Friday, November 9, 2007

Aw C'mon

I have to respond to a comment I received on my last blog. The author says I am being simplistic. I am. I am saying that simple is where you start. The reason my old school received an F is they could never master simple. I now get assigned to other schools and I do not see the types of problems I constantly saw at my old school. Generally these schools have money for supplies. Generally these schools have minimal programming problems.

The author of the comment talked about my department. I did not have a department for 4 years. I had a house, but those in power never seemed to get this. The easiest way to move out of the F world is to move the bottom third of the students. You do this in a house, not in a large school. This is what houses were designed for. To talk about my department a year after I left and 4 years after the school changed is ridiculous.

This is where programming comes in. When the previous APG ran programming there were maybe a dozen kids that did not get classes in there house. In my house there were at best 2 kids who did not take lab with their science teacher and these were seniors. When I left there were large numbers of kids not programmed in house classes and a large number of students mis-programmed for labs, even ninth graders who should be the easiest kids to program. This kills science scores and it kills houses. I do not believe my old school will last much longer, but the principal should be honest and kill houses. The only current reason for the existence of houses is to provide a mechanism to blame AP's for the ills of the school.

The first year I was science AP I made sure that my teachers were appreciated and that they had what they needed to teach. I provided a buffer between them and the administration. My scores went up 30%. This was not that hard considering how low they were. I also realized that that was the easy part. The second increase in scores would come from intense staff development. This is much harder and I failed. A few years after I became science AP we switched to houses. My roll was that of consultant to other houses on science issues.

One of the houses in my school put all their labs at the end of the day. The result was predictable, few passed the labs and most of their kids were ineligible for the Regents. Bad programming has bad consequences.

The grades a school receives is based to a large extent on graduation rate and how well you do with the bottom third of your class. One example of the stupid decisions made by my principal is that I had a double period math class that was designed for the lower third of my kids. The class was held in a room that had math posters all over it. It was 50 feet from my office. The principal decided the class should not be in this room. She moved the first period to a computer room that was totally unsuited for the class. Students could hide behind computers. This class was on a different floor from my office. Then she moved the second period to a room On the other side of the building. The one group she should have been putting resources into, she was taking them away. And of course blaming me for doing a bad job of programming. She was upset that she had to fix my error! She had no problems punishing students for my supposed misdeeds.

The second thing I noticed about these kids was that they were not in school very much. When they did come to school they got in trouble and were suspended. Again, the group we most needed to help we created an environment that worked against these kids. My old school had a huge number of suspensions. My college bound kids were not getting suspended. The kids who probably could have missed school and not been harmed were never suspended. The kids who needed every minute we could give them, they were suspended. The school had chosen to emphasis "safety" over academic success for our most needy students. The school chose to see the problems these kids created as moral failings on their part, rather than the inevitable fall out of academic failure. By suspending so many kids we create more failure and more behavior problems.

I am not on a "high horse". I am a person who fought against this every day I was in the building. I ultimately lost and was banished. But I hope that while I was there I did some good. I have been in the trenches.


Anonymous said...

As the "c'mon"er, point taken.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher in the former school, we are all hoping the Department will make one correct decision regarding the principal and fire her. Bringing in someone who will restore the houses to what they were about six years ago, or doing away with them all together would seem to be logical. Right now it is just lip service. The school needs a strong leader who will inspire people, not chastise them and pass the buck.

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steve the builder said...

Aw C'mon

Thanks for sharing