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Susan Sawyers
Susan Sawyers is a multimedia journalist and social media strategist anchored by education and philanthropy reporting. Until recently, Susan produced BloombergEDU. A former director and curator of Los Angeles' Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, she is the mother of two, wife of one and lives in NYC not far from Central Park. She tweets @SuSaw , instas @WhatSuSaw . @SuSaw

Entries by Susan Sawyers

Ron and Cornelia Suskind on Autism, Animation

(0) Comments | Posted March 30, 2014 | 10:24 PM

When the veil of autism descends on a child, devastated parents confront a series of difficult questions and decisions, says Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind whose new book, Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Austim, recounts his family's 20-year odyssey across the elusive realm...

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Education Advocate Canada Says 'We Need Different Schools in NYC'

(0) Comments | Posted February 12, 2014 | 1:54 PM

On Bloomberg EDU this week, Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) president and CEO, discusses poverty, "no excuses," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, early childhood education, public charter and traditional schools, and parent engagement.

Recognized nationally as a leader in comprehensive community services and the cradle to...

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Duncan Says 'Preschool Education Is Ultimate Bipartisan Issue'

(0) Comments | Posted February 11, 2014 | 12:38 PM

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Bloomberg Radio's Jane Williams last week to talk about the state of education in this country. "Early childhood education has become the ultimate bipartisan issue," said Duncan. "We actually have more Republican governors than Democratic governors investing."

In addition, Duncan discussed parent-teacher and...

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Children's Zone President Geoff Canada to Step Down

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2014 | 3:15 PM

The Harlem Children's Zone [HCZ] announced today that Geoffrey Canada, the educational, social and health service organization's president and chief executive officer, will step aside on June 30th to make room for current Chief Operating Officer Anne Williams-Isom who will take over as chief executive.

Mr. Canada, who joined HCZ...

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Our Kids, Our Future

(0) Comments | Posted January 9, 2014 | 12:55 PM

In one of his last interviews before disappearing to write his next book, Robert Putnam, The Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, spoke with Jane Williams on Bloomberg EDU about the growing gap in social mobility among U.S. children.

Professor Putnam is busily drafting Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, a story of the "opportunity gap" in the United States that deals with today's class divide and lack of social mobility. This is, according to Putnam, "fundamentally a moral issue." One of the ways to address it, he says, is through community school partnerships that promote academic achievement, youth development, family and community well-being.

The bestselling author of fourteen books, including Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community and American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, expects his current book to come out in 2015.

Rich. Poor. Liberal. Conservative. Yours. Ours. We are talking about today's kids. "After all they are our future," says Putnam.

Robert Putnam Discussion Highlights:

A Growing Class Divide
"...I'm talking about a division, a growing gap, among our kids, the next generation. There is a sharply growing gap between what we might loosely call rich kids and poor kids... I'm comparing kids whose parents have a college degree, that's about the upper third of American kids with kids whose parents didn't get beyond high school. That's the lowest third of the American population.

"...Kids like my grandchildren who are born and have two college-educated parents, they're doing better than ever. But out there someplace in America, each of my grandchildren has a counterpart who's just as smart and just as eager to go ahead and so on but who made a mistake of being born to parents who didn't get past high school. And the chances for kids like that have sharply declined over the last 30 years."

Shift in Social Mobility
"It will be another 15 or 20 years before we know what the outcome of their [those who experience the sharpest discrepancy between well-off and less well-off kids] life is likely to be. We can see in their schoolwork and their preschool work and in their period at college, we can see where they're headed. We can see that these two different types of kids are headed in sharply different directions.

"But the real effect in terms of measured social mobility won't show up until they become adults. The problem with waiting until the problem is that obvious is that by then we'll be 30 or 40 years into the problem. And if we're going to fix it, it's one we ought to be getting started on now."

The American Dream Undone
"It's now becoming unmistakable that there is this growing cleavage in our society. And it's important because it goes to the very heart of the meaning of the American dream. Do we all begin at roughly the same point on the ladder?

"I think people don't actually yet fully realize how dramatic have been the changes in the lives of our young kids over the last 20 or 25 years. And therefore I think people don't yet fully appreciate the risk that we're running with respect to the American dream.

"The risk is that increasingly, if you are a young kid your chances in life depend very heavily on one decision: choosing your parents... And that's fundamentally really unfair. It will mean substantially lower opportunities for upward mobility."

