schargel’s goal. He keeps his bags packed, ready for any new national or international opportunity to speak and do research. “We live in a global environment now. Competition for the best jobs is international in scope. If we don’t train leaders and thinkers in this country, those jobs go elsewhere.”

He has solutions in mind. One is to support/challenge and re-train teachers because there is a higher rate of teacher dropouts than of student dropouts. Schargel is currently interviewing 500 Teacher of the Year award winners, to find out what they feel works and what doesn’t.

On the road all the time, Schargel says his most unusual experience as a lecturer was when he presented at a conference in Salt Lake City. The electricity went out for an extended period and the group was in the dark. Schargel adapted quickly. Opening the doors to let in outside light, he went on giving his presentation adding a bit of humor to his talk. When the lights finally came on, there were more people at his workshop than he started with. That’s thinking on your feet and shining a light in the darkness—literally.

Ignorance keeps children in the dark. It affects their entire lives and it affects society. “It’s not children who are at risk if we don’t make changes. It’s society in general because how we educate our children impacts everything.”