Saturday, March 10, 2012
Why The DOE's "Turnaround Policy" Is Doomed To Fail.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Mayor Bloomberg's threat to close 33 schools by using the "turnaround model" is going to happen unless the union files a lawsuit to block it. It matters little to the Mayor and the DOE that they are inappropriate in using the "turnaround model" in the manner proposed. However, in the event the Mayor's temper tantrum succeeds and the "turnaround does happen. How will these schools change? Probably for the worse.
First, and most importantly, the "turnaround schools" will keep the same students that are the reason the schools are closing in the first place. The same students who come from high poverty communities, dysfunctional families, have poor attendance, and suffer from serious academic & discipline problems will be retained. Unlike the new small schools that are able to eliminate these "high needs students", the 33 "turnaround schools" will not be able to do that. Furthermore, the same high percentage of "special education and English Language Learners" will still be part of the "turnaround school". Again, the new small schools are encouraged to limit the enrollment of these two groups. Remember, these large comprehensive high schools were the "dumping ground" for many struggling students who were excluded from the small schools that replaced their neighborhood high schools.
Second, while at least 50% of the experienced teaching staff will be removed from their "appointed positions", most of the "turnaround schools" can expect an influx of "newbie teachers" especially from alternate certification programs like "Teach for America" and the "Teaching Fellows" programs. Up to 40% of the staff will consists of instructors who don't know how to teach and have no idea of what classroom management is. I can just envision a 23 year old TFA from Yale University who, after a five week training course, is now facing the reality of how to lead students who don't want to learn and will not respect her. I pity the students who are the guinea pigs of the many "newbie teacher" who doesn't understand curriculum and has no classroom management skills. The result will be academic chaos.
Third, in conjunction with the faulty and flawed "teacher evaluation system" there will be little teacher collaboration, rather there will be teacher competition as all the teachers will "teach to the test" and refuse to take failing students from other teachers that can adversely affect their grade. For example, if a student is failing due to attendance, academic, and/or behavioral problems and the Administration wants to transfer the student from a struggling "newbie teacher" to an experienced teacher who may have more success with the student. The experienced teacher would have to be insane to accept the student, knowing it will affect his teacher grade. I know, I know, Mayor Bloomberg did say teacher experience does not count. However, the rest of the world knows better.
Finally, unless school discipline policies are changed, the "turnaround schools" are destined to fail. If the schools refuse to enforce stringent student discipline codes, then students will walk the halls, use their ipods & cellphones, and disrespect school staff without an consequences for their bad behaviors. Moreover, many of these schools fail to enforce student dress codes and allow inappropriate "thuggish" and "sexual" clothing. The always outspoken Sate Senator Eric Adams is usually sympathetic with the plight of the poor and minority communities. However, even he has seen enough and demands that schools take action on student discipline and enforcing reasonable dress codes.
When you simply rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, it still will not stop the ship from sinking and the same goes for the "turnaround schools".