A Perfect Storm: Changes in Family Structure, Growing Income Gap
"It's partly changes in family structure, that is the increase of single-parent families among less well-off families, sharp increase actually, and no change, actually a slight increase in two-parent families among college-educated families.

"Part of it is the growing income gap, of course, which has led to much greater economic stress and psychological stress on working-class families. And that feeds through into the way they raise their kids..."

Education: Part of the Solution
"...if we think carefully, education can be part of the solution. I'm careful in saying that because I think there's a tendency now to blame education for all of America's ills. And I don't think that's at all fair. I think the educational institutions are doing a pretty good job given the problems that are being dumped on them.

"I think that just investing more in public education is itself a good idea. But I also think that investing in high quality early childhood education is crucial because we can see these growing gaps when kids are only one or two years old. This is happening well before kids get into school..."

A Holistic Approach to Our Kids
"'s a problem that we need to address in a holistic way, thinking about the family and community context, not just the schools.

"I think that the underlying issue though, and this is the most fundamental point I'd make, is that a couple of generations ago, we lived in a very different America in which people thought about, when they used the term 'our kids,' when my parents used the term 'our kids,' they did not mean my sister and me. They meant all the kids in town.

"So when they said, 'We've got to do something for our kids. We've got to get a new swimming pool' or 'We've got to improve the math teaching or whatever for our kids,' they didn't mean for me and my sister, Elaine. They meant for all the kids in town. The meaning of the term 'our kids' has narrowed frighteningly. And now, these poor kids are nobody's kids basically. And that's the frightening, most fundamental thing we've got to change."

Fundamentally a Moral Issue
"The same opportunities ought to be available to other kids who aren't our own biological offspring... What I'm suggesting is not that we should put limits on what parents do for their kids, but that we should think of all kids as our kids. We've talked to hundreds of poor kids around America. So we know how isolated they are from any family or community support. And I think if we thought of those kids really as our kids, virtually everyone in America, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, would say, 'Well, if that's my kid, we ought to be doing more for that kid' and not putting brakes on or hampering our own kids but think of those kids as our kids, too. After all, they are our future. They're economic future. They're our political future. And they're our moral future. I think this is fundamentally a moral issue."

To find out more about efforts to mend the growing gap, we also spoke with Jane Quinn, director of the National Center for Community Schools and vice president for Community Schools at the Children's Aid Society, and Tony Smith, former Oakland Unified School District superintendent who is now the executive director of Chicago-based W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone...

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Eli Broad, Houston Schools Supe Grier on Urban Education

(3) Comments | Posted September 27, 2013 | 4:06 PM

This week on Bloomberg EDU, Eli Broad, philanthropist and founder of two Fortune 500 companies, discusses his native Detroit public schools, blended learning, school leadership and a national system for education. Host Jane Williams also speaks with Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, the winner of the 2013 Broad Prize for Urban Education, about improved student achievement, scholarship dollars for graduating seniors, and the need for partners in public education.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the winner of the Broad Prize in Urban Education. This "celebration of the nation's most improved public schools," recognized the Houston Independent School District (HISD) for its academic improvements in reducing the achievement gap, increasing high school graduation rates and improving college-readiness levels. The process and criteria in the Broad selection criteria are outlined here.

"There is no question that we still have a long way to go in this country until every student is prepared for a productive life after high school - even this year's winner and finalists would agree that they have more work to do. But today we are celebrating progress," said Gregory McGinity, managing director of policy for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.


Houston Independent School District. Left to right: Eli Broad; Edythe Broad; U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Terry Grier, superintendent, Houston Independent School District; Anna Eastman, board of education president, district 1. (Photo courtesy of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation)


Eli Broad and Terry Grier Bloomberg EDU Interview Highlights

ELI BROAD, co-founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

On education philanthropy
"I have lived the American dream, and my fourth career is philanthropy whether it's education reform, scientific and medical research and the arts. I've been doing that now for 12 years fulltime. And you know what? I'm working harder now than when I ran a Fortune 500 company."

On Detroit public schools
"I think Detroit will come back. You know, we're involved in Michigan with something called the Michigan Education Achievement Authority. I was working with Governor Rick Snyder to create a recovery school district, which started about 15 months ago by taking over 15 of the worst schools in Detroit public has a 210-day school year, not 175, seven and a half hours a day. Every child has a tablet. They don't have grades. They have levels, and they're making great progress."

