The Left Behind: Why Are Black and Hispanic Graduation Rates Lagging? Why Are We Ignoring the Impact of Poverty? A Community-Based Model for School Improvement.

 The New York State Education Department has just released graduation rates and both the State and the City flack continuing increases.
A closer look is far more depressing: in the poorest NYC school districts (8, 12, 19, 23, 27),
* male graduation rates range from 35% (D 8) to 43% (D 12)
* black graduation rates range from 40% (D 8) to 57% (D 12)
* Hispanic graduation rates range from 40% (D 8) to 51% (D 12)
* dropout rates range from 10% (D 23) to 20% (D 27)
At  State level there is an acknowledgement that inner city achievement is well below acceptable levels,
State Education Commissioner David Steiner said, “The results show modest improvement overall. However, when we look more closely at the data, we see serious and continuing challenges. I think it is important to look in more depth at those reform elements that in our judgment are critical to moving the performance of students – especially disadvantaged students in the inner-cities.
Steiner see “real promise,” in a list of interventions, although offers no evidence,  the drumbeat from Washington and the lure of dollars is seductive,
  • A rich data system that can track students and give teachers the information and tools they need in the time frame they need to use it;
  • An assessment system that includes interim and predictive assessments;
  • The ability to engage in a full-scale school re-design where needed; and
  • The ability, where absolutely necessary, to remove persistently low-performing teachers – although we believe that must be done very carefully, with great respect for all concerned.”
    New York City has a data rich system, ARIS that provides a mountain of data for each student and class with the ability to disaggregate the data within an endless number of parameters, yet, the “clicks per school” are embarrassingly low. Why aren’t teachers using ARIS?  A teacher tells me, “I logged on a few times at the beginning of the term, it didn’t tell me how to get Sean to behave and pay attention, or Julio to come to school every day.”
    The “interim and predictive assessments” lead to a continuing loop of remediation. One would hope that teachers assess students each and every day, that teams of teachers plan collaboratively, share materials and create a platform on which to focus on instruction.
    Full scale redesign is all about blame placing, “re-design” is an ongoing process, teachers, principals and school systems assess constantly. The closing of 19 schools in New York City is a failure of a school system that failed to involve themselves in the more than six years of their regency.
    No one disagrees with “removing persistently low-performing teachers,” a far more important question is why do more than half of all teachers in low poverty schools leave within five years?  A poor selection process,? lack of support by the principal,? Commissioner Steiner should be asking how can we retain teachers in lowest performing schools? How can we encourage highly skilled teachers to voluntarily move to the lowest performing schools? Currently under the Open Market Transfer Plan teachers move away from low performing schools.
    For reasons that continue to elude me the establishment ignores socio-economic factors, i.e., low SES, aka, poverty, and how they impact academic achievement.  The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education Coalition proclaims,

    Education policy in this nation has typically been crafted around the expectation that schools alone can offset the full impact of low socioeconomic status on learning….

    Evidence demonstrates, however, that achievement gaps based on socioeconomic status are present before children even begin formal schooling. Despite the impressive academic gains registered by some schools serving disadvantaged students, there is no evidence that school improvement strategies by themselves can close these gaps in a substantial, consistent, and sustainable manner.

    …. there is solid evidence that policies aimed directly at education-related social and economic disadvantages can improve school performance and student achievement. The persistent failure of policy makers to act on that evidence—in tandem with a school-improvement agenda—is a major reason why the association between social and economic disadvantage and low student achievement remains so strong.

    Socio-economic status can not be used as an excuse.  A teacher complained to me that when he told his principal, “What do you expect, look where these kids come from,” the principal told him it was not an acceptable “excuse,” we, teachers and school leaders, have to seek strategies to improve our performance. I told the teacher I agree with the principal.

    As we work to improve instruction the City and State must provide supports.

    * Schools with low graduation rates, and their feeder middle and elementary schools, in high poverty neighborhood should be clustered into networks.

    * District Leadership Teams (DLT), the network leader, parents, teachers and principals meet monthly, pursuant to State Ed guidelines, prepare and monitor a plan for their network. Relevant community-based organizations should be non-voting members of the DLT.

    * Electeds, faith-based leaders, both city and not-for-profit social service organizations shall meet periodically with the DLT and advise and support the DLT.

    * A Parent Council representing parent association leaders from all schools shall meet monthly, a facilitator from a non-DOE organization works with the parent leaders and provides training and support.

    * The DOE and the UFT Teacher Center, and/or other organizations selected by the DLT, shall provide professional development and data analysis.

    * The DOE and the UFT agree to act expeditiously to facilitate the approval of School-Based Options constructed at the school and network level.

    Changes must be facilitated from above, but occurs in the trenches, in the classrooms. Teachers must feel respected, and part of a process. Clarion calls from Tweed fade quickly, devices, “tricks,” such as credit recovery are shams, they do not impact the day-to-day instruction that will, or will not raise student achievement. Decisions, and the responsibility for the decisions, must be made by those closest to the classrooms.

    Buy-in comes from trust, a quality that is sorely lacking.


    5 responses to “The Left Behind: Why Are Black and Hispanic Graduation Rates Lagging? Why Are We Ignoring the Impact of Poverty? A Community-Based Model for School Improvement.

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    2. Klein is notorious for reversing the poverty and its discontents=achievement gap equation, saying that we can’t fix poverty until we fix education. This blindness to real life dooms his reforms. Let’s be real: the killer pathologies of poverty cannot be cured by teachers just as obesity is cannot be ended by nutritionists.


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    4. Bob Himmelstein

      This is a real tough one. But in thinking about it I come up with the idea of coming up with the idea of what the position was originally designed for. If I have my facts right, principals were supposed to be master teachers. In my over three decades of teaching I had some who were truly master teachers and from whom I learned a lot, and some who weren’t master teachers. I find it hard to imagine a principal or any supervisor who can’t show teachers and students a mastery of the subject matter as well as people skills wih which to use with chilren and teachers. In schools with primarily African American and Latin American populations, I believe that a master teacher/administrator can jump in and steady a ship, when a teacher washes out or is about to.


    5. Bob-I’ve taught in NYC for 20 years. I’ve never worked with an administrator who could teach. That’s why admin. doesn’t straighten out academic problems. They are afraid the wily ninny teacher will ask them to model the technique.


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