Role Model: Innovative Educator Ron Clark

Go Lean Commentary

There are many empowerment plans to elevate communities; these have many different strategies, tactics, and implementations. But one thing is always consistent: Education. More education always benefits individuals and communities; it brings social mobility and facilitates new economic opportunities.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean asserts that education must be transformed and reformed to glean the full benefits for the Caribbean region. The region has often failed at education; and education has often failed the region. There is the need for new education systems and role models, for primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

We have to rise above the failures and garner some success. We need the upward mobility that education can generate.

While there is a consideration for adult, vocational and on-the-job education in the Go Lean book, the focus of this commentary is directed more towards young people.

CU Blog - Role Model - Innovative Educator Ron Clark - Photo 1

We now have the privilege to study other role models; this time an innovative educator Ron Clark of Atlanta; see Appendix A below and VIDEO here:

VIDEO: Innovative educator Ron Clark inspires passion for learning –

March 13, 2015 – Math and history are just some of the subjects at the Ron Clark Academy. The Atlanta middle school teaches everything from eye contact to the value of friendly competition. It’s a method that makes kids want to attend class. Mark Strassmann reports on how the founder maintains the fun under a cloud of 55 strict rules. (VIDEO plays best in Internet Explorer).

From a strictly micro, or individual perspective, education is great for the individual. Research by Economists have established that with every additional year of schooling, an individual increases their earnings by about 10%. This is a very impressive rate of return. The Go Lean book quotes these proven economic studies, showing the impact that these additional years of college education have on individuals’ earning power (Page 258). But from the macro perspective – the community – the experience is different for the Caribbean; rather than gains, the Caribbean has experienced losses because of an incontrovertible brain drain. Previous blogs/commentaries on education subjects relate to this theme of empowering education; see sample list here: Aruba’s economy and education brain drain to the Netherlands Immigration policy exacerbates further the worker productivity crisis due to education deficiencies Bad American Model: Education Textbooks – Case of price-gouging The need for more specialized education – STEM jobs are filling slowly Book Review: ‘Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right’ Caribbean loses more than 70 percent of tertiary educated to brain drain Bad Model: Zuckerberg’s $100 Million for Newark’s schools wasted Caribbean Examination Council and an UK education publisher hosting workshops in Barbados Egalitarianism versus Anarchism – The latter is best for Education

The foregoing VIDEO is not a focus on college/tertiary education, but rather primary-secondary education (middle school) and how the embrace of advanced teaching “arts & sciences” can level the playing field for those enabled or disadvantaged for societal progress. The VIDEO relates this anecdote of just one role model. This aligns with the Go Lean book’s assertion (Page 122) that one motivated person can make a difference in society. We truly need many advocates, many more “Ron Clarks”.

This book Go Lean… Caribbean, serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). While education policy is a direct responsibility of individual member-state/territory governments, the CU will make an impact as it represents change/empowerment for the region’s societal engines, corresponding with the prime directives, as follows:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance, including member-states educational administrations, to support these engines.

The Go Lean book posits that education is a vital consideration for Caribbean economic empowerment, but there have been a lot of flawed decision-making in the past, both individually and community-wise. (Consider one example of Government grants and scholarships for students that never return “home”). The vision of the CU is a confederation of the 30 member-states of the Caribbean to do the heavy-lifting of championing better educational policies. There is the structure of a separation-of-powers between CU agencies and the individual member-states.

The Go Lean roadmap provides turn-by-turn directions on how to reform the Caribbean education systems, economy, governance and Caribbean society as a whole. This roadmap asserts that the Caribbean is in crisis, and that this “crisis would be a terrible thing to waste”. As a planning tool, the roadmap commences with a Declaration of Interdependence, pronouncing the approach of regional integration (Page 12 & 14) as a viable solution to elevate the region’s educational opportunities:

xix.      Whereas our legacy in recent times is one of societal abandonment, it is imperative that incentives and encouragement be put in place to first dissuade the human flight, and then entice and welcome the return of our Diaspora back to our shores

xxi.      Whereas the preparation of our labor force can foster opportunities and dictate economic progress for current and future generations, the Federation must ensure that educational and job training (O.J.T.) opportunities are fully optimized for all residents of all member-states, with no partiality towards any gender or ethnic group. The Federation must recognize and facilitate excellence in many different fields of endeavor, including sciences, languages, arts, music and sports. This responsibility should be executed without incurring the risks of further human flight, as has been the past history.

