Friday, March 5, 2010

Real help.

I know I'm on vacation and should only be posting minor stuff about Spring Training games. (Long posts from my new phone are very challenging!) Reading about the Level 4 labels for Union Hill and Chandler Elementary and the new state and federal law mandated 'solutions' got me fired up.

In order to qualify for federal or state funding to fix these schools, we must now choose from the following:
-Close the school
-Transform it into an unproven charter school (and lose control)
-Fire the principals
-Extend the school day
-Force the staff to reapply for their jobs.

None of these solutions focus on the real problems faced by these schools. Classes are overcrowded. Supplies are limited or non-existent. Facilities are badly in need of upgrades. Morale is diminished.

My solution? Federal and state money should fix the real problems, not the perception of the problem. It's politically easy to fire everyone and close schools, shifting attention away from years of top down, unfunded mandates that stifle true innovation. (Think of it as Extreme Education Makeover for troubled schools!)

Education fads come and go, but the most successful educators should be free to innovate and teach in small classes. It's the only way to reach students who are limited english and lacking in home support for education. A good school and good teachers can help, as long as we reverse current trends of budget cuts.

I was encouraged by the reactions of our School Committee, especially Tracy Novick and Joe O'Brien. They seem to recognize that the current focus on test based results and punitive measures aimed at educators is not the best way forward.

Please spend money in the classrooms and our students and not on more bureaucracy!


Crystal said...

I agree and disagree with some of these items. I do think teachers need to be accountable for what they are doing with the 7 hours of class time a day. The teachers unions allow for tenured teachers who are not "putting in the work" to hold their jobs while younger more enthusiastic are let go. I am not pro-union in my most cases, I believe it caters to people who are not WORKING because they will not loss their job unless they do something unethical.

So I say even though I agree more money needs to go to schools we need to hold the public schools to as high of a standard as private/charter schools. Moving students to higher performing schools does not solve the problem for the lower performing students.

But the overall mission is to get teachers who are motivated. When I worked for Scholastic I went into some very urban schools in Pawtucket/Providence on a regular bases and to see the teachers who truly cared, who wanted more from their student, well they made it happen, no matter how little money the school had. I say get rid of the teachers unions, standardized test to prove the knowledge of the students and hold the "system" as a whole at high standards.

cascadingwaters said...

(I tried to post before; perhaps it will work now?)

Only one small edit I'd make here: the fed gives us four choices, all of which either move or fire the principal. In no particular order: close the school, reopen under new management (could be charter, could be other options), force at least 50% of the staff to reapply, or fire/move the principal and implement a "turnaround" plan.

Sean Dacey said...

Thanks for the clarifications, Tracy.

I have problems with teaching to standardized testing. All of my best teachers went beyond the standard curriculum and challenged me as a student. The ones who never strayed and taught to the tests were the least interesting, least inspiring, and least prepared.

The best teachers are the ones who can innovate in a classroom. Teaching to No Child Left Behind/MCAS standards dampens innovation.

The cynic in me sees these reforms as an attempt to ultimately dismantle our public school system, which has been the backbone of this country. Private schools and charters can't compare to public schools. Neither charters or private schools carry the same population as our public schools. Limited English, Special needs, BD- these students aren't present in private or charter schools. How can their models answer problems that don't exist within their schools?