In October 2013, Dr. Megahed was honored to provide the keynote address at Reading Power's 10th anniversary celebration. Dr. Megahed was selected as the keynote speaker because of NLU’s strong reputation for preparing future teachers for the classroom, particularly those in urban environments. This column reflects the thoughts that Dr. Megahed shared at the Reading Power event.
by Nivine Megahed, Ph.D., National Louis University President
Regardless of ideology, it is fair to say that there is a shared belief that all children should have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community supports. Great schools and communities foster a vibrant economy, improve bio/psycho/social and community functioning and engagement, stimulate healthier communities, and promote democracy and a just world. Access to and support of great schools prepares our children to attain an excellent education and successfully transition from high school to college and a productive and fulfilling life. Accordingly, this is not only the right thing to do if you believe in the pursuit of a just and equitable world, but it is right if you believe that we must invest in the economic engine of our future.
While we may all start with this common belief, as we move to operationalize achieving this outcome, the narrative becomes contentious. In our pursuit to find a solution, we oversimplify the issues that shape the landscape and subsequently resort to blaming stakeholders for the lack of progress. For example, teachers, school leaders, poverty, education schools, parents, and kids themselves have been blamed for the performance of schools – particularly when each has been viewed as the singular panacea that can remedy the ills of school systems. But the truth is that the need to build and support great schools is a complex problem that requires integrated and flexible solutions.
The Child as the Core and the School as the Center
In order to foster positive, transformative change we must position the education, health and well-being of children at the core of all efforts and great schools must be at the center. There must be shared responsibility in the service of student success. The greatest influence on the child is the family, and the greatest influence on the family is the community, so supporting students includes strengthening families. Schools should seek partnerships with universities and community based organizations to address issues that impact learning. Schools must connect to the communities, and parents must be engaged as supporters, teachers, and learners. Strong community schools are needed in all communities of all socio-economic status. Parents and communities must be included in determining needs and also need to develop capacity for self-help.
For more than 127 years, National Louis University has been committed to collaboration and commitment to communities in the service of creating positive change. Fundamentally, we have believed that change comes from a community level. Because of our seminal focus on education, we have been big proponents of a schools-community model emphasis which involves a shared commitment from multiple stakeholders to see that ALL children in the community succeed.