“The Bigotry of Low Expectations,” with a Wink and a Nod

We have known for years that as kids progress through middle school they fail to continue to acquire literacy and numeracy skills. The early adolescence years are complex: peer pressure, self doubt, bullying, emerging sexuality and the growing pressures of academic work in schools.

Schools are overwhelmed with discipline issues and respond with “command and control” solutions: self contained classes or eliminating middle schools and creating K-8 or 6-12 models.

Teacher turnover rates in middle schools are appalling with new teachers stumbling and leaving to be replaced with yet another wave of new teachers.

Unfortunately in New York City the much lauded mayoral control has failed to deal with classroom instruction and has mandated models: from rigidly imposing proprietary models, (i.e.,Everyday Math) to 200 small high schools to Multiple Pathways, alternative models for overaged, undercredited students.

What is particularly distressing is the accountability model built into the new Empowerment Schools model. Each school will receive a grade, from A to F, based upon an “average student growth” metric. A key element of the high school metric is moving kids from grade 9 to grade 10. Rather than focusing on high quality classroom instruction the “magic bullet” seems to bee credit recovery.

Some principals, faced with being “graded” on credit accumulation have simply “cheated.” Either blatantly changing grades or leaning on teachers to give passing grades or designing “creative” methods of credit accumulation.

Integrity and Rigor should be the defining principles in all schools – for the school leaders, the staff and the students.

The Tweed administration is either duplicitous or inept – neither is acceptable.


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