xxvii.      Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

Ron Clark, in the foregoing VIDEO, is a role model for the Caribbean to emulate. While we cannot duplicate him personally, we can duplicate his creation and the passion of his academy; defined as follows, retrieved from

Ron Clark Academy

CU Blog - Role Model - Innovative Educator Ron Clark - Photo 2The Ron Clark Academy is a non-profit middle school, housed in a renovated red brick warehouse[5] and is located in southeast Atlanta, Georgia, and accommodates fifth through eighth grade students. Students are from low wealth to high wealth families. Clark had planned to build the school for ten years before construction began. Along with the proceeds of his two books The Essential 55 and The Excellent 11, Clark raised additional funding for the project which eventually cost over $3.5 million. Clark then went on an interviewing rampage for students and faculty and established his team and the academy was established on June 25, 2007. Classes began for students on September 4, 2007. The Ron Clark Academy hosts a Model United Nations conference in Atlanta, called the Ron Clark Model UN. The conference does not accept pre-written resolutions, instead requires position papers. Ron Clark gave a speech during the opening ceremonies about how he and his students raised $12,000 for an ad in USA Today, and then how he raised the money for bus fares to Washington. “The Academy has received both national and international recognition for its success in educating students with academic rigor, passion, and creativity balanced by a strict code of discipline”.[6] The mission of the academy is “to deliver the highest quality educational experience where global citizens are born through advanced rigor, engaging teaching methods, and a passionate climate and culture”.[6]

A collection of business professionals make up the Board of Trustees.[7] The Coca Cola Foundation is among its “Founding Sponsors” and The Atlanta Hawks is one of its “Head of the Class” donors.[8]

The overall atmosphere of the academy is fun, electrified, and blissful. All the students are very welcoming with greetings of hugs and smiles. There is music playing all throughout the school; kids and teachers are all dancing and jumping on a trampoline. The walls are painted with bright colors and there’s a huge slide right in front of the door going from the second floor to the first floor, welcoming the children, which is “a reminder to the kids that anyone can learn in their own way”.[9]

Test scores
Ron Clark is best known for raising test scores, his improvements of scores are as followed. In 2013, the students at the academy had a high percentage of growth in their test scores in all subjects. This helped students receive scholarships for high schools in Georgia. “In Reading, the test scores went up by 19%, in Math they went up by 29%, Language Arts was increased by 15%, Science 15% and Social Studies 20%”.[6] Ron was able to raise his students test scores by encouraging everyone to try harder. Ron Clark also always had faith in the kids and tried to build them up and not put them down. The fun learning atmosphere also helped the growth of test scores.

Teaching styles
All the teachers at the academy have their own way of teaching, including Clark, but all the teachers share the passion of what they do. The educators not only teach the students the necessary subjects, they also teach them manners and how to be a better person. The whole school just has a great atmosphere which carries on into the classroom and makes the students excited to learn. The kids and the teachers are always up dancing and always moving. Boring moments are one thing that do not exist at the academy. The students are very involved and are very uplifting to each other, for example, when a kid gets a question right all the other students applaud.

Technology and facilities
Each classroom provides students with technology such as notebook computers, interactive whiteboards, digital cameras, projectors, and audio-video equipment. In addition to the technologically-equipped classrooms, the school provides students with accessible amenities such as a recording studio, a darkroom, a two-story vaulted ceiling library, a gymnasium, and a dance studio.

The Ron Clark Academy uses donated computers in all classrooms and offices.[10] As a result, students will be able to study photography, music production, and business leadership.

Student population
The students that attend The Ron Clark Academy come from a range of backgrounds, including students from high wealth families. Students must go through an application process in order to be accepted into the school. Only 50 students were accepted out of 350 applications the first school year. Students must be nominated for the school and then must apply. Students’ applications are then reviewed by Ron Clark and other teachers and students are selected to be interviewed by the school. If accepted, students’ parents must sign a Contract of Obligation in which parents agree to volunteer 40 hours of their time each quarter. They also will have to allow their child to go on mandatory field trips essential to the curriculum.[11]

Media attention
Students in debate class at Ron Clark Academy created a song about the 2008 U.S. presidential election, “Vote However You Like”, to the same beat and melody of “Whatever You Like” by [Hip Hop Artist] T.I. A performance of the song by 6th and 7th graders was posted on the internet and drew national attention. The video had now been viewed over 2 million times.[12] T.I., himself, paid a surprise visit to the Academy after learning of their remake of his song to watch them perform it in person.[13] On October 31, 2008, the “Students of Ron Clark Academy” were named the ABC Person of the Week by ABC World News Tonight.[14] They were also invited to perform at the 2009 Inauguration.[15] [Subsequently, the Academy repeated this effort for the 2012 Presidential election, see the VIDEO in Appendix B].

