Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bridge the Gap

I have issues with long and/or high bridges. We have one of the longest expansion bridges right here - the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. As you can see it spans quite a long distance. Some people love the thrill of going over this bridge. Others, like me, dread it and come up with some unusual coping behaviors to convince ourselves that we won't go over the edge and plunge to our deaths in the waters below.

But I guess I should be grateful that this bridge exists at all. It's a long trek from Tampa to Sarasota going "the other way" and this bridge saves time and effort. As a traveler, though, I need to trust that the bridge is sturdy and will not fail if I'm to traverse it with confidence. That's a little difficult for me since years ago the old Sunshine Skyway collapsed with hundreds of cars on it and people did die. There's a history there I'd rather forget, but I can't. I know the new bridge is better constructed and should last for a very long time, but I can't help being a little nervous.

Right now in education we're all trying to find new ways to bridge the achievement gap. There have been children standing on one side of a deep chasm waiting for someone to build a bridge so they can reach their potential on the other side. They are not bridge builders, so it's up to us to build the bridge that will sustain them on their journey. People have been designing bridges for years for this very purpose, but they don't last...some children have fallen through the cracks. When schools are more concerned about image instead of actual student achievement, they reveal a weakness in the structural integrity of their bridges.

As we consider this new school year, I hope that we can focus on a design that isn't so much about looks but about function. I'm actually more comfortable going over some of the ugliest bridges in New York and New Jersey than the architecturally acclaimed Sunshine Skyway. Will it hold me up? That's all I care about.