We have to burn down the school to save it? The really nice school?

I would encourage everyone to check out this article from the Notebook about Meade Elementary School, located in North Philly. A reporter from the Notebook spent half a day there, and, check out some of the things he says (heavily edited):

But Meade is not just doing breakfast well. Evidence of a positive and nurturing school climate is everywhere…

The halls are warm and inviting - filled with end tables, lamps, rocking chairs, fish tanks, lots of plants, and interesting student work. A "wall of respect" is being constructed…

We visited the mask “factory” where artist Leroy Johnson and a cohort of three other artists from the Clay Studio work along with students and their teachers in creating the masks and mounting them. “This is about conflict resolution and building cooperation,” Johnson explained…

We observed 6th graders seriously engaged in helping the 1st graders. The room was a beehive of activity, with a large group of students, teachers, and the visiting artists…

We also visited several math and reading classes, all of which were characterized by skillful teaching and students on task….

A 4th grade music class blew me away…Students not only enjoyed the lesson, but demonstrated remarkable mastery…

Sounds pretty amazing, right? Meade appears to have mixed everything from wellness (with a well-regarded breakfast program), to interpersonal learning (conflict resolution, older kids working with the babies), to creative use of the arts (including music and mask making) and to teaching the standardized curriculum. I have no idea how many schools there are out there like this. But, if this is the standard for our elementary schools, I feel better about where we are headed as a city.

But, guess what? It turns out, Meade has a target on its back. And it appears that its creative learning is about to be sacrificed to the sacred lord of No Child Let Behind’s standardized testing, and the School District’s Renaissance Schools. Why? Because Meade is now considered a “Rennaissance Alert” school, and the ramifications for all that creative teaching are about to be felt by the students and teachers of the school:

The school recently made AYP in successive years and so it is not a school where restructuring is mandated under No Child Left Behind. Last year it narrowly missed it, meeting 12 of 13 targets, and putting it in "Warning" status. Fifth-grade scores dropped. In small elementary schools where some grades have only one class, this is not unusual – a veteran teacher goes out on maternity leave or illness, someone who turns out to be subpar comes in on special assignment, and down go the scores. A problem, sure, but not the basis for making a sober judgment about school progress.

Meade may well escape the Renaissance treatment but as a result of being on the Alert list it is now an Empowerment School. That means Corrective Reading and Math and the Empowerment version of an after school program. It means say good bye to much of what the school on its own has designed and implemented. From talking to teachers it is clear that morale is taking a big hit.

Get that? An elementary school in North Philly that appears to be doing everything right is about to have its creativity stomped on, because it only met 12 of 13 of the No Child Left Behind goals. Are you kidding?

As the author of the piece says: even if you are for testing, or data driven analysis, sometimes, we have to use something a little more basic: common sense.

Good School to bad School? been there done that

Thank you for the plug. This is what my campaign is about. Now who better to present the argument to policymakers than an educator who has been through this.

SDP and Common Sense

Those two words simply don't go together, and haven't for some time.

I recently spent a day in a

I recently spent a day in a elementary school in Feltonville which recently became an empowerment school and made AYP last year.  Although I only spent a day there, I learned a lot about how No Child Left Behind is affecting the school.  It seemed like a pretty good school with a nice building (it didn’t seem like a prison like so many others), but after one day I learned how the PSSAs were crippling them. 
A couple things I saw:

-Social Studies? Gone.  Now the social studies teachers simply have to teach PSSA prep, sometimes over multiple periods to the same students.  Reading and math teachers were struggling to do both, but in the end, were doing test prep. 

-Corrective math and reading: I sat in on a really great math class. The teacher was being interactive with the students teaching them about shapes and angles.  But then the teacher was forced to pull about 5 students for corrective math leaving the entire rest of the class alone for independent work.  Even if the students were doing their work, some were and some weren’t, it wasn’t clear what they were learning.  The teacher informed me that a new 20 minute curriculum was being mandated which would virtually end any actual teaching.

-If teachers didn't have all the paper work mandated from the school district (paper equaling a small rain forest) they would be disciplined. 

…and this was just salt on the wound: I was informed that the PSSA testing would be the Monday after Spring Break.  So you cram information and then give the students a week off to forget it all?  

From a New York Times Op-Ed:

Our current educational approach — and the testing that is driving it — is completely at odds with what scientists understand about how children develop during the elementary school years and has led to a curriculum that is strangling children and teachers alike.

everyone can agree

that more common sence is good. but please explain why being an empowerment school and and a school designing a program for itself are mutually exclusive. can't they keep doing what they're doing and implement a corrective reading and math and an after school program? is the argument that there aren't enough hours in the day?
personally i just don't think you can just let a school decide when they need a new approach. it worked for meade elem but no one at frankford hs thinks they need reforming yet. my step grandson (a student at frankford) just moved in with me and he tells me that you can't take text books home . even the printed notes on the course work they get handed every day, they can't take home. they have to hand both text book and notes in at end of every period. i then asked him how can he do homework if he doesn't have text book or printed notes, he replies, we dont ever get homework. i then said to him i hope they're teaching you a trade if you can't do any academic work at home. he replied , that they don't offer that at frankford, you had to go to bok to do that. i went to see his teachers and they verified EVERYTHING he said.they told me that if i thought he needed text books i could buy them for him but they didn't see the need for textbooks at home since they don't assign homework! he "passed " algebra and is in geometry but can't solve 3x +6 =12. there is no reform movement at this school. there has to be a mechanism where the school district , city ,state or feds say " this school sucks" and force change on them. nyc is getting great results in closing failing schools and reopening them as charters. i pray that someone would close frankford and give my grandson a chance.

School reform: the medicine that kills

If `you want to improve education start electing educators, not members of political machines


Louie: your quote form the New York Times is painfully true.

whats your position

on charters?

I think it is a stupid idea.

I think it is a stupid idea. Burn the school. Why this.asigurari autoauto second handtuning autopiese auto ieftine
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Position on Charter Schools

I support Charter Schools such as Arise Academy that fill a niche the public schools have chosen to ignore. In this case the student body at Arise Charter School is 100% students who have been or are in the foster care system. Studies tell as much as 80% of children who enter the foster care system, at some point, end up in prison.

In his presentation to the School Reform Commission, David Weiner, Chief Accountability Officer for the School District, presented some interesting data. Under No Child Left Behind, which like it or not is the education law of the country, schools must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) to be deemed favorable. Within the school there are a multiple of categories. Miss in one category and your school does not make AYP. In terms of making Adequate Yearly Progress Public schools have more categories than Charter Schools do. Public Schools on average have between 17-25 categories. I don’t recall seeing a Charter school with more than 13 categories and some had less than 12, literally half the number of categories that public schools had to hit.

So if you are asking me if I support Charter Schools which masquerade as Magnet Schools, the answer is no. If you’re asking me do I support the original intent of Charter Schools to implement experimental curricula and work with a niche clientele the answer is yes.

Keith Newman

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