In December 2008, Oprah Winfrey donated $365,000 to Ron Clark, for the Ron Clark Academy, for his profound dedication to teaching.

There is much for the Caribbean to glean considering this model of Ron Clark and his Academy. For starters, the Go Lean roadmap details a plan for Charter Schools. This allows for Public-Private-Partnerships in the education arena. This would force a new regime on the region’s educational landscape.

Change has now come. The driver of this change is technology and globalization. Under the tenants of globalization, the Caribbean labor pool is a commodity; their talents are subject to the economic realities of supply-and-demand. The Go Lean book posits therefore that the governmental administrations of the region should invest in better education options, and as much technological educational advances (e-Learning) as possible, for its citizens. The bottom-line motive should be the Greater Good not profit or emigration.

How exactly do we accomplish this goal? The book details new education policies; and other community ethos to adopt, plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to impact the education arena in the region:

Foreword – Lean On Me Film – Inspiration for Educational Reform Page 5
Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – People Respond to Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments (ROI) Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship – Incubator Training Page 28
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Education Department Page 85
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Labor Department – O.J.T. Oversight Page 89
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Education Page 159
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Student Loans – Forgive-able for incentives Page 160
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 169
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Libraries Page 187
Appendix – Education and Economic Growth Page 258
Appendix – Measuring Education with Standardized Testing Page 266

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean, the people and governing institutions, to lean-in for the empowerments described in the book Go Lean … Caribbean. We welcome role models like Ron Clark and others with a desire to empower young people in their communities, especially disadvantaged minorities. Except that we would want this empowerment done in the Caribbean so as to benefit the Caribbean. No more societal abandonment; no more brain drain!

This is the quest of the Go Lean/CU effort. The roadmap contains the complete solution to elevate the Caribbean through education. This will  thusly help the region to be better place to live, work, learn and play. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix A – Ron Clark Profile:

Ron L. Clark, Jr. (born 1972)[1][2] is an American educator – currently teaching in Atlanta, Georgia – who has worked with disadvantaged students in rural North Carolina and Harlem, New York City. He is best known for his ability to raise test scores and his books on teaching children in middle schools. Clark is a New York Times bestselling author and has been interviewed by many TV personalities including Oprah Winfrey. He is also a speaker who goes from school to school talking to educators about all of his thoughts and opinions on inspiring his educators.

Clark was educated at East Carolina University through the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program. After graduation he got a job and saved up enough money to buy a plane ticket to London. When he arrived in London he got a job at a restaurant where he was a singing and dancing waiter. He then started traveling from country-to-country.[3] He then flew home to North Carolina and accepted a job in Aurora, North Carolina. Four years later he departed for Harlem to take a job teaching elementary school in an inner-city setting. Clark’s latest project is the Ron Clark Academy, a private non-profit school in Atlanta, Georgia where students follow a unique curriculum. The school also gives students opportunities for international travel and offers training workshops for teachers to learn more about Clark’s teaching methods.

Clark is known for his ability to raise test scores by using unique methods that incorporate innovation, creativity and 55 classroom rules. He has appeared on many national TV shows, including two appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where Ms. Winfrey named him as her first “Phenomenal Man.”

Clark received the 2000 Disney Teacher of the Year award[4] from Disney, which owns Hyperion Books.

Clark’s first year spent in Harlem was the focus of a 2006 made-for-TV movie, The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry, which garnered an Emmy nomination for Executive Producers Howard Burkons, Adam Gilad and Brenda Friend. See the trailer/VIDEO in Appendix C.

Source:; retrieved March 14, 2015.


Appendix B – VIDEO: “Vote Like That” 2012 Election Song – The Ron Clark Academy –

Published on Oct 25, 2012 – The students of the Ron Clark Academy perform “Vote Like That”, a parody of Cher Lloyd’s “Want U Back” designed to encourage everyone to vote.


Appendix C – VIDEO: Ron Clark Story Music Video –

Uploaded on Dec 30, 2006 – This made-for-TV movie starring Matthew Perry is truly inspiring movie. This music video previews the film. The entire film (90 minutes) is available here:


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