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New York City Outward Bound is not waiting for superman

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    Ben Smith

New York City Outward Bound launches "Not Waiting for Superman" campaign

With the release of the controversial new documentary Waiting for Superman, school reform is in the national spotlight. But at NYC Outward Bound we’re not waiting for Superman to provide our students with excellent schools. That’s our responsibility, not the Man of Steel’s. In fact, it is more than our responsibility, it is our mission.

In fulfilling that mission, we are burning with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now.” This means that we have neither the time nor luxury to be distracted by debates over whether charter or district schools are better (we embrace both) nor by fights that pit the teacher’s union against the forces of education reform (we need and get the support of both). We have a singularity of purpose which requires us to train all our attention and resources on the task before us: establishing a network of great public schools in New York City that prepare our students—many of whom come from neighborhoods where historically access to high quality schools has been limited—for success in 21st-century careers, college, and citizenship.

Our schools are built upon a national school model called Expeditionary Learning, which draws upon the educational principles and practices of Outward Bound, and are dedicated to these three propositions:

  • Excellent teachers and excellent principal leadership are the most important factors in establishing and sustaining excellent schools. We dedicate significant resources to providing the faculty and principals in our schools with the deep professional development and coaching support they need to be highly effective teachers and leaders.
  • Excellent schools are built around a culture of achievement—which values personal effort, teamwork and collaboration and is embraced by students and adults alike. We dedicate significant resources to structures that develop this culture, such as the Outward Bound “Crew Orientation” course we offer to all incoming students.
  • Excellent schools define high achievement as more than the mastery of standardized tests and other traditional measures of success. High-achieving students also regularly produce high-quality work which reflects their ability to think critically and to analyze and synthesize information, and to work as members of a diverse team of individuals. And high achieving students care about and actively engage in the world around them, working in their communities for what they believe to be right and just.

Our network of schools—which now numbers ten and includes schools in each of the five boroughs of NYC—is demonstrating that these three propositions translate into school excellence. Every day, our schools bring to life the central lesson of Outward Bound: that with the right mix of challenge and support, every student, regardless of background or circumstance, can achieve far more than s/he thought possible.

Our students’ four-year graduation rate is 80%, far outpacing the City average of 63%, with the vast majority (81%) going on to college. Our students are also producing work that incorporates high standards of craftsmanship, technological expertise, and other qualities that are at a premium in the 21st century workplace. And just as importantly, they are putting into practice in their communities and family lives the lessons they have learned about the value of qualities like perseverance, responsibility, stewardship, and compassion for others.

We have been able to do all of this without the intervention of Superman. That’s because we have something more powerful at our disposal—you and your fellow citizens of our “Metropolis,” whom we rely upon for support.

The one thing we know for sure is that our students can’t wait. They have only one chance at getting the thing that we know can make the difference between success and failure—an excellent education. Please help them get that chance by engaging with our organization in some way:

  • Donate to us at
  • Follow us on Facebook or Twitter where you can find opportunities to get involved with our schools.
  • Educate yourself and others about our work, our mission, and the needs of New York City’s public schools.

No, we can’t wait for Superman, but we can’t do it without you either.

Click here to view the original press release at