Education Policy & Practice

Archive for the ‘High School’ Category

I was listening to my local NPR station this morning, as part of my usual routine.  The host, Steve Inskeep, talked about the controversial mass firing of educators a local high school in Central Falls, Rhode Island, effective at the end of the school year.  Apparently, only 7% of juniors scored proficient on the state math assessment.  The high school’s population is majority Hispanic, where more than 30% of students speak English as a second language.

Despite the fact that all teachers were fired, up to 50% can be rehired.  One teacher, who said she’s been at the school for more than 20 years, said that what people don’t seem to realize is that the kids come to school with significant challenges and that poverty is a major culprit – cue the violin.  A senior added that she thought canning the teachers was unfair and that the teachers care and have formed bonds with the students – then she cried.

What is the best remedy?  I don’t think a mass firing is the right thing to do, although I must admit that the impulsive side of me thinks that decision is spot on.  Certainly, whatever the “formula” is at Central Falls High School has unequivocally failed.  I am still trying to comprehend a 7% passing rate on a state math assessment.  I don’t care – really I don’t – about the composition of the student body.  Why? Because whatever the composition, I believe the adults should adjust.

So, you have a significant number of students whose first language isn’t English, then adjust your strategies to address that.  And “oh we have a lot of poor kids.”  So what?  Poor kids are learning in other places.  I am not suggesting that when the rubber meets the road everything will be magical.  But what I am suggesting, is that building level staff, district officials, public administrators, state education officials and state administrators (here and everywhere) need to do what is right for kids.  And what is not right, is allowing (or enabling) a school staff, including the principal, to continue welcoming students to a sinking ship, a burning building, or <insert any other imagery that makes sense to you>.

I think the situation in Central Falls is sad.  I don’t know the intimate details about the context of this situation, so please take my above comments more as general statements about schools in a similar position, and not as an attack or criticism of those precious souls entangled in a situation that not a single one of them created.   Perhaps some students are lazy, disengaged, or otherwise not willing to learn.  Perhaps parents are not parenting.  Maybe teachers have written some of these kids off as failures. Students still deserve a superior education and sincere effort from all those involved.  I hope you see that this is not just an education issue.  The problems we see manifesting themselves in school are only symptomatic of what ails families, communities, and our entire country.

Read more:

Projo.com

Washington Post

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From Chicago:  The Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the University of Chicago has released nearly 100 individualized school reports that reveal which Chicago high schools have made progress towards getting freshmen on-track to graduate. The customized reports analyze how freshmen at each school performed on crucial academic measures and how that performance has changed over time.  Previous CCSR research has shown than freshman year performance predicts whether students will graduate from high school. The reports allow educators to identify those students most at risk of dropping out and to evaluate whether past intervention efforts have been successful.

The freshman reports are the first product produced by CCSR’s Data Practice Collaborative, which brings intensive research and data support and improvement assistance to school reform networks throughout Chicago.

Here is a sample report for TEAM Englewood Academy, where it is reported that 60% of freshmen were on track to graduate in 2007-2008 compared with 86% on track to graduate in 2008-2009.

Northeast High School Tony Danza is prepping to take his place at the helm (as a co-teacher) of a 10th grade classroom in Philadelphia, one of the largest urban school districts in the country.  “Teach” will be aired on A&E, a cable network.  I’ve been asking for something like this for a while now, and now it looks like the School Reform Commission (SRC) might vote in favor of this project.  This does not come without a little prodding from Mayor Nutter, who articulated in a letter the potential returns such as a spike in teacher applicants, increased opportunity for student internships, and not to mention the $3,500 per episode that the school district would earn (plus expenses).

Of course, with the school district’s right to suppress footage at their discretion, how much “reality” will we see?  How much of this will be sensationalized and will reinforce negative stereotypes of urban education and urban youth?  I have my doubts, but I’m not rejecting the concept–yet.

Simply rolling the camera for reality television’s sake or for the resurrection of an aging celebrity’s career would be, as a Philadelphia Daily News columnist put it, “pimping the kids.  That being said, however, there is a sliver of hope:

– Danza received a degree in history education;

– has been attending new-teacher orientation;

– and he has stated, “My goal is to really be a good teacher.  If we can be really real about it and really honest about it and put the kids first and really show what a teacher goes through, it might be something that is a positive.”

But those tidbits are not enough to keep this from going quickly downhill.  According to co-executive producer Donny Jackson, “Our goal with ‘Teach’ is to highlight and celebrate the rarely seen challenges and unsung achievements of one of the greatest resources our nation has to offer: the public school teacher.”

Oh no.  I need to see more evidence of careful, well thought out planning and preparation.  Who is the audience?  Whose voices will be heard?  What dialogue will ensue?  When this is all said and done, what will have been learned or gained?

I had extremely high hopes for the 2006 airing of Black. White. on FX, only to be quite disappointed.  If my memory serves me correctly, my disappointment stemmed from the seemingly obvious stereotypical situations that we concocted to prove/disprove something.  It wasn’t an authentic experience, and therefore, lost the essential elements of  a true learning experience, in my opinion.  I don’t want to see the same thing happen to “Teach.”  Perhaps more will be divulged once the SRC votes on Wednesday *crossing fingers and toes and eyes*


Education Policy & Practice

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