Monday, April 6, 2015

Tale of Two Schools

I just finished two stories about two schools, one the Success Academy a charter in New York the other McClane Middle School in Tampa.

Well night day, yin yang, oil water, pick a contradiction of opposites and you get still broken, still busted just one is pretty on the outside and the other is what happens when the pretty runs out.

I remember Magnet schools. They were created to stop discrimination and promote integration. The idea being that having schools in high poverty areas would allow all students of all colors that whole not separate but not equal either thing from Brown vs the Board of Education.

It was the best of intentions and the worst of ideas as the story of McClane demonstrates. I have linked the article and it is so tragic and so disturbing that the only real solution is to close it for 3 years, the exact amount of matriculation it takes and remodel it and then in turn re-open it with a new name.

We have those schools here in Seattle and under the banner of neighborhood schools we were using Title I money for those with heavy populations of those who qualify for reduced lunch, funds to build the curriculum, staff and other assorted needs to enable better rates of success and achievement... that whole no child left behind.

The idea was to build a better community and also the bonus of losing transportation costs which were killing the district. To circumvent that little one, some schools are now called "option" schools and can qualify for all kinds of waivers, from hiring restrictions, to start and stop times and yes having the students bused.

When I read the article you will note that the problems are far reaching and far beyond repair at this point. The constant churn and burn of Principals and Teachers does nothing to build a school, the reputation and legacy stands on its own. We have that here and it is a double edged sword with people still citing that "I went there and my kid is going there" nonsense that makes one wonder "why is that still a thing?"

If I had progeny my child would go to the best school I could afford and enroll them in. And that would not be any public or Catholic high school. Went to those and work in those and no. This is where I would go all white people and enroll my kid in some elite academy, preferably bi-lingual. The Obama girls go to Sidwell Friends and so would mine, if I had any and if I lived in DC.

I do believe in Public Education, I do Mulder I do. But I also work in them and this is the line of fire that only Clint Eastwood could film - Teacher Sniper Soldier Spy.

And the constant assailing of Teaching is what brought me to the article on Success Academy. Founded by a messiah, as most schools of option are even public ones, this woman Eva Moskowitz, sounds like a great barrack spy in the camps of yesteryear and I don't mean that in a nice way.

I am not repulsed or surprised by the drilling, demeaning and demanding that goes on in her schools. I have written about my Teach for America experience and to say that when I actually do raise my voice 99% of the time it will be a young male, usually black but not always, who will immediately race to the Principal about his hurt feelings. It is not even necessarily directed at them, which they neglect to mention,  nor the reasoning for it but we have come to patronize any child of color to the point they have no idea what is actually expected of them academically or personally for fear of being called "racist."  And when we do discipline it is expulsion. Neither works.

And while I am loathe to use that phrase there is something that seems almost racist in the almost militaristic posturing the students are to do while in class. And the photos of the Teachers, all young, all female, and many Teach for America grads, and (of those profiled) also of color. It is as if that makes it okay. I wonder if this behavior demand from a white male teacher would be quite so dismissed. and yes I have witnessed many Administrators and Teachers of color come in lecture and berate a class in manners that I found odd and off putting and yet due to they being of color it was acceptable, and when they left the room the class immediately resumed to chaos.    And when I have once again asked for assistance it suddenly is my fault and I don't understand their "children".  It is often bizarre to speak to a Administrator who is so detached yet superior that you immediately think wow is this a generation gap, skill gap, gender gap or did I miss something?   So it is not just a black/white issue it is far more ingrained and larger in depth on all counts.   And for me to speak frankly is also not something one does ever to anyone again as we are all afraid in our jobs to be thought of us and anything other than invisible and replaceable.

I am not sure that the same type of charter also in Harlem, the Harlem Children's Zone, is quite as rigid and as disciplinarian. But the founder Geoffrey Canada has left and without the requisite messiah, I find the schools that offer alternative opportunities languish on the vine. The costs, the fund raising and the public support wanes when the reality and the vision don't always align. Interesting profile on this man and his vision here from 60 Minutes.

That program is a holistic and expensive program with truly mixed and untenable results. The Heritage Foundation has a report on the school. And the Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank and they are big proponents of charter academies and other enterprises to shut down public schools and yet this report is fairly balanced providing both the positive and negative of what is working, why and the problems of replication as Obama once believed was possible. He believed a lot of bullshit was possible then he got elected and said "what the flying fuck" and that was the end of that.

Again no one can firmly say that yes this system is working that putting children and their families in lotteries is a way to fund and provide education. That constantly testing them to the point of extreme where they are urinating on themselves is healthy or sane. I am not sure what the end result is.

But I can say we are not doing well with the constant barrage of testing and changing focus on curriculum and the needs of the kids to attain that lofty goal that is both vague and ever changing. I read of late another article on the focus on STEM and the damage it brings.

We are obsessed with Messiah's especially those rich enough to hand over cash, the Warren Buffett's, the Bill Gates, the Mark Zuckerberg's whose "gift" to the Newark Schools of then Mayor Cory Booker was largely wasted on varying consultants and little to no implementation. We are sure that rich people are smart enough and know everything about everything that they can fix all what is wrong with the world or they wouldn't be rich, right?

Luck, family connections and that ever present Harvard degree or near degree can't hurt. I am waiting for another infamous up by the bootstraps story as the one I wrote about in the last blog post who made it by selling stocks out of his Harvard dorm room. Remember Michael Dell who sold PC's out of his. Where are Dell computers today? Ironically in the classrooms of public schools replacing Apple as they were once prior to Jobs return the great white box hope.

I have seen it all as I have experienced it all. I have worked in private sector business and ran my own small business and now teach. I actually like teaching because it is learning and I have yet to see how any of this shit inspires life long learning. We all can't be billionaires or coders or good enough, smart enough and have people like us but we can always learn something new every day. Try it you might like it.



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