Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How To Really Improve Student Academic Achievement.

We all know that the graduation rates are a poor indicator of student academic achievement.  There are too many gimmicks used by the City and State to show academic progress when the reality is that there really is little, if any real progress over the years.  The extensive use of "credit recovery", Principal pressure to pass them along and make it society's problem. When these students leave the school system unprepared academically for the real world with their devalued high school diploma, it becomes a worthless piece of paper when these poorly prepared students can't fill out a job application form or show up to work on time.    The income/racial academic achievement gap is unacceptably wide and the policies out of the DOE has not resulted in any real progress to narrow the achievement gap. The question is how can we really improve academic achievement? Here are my ideas.

School based issues:

First, we need to reduce class sizes across the K to 12 spectrum.  Having up to 34 students in a class is not conducive to a proper learning environment.  The ambient noise level in a crowded classroom hampers learning.  Furthermore, it gives teachers little chance to work individually with struggling students with such large class sizes.  Mayor Bill de Blasio had promised to reduce class sizes and use the CFE funds, earmarked for this purpose.  However, his disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, has failed to do so.

Second, reduce the bureaucratic bloat at the DOE where an increasing amount of funds are allocated to the Central Bureaucracy, their high priced consultants, and technology programs like ARIS and SESIS,  while the school budgets are frozen and average 14% lower than it was back in 2008.  The freeing up of additional funds and redirected to the schools will bring more resources to the schools and provide students with the necessary supports to help them academically.

Third, encourage the hiring of experienced teachers by eliminating the destructive "fair student funding" that forces principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools. How can any right thinking educator believe that hiring "newbie teachers" who have a steep learning curve and lack curriculum knowledge and classroom management skills is good for struggling students?  Worse, 50% of these teachers will leave the school system within five years and 80% of the teachers that remain in the system usually leave the school that hired them.  This instability and teacher turnover wastes time and  money as many of these teachers need to be mentored and as they attempt to acquire the necessary teaching skills. This should include the removal of the poorly trained "Leadership Academy Principals" who have little real classroom experience and don't collaborate with their staff as a result the students suffer.

Fourth, have stringent and enforceable student discipline codes.  Too many school administrators look the other way when students misbehave and blame the classroom teacher rather than take appropriate action.  The result is an out of control school and continued disruptive behavior in the classrooms that make learning next to impossible due to the chaos.

Fifth, make all middle and high schools magnet schools that can attract high achieving students  from their and other communities and hopefully bring diversity to the school's student population.  The City schools are too segregated by race and that's a problem.  By encouraging students to follow a path that best suits their interests will stimulate their love for learning and will help them improve their academic outcomes.  This would include vocational, CTE, and academic programs.

Sixth, recombine failing small schools that were carved up from the large comprehensive schools such as Campus Magnet, Far Rockaway, Springfield Gardens, all the Bronx schools, and many of the Manhattan and Brooklyn schools.  The shared resources and additional courses will enhance the variety and scope of the academic experience for the students.

All the various improvements to the schools will result in nothing without addressing the social-economic factors such as family, community. and poverty that makes up over 80% of a child's development and damages the student's ability to learn.  Therefore, the City must step up efforts to deal with these issues otherwise its like putting a bandage on an infection without treating the source of the infection.


Bronx ATR said...

Excellent ideas, Chaz. I do believe the large schools will be fitted back together, perhaps when all the ATRs have retired. I also agree that segregation in NYC schools is a hugh problem. I remember years ago teaching a kid who told me he hated all white people. I asked, "Do you hate me?" "No, not you." "How many white people do you know?" "You're the only one." 20 plus years later and I've still never taught a white kid! If kids (of any race) grow up not knowing any other groups, they believe the stereotypes. It fosters mistrust and fear.

Anonymous said...

Very good points, but I'd like to add a couple more. Bloomberg handed over power to students that they are too immature to handle, by expanding the definition of corporal punishment to include "making the student feel nervous or afraid" and other such PC nonsense. To the point where students routinely threaten teachers who DARE to enforce discipline or expect completion of schoolwork with, "I'm gonna get you fired, b__h!", rounding up a few buddies to write false allegations against their teacher. This HAS to be reversed so that discipline and other normal classroom expectations can actually be carried out.

Also, it is not the government's job, nor is it even possible, for the government to unilaterally solve the social problems of the lower socioeconomic classes. They've been throwing government money at this for untold decades, with the same abysmal rate of utter failure. It is up to PEOPLE to want to change their lot in life, not the government. Don't run out and get pregnant by multiple men and live a life of welfare. Many studies have shown that single parent homes without a father have much lower success rates in the children's academic achievement. Don't neglect doing your classwork/homework. That's your ticket OUT of another cycle of poverty. Don't get involved in drugs. They will destroy any chance of rising above poverty. Mothers need to lay down a strict line of discipline, so that another adult (like a teacher) asking for quiet or other discipline doesn't come as SUCH a big insurmountable surprise which cannot be obeyed.

None of these things can be done by the government, only the people. Time for them to stop their blaming everyone except themselves and do their part to ensure their children's success.

Anonymous said...

You should send this article to the newspapers. it bring to light the city schools have.

Anonymous said...

Chaz be mah' (fill in the blank)......

Chaz for NYCDEP Chancellor!!!!

Anonymous said...

Chaz and his group of disgruntled supporters do not know what they're talking about
Teachers need to be accountable for something if it's not student learning or behavior then what.

Anonymous said...

To 9:44,
What are we not accountable for? We are accountable for their learning, attendance, breakfast, lunch, parent involvement, behavior, school supplies, mentoring, homework, common core, NYC, state and federal standards. You obviously don't know a teacher or have a kid.

Bronx ATR said...

In many NYC schools teachers have taken on the roles of social worker, food provider, psychologist, guidance counselor, dean and parent. This was born out of necessity, not our job descriptions or what any of us signed up for. Very few of us are disgruntled over that fact. What is disheartening is comments like yours and the media's that attempt to blame us for much of society's ills as it pertains to these students. I would suggest you volunteer in a local high school ( you'll probably be denied because of the inherent danger) or talk to some teachers about what is demanded from them. Happy New Year to all.

Anonymous said...

The UFT in particular should support recombining the small campus schools into large schools. Large schools means larger chapters for them to ram Unity stooges into as CLs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry chaz but you are wrong.

Class sizes being less are a great idea. But how can it be done when schools are already using closets as classrooms and are at 120 percent capacity. In some utopia type of world sure.....but its not realistic.

Second to blame anyone but city parents is just wrong. Everyone knows it is not the principal, not the chancellor, not the mayor or the teacher that is mostly responsible formthe development of a child. Its the parents that must be held accountable. When I have a mom living in a shelter with 9 kids and she is allow to use the race card, the poverty card, and the its everyone elses fault but hers then there is no hope. Time to put the blame and the accountability where it belongs.....in the household