On efforts to improve urban education and the Broad Prize
"We started 12 years ago because I said, "Look, everyone's down on urban education. But I'm sure we could find districts that are doing better than others, and districts that we want to recognize." We wanted to share their best practices, and we want districts to compete for the prize. So this million dollar prize which as you point out, the winning district gets $550,000, and the three runners-up each get $150,000 - all for scholarships."

On the Broad Prize mechanics
"...we've got a jury and a review board, and they do extensive research. We look for improved, student achievement and we'll look for districts that are closing the gap between income and ethnic groups."

On school leadership
"Leadership does matter and for all too long, frankly, public education has been somewhat of a tired government monopoly. We've got to make it into a high-performing, public enterprise. In order to do that, you need better talent than they've had in the past. So the name of the game is how do we do everything necessary to get more money in a classroom, less out of the bureaucracy and do all we can to make teachers more successful?"

On mayoral control and a national system of education
"I don't think we can compete with national education ministries which have brilliant people ... So I'm a big believer in mayoral control such as you have in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Washington and elsewhere and governors getting more involved. I don't think we're going to have a national system."

"...the world has changed, and we've got to compete in a world. And we're not going to compete with 14,000 school boards."

On philanthropy's role and influence

"...we support governors. We support mayors. We support others involved, and we're not the decision makers. We try to help them any way we can so they can be more effective."

"...we create balance, frankly. Until we and others [Bill Gates] got involved as you mentioned, all the influence came from teachers unions, administrator unions and the like. So we think we're creating balance, which is badly needed."

On the arts in education
"I wish there was a greater connection. I wish we had more art in our schools than we have today."

On public charter and district school harmony
"I think you need a mixture of public charter schools and other public schools. I think competition is very good, like we have in higher education. That's made higher education as great as it is. But we've not had that in K through 12. But charter schools are helping that happen. And again, they're public schools. They're not-for-profit, and people accuse us of wanting to privatize education which is something we have no interest in doing whatsoever."

On unions
"I was once a union member. I was a member of UAW. I worked at Packard Motor Car Company for a while."

"...I think teacher unions are going to change, and they have to change."

"And I think we need the younger teachers, including Teach for America teachers that become union members, more involved in their unions."

On education as an imperfect field and metrics

"'s imperfect, but you can measure education. I think we've made a lot of progress. No Child Left Behind was hardly perfect. But we finally had someone talking about measurement and accountability. The Race to the Top caused 30-some odd states to change their laws and regulations to allow greater flexibility and change. And now we've got blended learning which is the best of technology and teachers working together."

On measures of his philanthropic success: How Eli Broad grades himself

I wish it was an A. But I'd say a B. It's been 12 years and it's been tough because you've got a lot of people that want to maintain the status quo and are threatened by any change whatsoever. So I'd give ourselves a B. Maybe a B+.

TERRY GRIER, Superintendent, Houston Independent School District

On poverty in the district
"Kids can't help if they come from a poor background, or a poor family, or an impoverished family. And we can't control that either. But what we can control is what happens to them once they come through that schoolhouse door."

On increased high school graduation rates
"We have a fantastic board led by our board president [Anna] Eastman. Our board is very focused on student outcomes. We are a no excuses, do whatever it takes, work together type of organization. We teach equality, and our district has paid huge dividends towards the amount of attention we've paid to that over the last four to five years."

On partnerships beyond the district
"...we have some unusual partnerships in Houston with Ed Labs, and Dr. Roland Fryer with Rice University, with the New Teacher Project, and with a number of charter school networks that actually come to Houston and help train our teachers."

"There has to be a stronger partnership between the public schools and the cities themselves. Now, I'm not talking about a mayor having to come in and take over the school district. But I think that public school systems themselves have to reach out and find third-party partners."

"It can be multiple partners. And certainly the city itself plays a huge role in Houston. Annise Parker, our mayor, is very pro-education. We have a great partnership with our fire department there, who has this fantastic training program, for example, for our bus drivers."

On urban education
"...people have got to understand that as public education goes, so go the cities.
there's no question that equality and the type of education that's occurring in these schools today are gonna impact the quality of lives in those cities in the next five, ten, and 15...

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Davis Guggenheim Gets Schooled

(5) Comments | Posted September 11, 2013 | 10:30 AM

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim can't stop telling stories about the world of public education. Just three years ago he directed Waiting for Superman, a controversial spin on the nation's public schools and what ails them. Prior to "Superman," Guggenheim filmed and directed The First Year,...

