Last night the Paterson Board of Education and the community members wrestled with the latest version of Paterson’s school transformation plan. Of the more than three hours of comment and debate, the contribution of the children stands out for me.

Faced with the proposed moving of the upper grades from School 21 to School 6, a seventh grader asked, “Why don’t you buy more laptops to increase our learning instead of spending on buses?”  Duh.

She and several of her peers explained how the infusion of laptops [and great lessons] had increased their interest in learning and given them tools to pursue their interests. And increased their test scores, by the way. They talked about the power of having a wireless network to make learning possible anywhere in their school. “If you want to help School 6, give them laptops,” another student advised.

School 21 students gave us sound advice. Imagine what could be accomplished if we gathered the school community and consulted them about increasing student achievement. When we have completed such an exercise at the community schools [4, 5 and New Roberto Clemente], parents and children have made great leaps as their suggestions are implememted.

The transformation that we are looking for is right in front of us. Will we have the will to engage in the discussion?