Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

New Faces at Troubled Schools?

Here is a Memphis teacher's observations about this news:

1) How is changing teachers going to reduce student mobility rates? Or improve parent involvement? IN the latter case, taking teachers the parents know away and replacing them with teachers the parents don't know could easily reduce the little involvement there is.

2) Most of those new ways to help have only been funded in the last year or so. There really isn't any long-term data on what works here, yet. Besides, at the time these researchers came through, test scores weren't back yet-and that's the only measure which is believed to count. But rest assured, all of them are NCLB approved, research-based programs, because that is what the grant money can be spent on. As far as knowing what works-just ask the teachers! They know what kids are improving and which aren't-and they know what interventions the children are attending.

3) How do threats and penalties encourage teachers who are highly qualified and experienced to stay in said schools? The only thing which has kept me at mine the last few years is that I have a principal who doesn't feel that the testing is the only measure of the school, and recognizes my programs as being of value even if they don't improve test scores. Too bad the district doesn't feel the same.

4) Since every bit of grant money to low performing schools requires heavy professional development, I rather doubt the problem is lack of professional development. I expect it has more to do with lack of USEFUL professional development!

Not punitive? Yeah, right!

What is also interesting is that Johnson has been saying all year that it would be only a few schools, and only those which did not show improvement. Test scores aren't back yet, so we have no way of knowing which schools improved, but all of a sudden, all 22 are on the chopping block, yet again.

Memphis City Schools officials released numbers Friday they'll use in the coming weeks to revamp the system's weakest schools.

School board members said they're bracing themselves for controversial but necessary reforms, including "fresh start" - a move that would remove ineffective staff, teachers and leaders at the worst-performing schools.

Data on everything from teacher experience to student mobility and student discipline are detailed starkly in a thick binder given to school board members.

What's inside is troubling: High mobility, inexperienced teachers, uncertain leadership and high numbers of suspensions and expulsions plague the system.

School board members and Supt. Carol Johnson on Monday will use the data to decide how to get 22 schools off the state's corrective action list and avoid state takeover.

Talk of reconstitution had many Memphis educators and Mayor Willie Herenton upset last September, when school board members Lora Jobe and Michael Hooks Jr. first raised the idea.

After seeing the data, the community may be better able to stomach the idea, Hooks said.

"If we're able to substantiate how fresh start can improve achievement, and that it's not a punitive measure against educators, then I think the community will get behind it," Hooks said.

Board members want dramatic change. Board president Patrice Robinson said she's up for "whatever it takes."

Fresh starting could mean changing a principal at a school, changing a few teachers, or gutting a school's staff and asking them to reapply.

Reconstitution isn't new. Other large urban school districts have used it to revive failing schools.

In Minneapolis, Johnson fresh started three low-performing schools.

Southwest Tennessee Community College researchers found glaring similarities in the 22 schools:

High mobility. While the district's mobility rate is 25 percent, the corrective action schools averaged in the mid-60s and 70 percent, which meant nearly six or seven of every 10 children move in and out of these schools every year.

Low teacher experience. The schools tended to have at least half, and many times two-thirds, of their staffs filled with teachers with less than five years on the job.

Spotty parental involvement.

Lots of ways to help and no way to see what works. Researchers found schools eagerly using Saturday classes, computer programs and summer, after-school and before-school tutoring. But they found schools weren't tracking which approaches actually helped student achievement.

Low professional development. Teachers received too little training. And when they did receive training, too few took advantage of it.
The report said in some cases, the central office was also lax in following up on promises to provide staff support to schools. At Cypress Middle, for instance, the central office never sent the school the math and literacy specialists that were promised.

— Ruma Banerji Kumar
Commercial Appeal


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.