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The American Dream (Unfulfilled)

(3) Comments | Posted August 28, 2013 | 5:38 PM

Fifty years after the March on Washington, educator and activist, Geoffrey Canada is frustrated with education in America. This week on Bloomberg Radio's Bloomberg EDU with Jane Williams, we asked Canada, president and chief executive officer of The Harlem Children's Zone, a comprehensive compilation...

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Alex Kotlowitz on Poverty and Schools

(1) Comments | Posted October 8, 2012 | 4:53 PM

Last month John Merrow, education correspondent for PBS NewsHour posted a recap of NBC's Education Nation: Year Three. "... The elephant in the room at Education Nation (and in the public education sphere) is poverty... Everyone acknowledged that we are living in a time of unprecedented...

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Presidential Politics and Education

(0) Comments | Posted September 28, 2012 | 1:20 PM

On the campaign trail this week, President Obama and Mitt Romney gave television interviews focused on education. They discussed their policy differences and ideas.

Both men shared their thoughts abut the teacher's unions, teacher training, school choice, student loans, parent engagement, federal funding and the common core...

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How Children Succeed

(3) Comments | Posted September 9, 2012 | 2:34 PM

What do you think? Do you and/or your children have what it takes to succeed?

Click through to the test to find out what it takes.

Good news. "There are no right or wrong answers." But why is it some people succeed and others don't?

For three...

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Is the Common Core Common Sense?

(3) Comments | Posted August 31, 2012 | 5:36 PM

David Coleman, one of the architects of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, thinks so.

"The Common Core is common sense," says Coleman, who, in October, will become the president of the College Board. "For the first time, teachers and kids are going to be able...

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New Teachers Reflect on Teaching in 2011

(20) Comments | Posted December 29, 2011 | 3:01 PM

Teaching can be a tough job. To wind down 2011, we asked some first-year public school teachers to tell us what they've learned now that they have some experience in the classroom. Some of them are traditionally trained with advanced degrees in education. Others have taken an alternate route, including...

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(1) Comments | Posted December 27, 2011 | 6:30 PM

Today's favorable income tax rates make it attractive for the mega-rich to give their dollars away. But how much of this private funding for social good wields influence over public policy? If and when it does, especially given budget shortfalls in public education, is this bad? Add to that the...

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GiftED: Private Money, Public Schools

(1) Comments | Posted December 2, 2011 | 1:24 AM

It's well known that private entities, including the Broad, Gates and the Walton Family foundations, fund public education initiatives and reforms. "Given the scale and scope of the largess, some worry that the [Gates] foundation's assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought," wrote Sam Dillon for the New York...

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Meet the Marathoners: Mutai, Molly Pritz, Walcott

(0) Comments | Posted November 7, 2011 | 3:00 PM

Last week's "Run with Champions" not only gave kids time to be active but also offered them a chance to meet those who've stuck with it. Elite athletes, including Geoffrey Mutai, record-breaking winner of Sunday's marathon and the 2011 Boston Marathon, Christie Dawes, Sarah...

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When a Tree Falls... Run

(0) Comments | Posted November 2, 2011 | 5:49 PM

Saturday's combination of wet, heavy snow, leafy trees and high winds was the perfect storm. Close to 400 acres, half of Central Park, were affected and nearly 1,000 trees will be lost as a result according to an email I received from Doug Blonsky, the president of...

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Say Hey to Hashtags and Handles

(0) Comments | Posted October 25, 2011 | 2:01 PM

Watch live streaming video from mashable at

Fenton Communications Chief Change Officer Lisa Witter (@lisamwitter) with Archbishop Desmond Tutu (@TheElders)...

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No Child... Gonna Make You Cry

(1) Comments | Posted July 29, 2011 | 10:45 AM

Photo Courtesy of Barrow Street Theatre Website

If you genuinely care at all about public education, run, do NOT walk, to see Obie Award-winning actress Nilaja Sun in No Child... at the Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village. Sun's...

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Don Knezek Talks About Technology Education

(1) Comments | Posted June 30, 2011 | 6:13 PM

Like it or not, technology in education is here to stay. As the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) annual conference is underway in Philadelphia this week, Chief Executive Officer Don Knezek functions as a teacher, an advocate and a community builder. He...

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