Beginning in September, Todd Sutler, Michelle Healy and Brooke Peters will visit district, charter, and private schools across all 50 states to discover what practices are producing the best results in order to replicate these practices where they are needed most. The first two months are already mapped out with stops in Albuquerque, Chicago, Hawaii, Indianapolis, New York City, Oakland, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco.
“Have you ever wondered why the National Teacher of the Year was selected?” asks Sutler. “There are over six million teachers in America. What was happening in Rebecca Mieliwocki's 7th Grade English class in Burbank, CA, that made her the best teacher in 2012? These are some of the things we aim to find out through this experience.”
Throughout the year of observations, OI will document its research and showcase the best practices on an open and interactive website that is free to the public. At the end of the year, OI will use what they learned to inform the creation of a new public school in Brooklyn. The team is confident that their research will be of significance to audiences beyond educators. Says Sutler, “Parents and caregivers will be able to see how school systems are successfully serving children. The better informed families are about what good teaching looks like, the more empowered they will be to affect change in their local school systems."
Sutler, OI's Executive Director, who co-taught fifth grade with Healy at Brooklyn’s Community Roots Charter School, acknowledged that some motivation for OI stems from the public sentiment towards education. “In the education documentary, ‘Waiting for Superman,’ Bill Gates said that 'the status quo could be changed but it takes outrage and good examples.' The wealth of negative media attention about how bad our schools are has successfully created the national outrage that is needed. We want to help spread the word about the good examples that already exist."
The Odyssey Initiative is a “start up” effort and all of the initial funding has come from individual donors. In an effort to raise money and awareness across the country, OI has launched an inspiring campaign on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. All pledges are tax deductible. To learn more visit http://odysseyinitiative.org/
The project has already gained national attention with families, educators, and the media. Jane Williams of Bloomberg Radio has invited the team to report what they find on her education talk show. The Teaching Channel will publish weekly updates, and award winning documentary producer, Erin Essenmacher, will produce a film about their journey. At different stops, OI will interview leaders in the field to learn about the regional landscape of education reform.
Jarret Sharp, Principal of Crockett Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ is excited about the attention OI will bring to good teaching around the country. "I know that there are vivid educational success stories to be told, and frankly we aren’t telling them in effective ways. Superintendents, policy makers, and politicians need to see what’s working in action. The goal is to recognize success in one place and empower leaders to replicate that success in similar schools or districts. The Odyssey Initiative is making this happen."