Professor Edmund Gordon, one of the nation’s leading education scholars, has given his name and guidance to a Brooklyn, New York high school that’s scheduled to open next fall.
The Edmund W. Gordon High School for the Applied Sciences, is part of the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools, which serves primarily students of color who live in low – and working-class communities. It recently won $10 million in a prestigious grant competition. The money will go toward implementing the school’s innovative vision, which scholar has influenced.
Gordon, 95, told NewsOne that he expects the school’s curriculum to become a major contribution to the education field.
He explained that the traditional focus of education has been on students mastering information that’s given to them. But the new school, which bears his name, will approach education based on how students learn.
“This model makes schools more sensitive to the diversity of the school’s population,” he said. “With this change, you’ll see some kids who have previously failed get engaged in school and succeed.”
A psychologist and education professor, Gordon is currently the Director Emeritus of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
He was also instrumental in creating the Federal Head Start program. Gordon was among a team of scholars that President John F. Kennedy gathered to explore the creation of the program. He had done scholarly work on the holistic development of children in Harlem and offered key insights.
Looking to the future, Gordon said the school hopefully would begin closing the achievement gap in its first five years. He is a pioneer in the battle to close the academic gap between Black students and their White peers.
He underscored that the way to think about the achievement gap is not by race but socioeconomic status. He said even among White students, those who grow up in affluent families do far better in school than White students from poor families.
“What really makes the difference is not what happens in school but what happens outside of school,” he stated.
Gordon added: “If you have Black kids who come out of neighborhoods that have rich out-of-school resources—libraries, camps, museums, opportunities to travel, adults who read—if the culture from which they come is an academic culture, you don’t see the gap.”
Accordingly, Gordon High School designed a set of comprehensive, supplementary out-of-school learning component, he stated.
Racial bias in school discipline is another problem that continues to negatively impact learning for Black students—even at charter schools, as U.S. Education Secretary John King has discussed. It’s often the first step for Black students into the prison pipeline.
Gordon said his philosophy is that “education has little space for punishment.”
He explained that research shows little support for negative reinforcement as a way of improving learning.
“Kids don’t learn because they’re afraid of punishment,” he said. “Kids learn because of the positive relationships they have with those for whom they learn: teachers they trust, teachers they have a strong relationship with.”
Schools, he added, should forbid punishment or use it minimally. Gordon approves of alternative approaches, including those that guide students through the process of correcting their misbehavior.