It saddens me.
It saddens me that latest release of high school graduation data are flat, and decreased in a few areas. (see detailed State Ed analysis here)
It saddens me that some opponents of this administration seen almost gleeful.
It saddens me that so many of the city and state educational initiatives are wrong-headed.
With a wink and a nod Joel Klein encouraged principals to adopt credit recovery strategies to aid kids in accumulating high school credits. Credit recovery is a useful strategy purposely perverted to make the Klein administration look like reforms were working.
It was cruel to kids and families.
Kids learned the wrong lesson: don’t worry, you don’t have to go to class, you don’t have to read the text and study, you can sit in front of a computer for a few days and “earn” the credits.
A very unscientific survey (asking guidance counselors) estimates that between a quarter and a third of high school graduates in the last few years had credit recovery credits and between five and ten percent had ten or more credit recovery credits.
The current high school graduation rates that the administration has flacked are probably inflated by at least ten percent.
Remember, the graduation rates pre-Klein were appalling. There were numerous high schools with graduation rates in the 30-40% range and that was with the Regents Competency Exam (RCT), an 8th grade standard!
We worked in a school system that accepted failure as the norm.
Many of the large high schools that were closed could have been saved; others had become holding pens for kids on the way to dropping out. The replacement small high schools run the gamut: from wonderful schools that are able are to take advantage of their size to personalize instruction to schools that have only survived because of credit recovery and marking their own regents papers.
A few high schools, New Dorp in Staten Island (see Schoolbook story here) and Hillcrest in Queens, schools with experienced principals, redesigned into small learning communities and are prospering.
Sadly the Department has been unable to grow the successes of New Dorp and Hillcrest to the twenty-four turnaround schools – name changes will not a better school make.
The whole purpose of the turnaround strategy – rename the schools and replace half the teachers was to make the schools eligible for $60 million in federal State Incentive Grant (SIG) dollars. New York City is the only city in the state not to have the dollars released; New York City also does not have a negotiated teacher evaluation plan. It would not be surprising if Commissioner King continued to withhold the dollars.
What is more than sad, what is calamitous, is that other school systems are adopting the failed New York City deforms. (See description of plan for Indianapolis here)
As the clock ticks down on the current administration we should take a deep look at what worked, what has promise of working, what should change and why should we change it, and, what evidence do we have that the change will be for the better?
Can we create a mix of viable large, mid-sized and small high schools?
Why did some networks evolve into communities of learners, schools that show significant progress and most simply a place to process data and pass along an endless flow of mind numbing “initiatives.”?
How do we rebuild school communities, involve parents and the entire community, and find a voice for parents without re-creating overly political school boards?
And, the absolute core issue: how do we upgrade classroom instruction? How do we create environments in which teachers can share strategies, analyze data and adjust instruction, build a tool kit of strategies that fit specific situations? How do we create climates in which teachers can interact with supervisors and exchange ideas about teaching and learning; a climate in which the union and management can work for common goals?
In the equivalent of the smoke-filled rooms of yore discussions are beginning about what the “new” Board of Education will look like – it would be perfectly fitting if the current occupants of Tweed had to reapply for their jobs, or, am I being too curmudgeonly?