"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Unbearable Stupidity of Chicago School Reform

As schools become more and more desperate to solve problems for which poverty stands in the way of solving, it is fascinating to watch the disemboweling of the public schools with the accompanying inhumane treatment of educators and students as they are ground up in the mindless and voracious reform crucible.

And while the teachers and administrators must still use "proven" and "scientifcally-based" curriculums and methods to turn around student performance now inspired by the evaporation of hope, the pols who control the schools adopt entirely unproven and draconian measures as a remedy for the school failure created by the poverty and lack of opportunity that they ignore, thus making it even more difficult for schools to have a positive effect in the lives of children who are now counted as test scores.

This is, truly, a stunning degree of self-imposed blindness by those chosen to lead. From the Chicago Tribune:
January 29, 2008
No school district in the nation has yet managed what Chicago officials proposed last week: a sweeping, simultaneous overhaul of a cluster of failing schools.

Experts say the plan to fire the staffs of eight schools and replace them with better qualified educators is somewhat of a gamble, one that will require an almost perfect alignment of stellar principals, committed teachers and re-invigorated curriculum and programs to succeed.

But that's no guarantee.

"No one knows if turnarounds work," said Andrew Calkins of the Mass Insight Education and Research Institute. "We spent two years looking at turnarounds and could not find a single example of turnaround work that was successful and sustained and done on scale, not just one school."

As Chicago parents began to digest the proposal first reported in the Tribune on Thursday, many seemed willing to roll the dice -- in part, an acknowledgment that even partial success is better than what their children face now.

Fara Bell, a Morton Career Academy parent, said turning around both Orr High School and Morton, an elementary school that feeds into it, is the only way to guarantee wholesale change.

"There's a little thing going on with every grade, and there's no progress. I believe [the teachers ] get to the point where they're ready to give up," said Bell. "I think we need stricter and dedicated teachers. Just because they come to work don't mean nothing. I see a lot lacking."

The school district is proposing replacing the staffs at Harper High School and the three small schools on the Orr High School campus.

Both Harper and Orr have undergone repeated efforts to be reinvented, but those efforts have been unable to improve student performance. Fewer than 25 percent of students at the schools met or exceeded state standards last year. . . .

1 comment:

  1. I'm a volunteer in an after-school academic program, so I interact a lot with the teachers and obviously, with the kids. I observe some outstanding teachers who are having an 80%+ failure rate. What I observe of their students is behavior that would make your grandparents roll out the grave and beat them with a grape vine. The kids are out of control, disrespectful, and outright lazy. They refuse to do their homework, thus failing the quizzes, and then blame the teacher. I am truthfully sad to say this about the kids, but it is what I observe. On the other hand, I have encountered a handful of teachers who either use screaming as their standard operating mode, as well as some who teach by the seat-of-the-pants without structure. But I need to emphasize, the kids are responsible. So guess what? That means the parents are responsible. That is where we need to start in fixing this problem: the parents.