I was surprised to see no one had commented on this article. Again Rochester students and teachers are opening a school year with news of failure. Failure, over the years, has been depicted with many terms. The 2012-2013 term is "Focus Schools" and "Priority Schools." We are under the "FSD Umbrella." That sounds like protection, but somehow I don't think it is.
The article notes that there are a variety of circumstances that might cause the state to put schools and a district under this umbrella.In Rochester, low test scores are the cause. So, with new terms, comes a new crop of "remedies." The state is going to provide the district with new advisors from the Ed Dept. to analyze, advise and fix. All will be oriented around the new Common Core Standards; the new national standards being pushed by Washington DC through their Race to the Top "incentives."
I think it's telling that some of the best Rochester schools such as SOTA and the new School of Integrated Arts and Sciences were deemed failures. Integrated Arts and Sciences is one of the newer schools that grew out of the closing of schools that were rated by the state as "Persistently In Need of Improvement." That was the old term for failing. The district and the union put aside usual methods of equal opportunity and seniority and initiated a selection process for teachers and students who were deemed "best fits" for the school. The school was able to purchase lots of bells and whistles through state funding in the form of a School Improvement Grant (SIG).
As a teacher in the City Schools, I find all of this distressing. I direct readers to Joe Nocera's column in the NY Times today. Our students need a different kind of guidance and support. Drilling them and making them practice skills more is not the answer. Insisting that they reach a certain height determined by the State Ed department and regarding all progress below that bar as failure, is breeding more failure and drop out. They need to learn to cope in a difficult life circumstance and need to have support to begin to feel that there is a good future ahead for them despite the circumstances in which they live.
In the face of repeated failure, Washington and the State keep pushing the same failed policies. These policies are generated from those who want an end to public education and want to see schools closed and turned over to privately funded groups in the form of charter schools. We need to minimize school closings. These school communities are important to our students, offering some of the only stable communities and security they know. The closings are incredibly disruptive and discouraging to students and teachers alike.
We need to put an end to standardized testing and allow our students to be rewarded for their progress no matter where it happens. It's unreasonable to expect students to achieve equally, at the same time, in a limited number of areas.
Really, the state and the federal government are throwing money at the problem. We know what good teaching is. Give teachers support and give students time to learn. Schools are currently so focused on reaching a standard goal, students don't have time to learn. And support those who have difficulty functioning in a traditional classroom environment through innovative education programs such as classroom based gardening, cooking, shop, auto mechanics, arts, music and sports. We need to give students a reason to be in school and then we will have their attention and they will begin to learn about the rewards of learning and gaining knowledge. THAT is what school should teach.
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