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.