Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Advantages Of Going To A Large Traditional High School

The large traditional high schools have been attacked as a relic of the past and not serving the needs of today's students. Instead the Kleinberg administration is gun ho on developing small schools and fighting tooth and nail to increase Charter Schools. To try to prove they are right the DOE dumps the "not ready for promotion 8th graders", discipline problems, and children with disabilities on the large traditional high schools. To their surprise and disappointment there has been no net improvement for students who go to the small or charter schools, when compared to the large traditional high schools The reason for this is not evident. However, I do have some theories on why the large traditional high school can still do better on an uneven playing field.

First, the large traditional high school gives a student a wide variety of Honors and Advanced Placement courses as well as electives such as forensics, computer courses, finance courses, and law courses. By contrast, the small and charter usually don't have the ability to offer anything but courses associated with the school's theme (example the school of Law Enforcement only have courses associated with law). The lack of a varied and challenging curriculum limits student choice and therefore student achievement.

Second, the large traditional high school has many extracurricular activities an area that motivates student school participation. Sports programs, clubs, and academic teams. In particular the sports programs of the large high schools are usually split by gender. For example my school has football (Varsity and JV), soccer, track, basketball (Varsity and JV) swimming, volleyball, golf, handball, bowling, fencing,and baseball for the male students. The female students have swimming, volleyball, track, soccer, softball, basketball, bowling, golf, handball, and fencing. Students that join sports and other extracurricular activity do not get themselves in trouble and do well in class. By contrast the small and charter schools have very limited extracurricular activities and little or no sports teams.

Third, and I believe most importantly, the large traditional high schools have a higher percentage of experienced quality teachers. The flexibility of the course selection, and the chance of teaching highly motivated students in Honors and Avanced Placement courses attract teachers to the school. Case in point, my principal informed me that he received ten applications for two openings. All were experienced teachers with good references. I'm sure the small and charter schools do not receive the same quality teachers. In fact, based upon discussions with various teachers, it seems the small schools are looking for young, inexperienced teachers they can mold. As for the Charter schools? They are lucky if the teacher is certified and lasts for more than a year. Quality teachers? Give me a break!

In my overcrowded Queens high school not one teacher is uncertified and the average school experience is eight years! Are all of them quality? Of course not! However, many of them are
quality teachers and the students benefit from being exposed to them.

In conclusion, send your child to the large traditional high school if you want a well-rounded student that colleges will be happy to have on their campus.


no_slappz said...

chaz, you wrote:

"In conclusion, send your child to the large traditional high school if you want a well-rounded student that colleges will be happy to have on their campus."

My niece is about to start her senior year at Midwood High School; she's in the Med/Sci program where she's a standout. She kicked ass on the SATs and may attend Brown University. We'll see.

But as a member of the Med/Sci program, she's not part of the mainstream student body of Midwood. Meanwhile, Midwood is the definition of "overcrowded".

If we examine your belief that attending an overcrowded school is a good idea we reach some interesting conclusions.

If there are 1.1 million kids in public school that works out to about 85,000 kids per grade or 340,000 kids in the four high school grades.

If every high school accomodated as many students as Midwood, which I believe is 4,000, the city would need only 85 high schools.

Despite the large number of students in each big school, the smaller number of schools means FEWER teachers, administrators, support staff members, custodial staff members, etc.

But more schools means more jobs. Your position is at odds with the teachers' union.

Chaz said...

no slappz:

I believe you made my point. Fist Midwood can carry so many special programs and offer a wide variety of electives because it's a large school.
Furthermore, I bet she participates in some of the many extracuricular activities associated with the school that will enhance her chances in getting into Brown.

As for my being at odds with the union? You should know better then that. The students come first and giving them a well-rounded education with multiple electives and extracurricular activities is more important than hiring staff for these flavor-of-the-day small schools.

NYC Educator said...

I agree with you, for the most part, but I think we need to make a distinction between "large," and horrendously overcrowded.

Our school has many of the programs and advantages you describe, and is still considered desirable, which is why Klein is loading a few hundred more kids into it next year.

But some rooms are converted closets, with no ventilation whatsoever, and others have had walls erected to magically convert one classroom inot two, and you can hear each and every sound in the adjacent rooms.

The deans where I work are now saying that we won't be able to remain the sort of school we are if this trend continues.

There could be advantages to smaller schools, but simply breaking a big school into 5 sections and laying multiple layers of administration over an already overcrowded building is simply not the way to go.

Reality-Based Educator said...

An excellent post, chaz. I work at a "large" high school as well and I agree that the diversity of course choices, the wealth of afterschool programs, and the large number of teachers and fellow students (giving kids a different perspective and learning experience - it's no fun having the same english teacher for all four years as happens in so many of the smaller schools!!!) are beneficial for most students (and for those who prefer a smaller school, they can certainly attend one if they wish.)

nyc educator makes an excellent point about the overcrowding of large schools and the sheer silliness of breaking large schools into five smaller schools and adding some more bureaucracy. To those points I'd like to add the problem of underfunding. It seems small schools get all the money these days and large schools are left to fight over scraps. I work in a very good large school and I know that the principal is asked to do more with less money nearly every year.

Chaz said...

I agree with nyc educator that his school cannot maintain the quality if they keep cramming in students. Interestingly my school is losing 194 students as the Region decided not to dump the students from broken up schools on us as they have been doing. The bad part of this that we also had a budget cut.

reality-based educator:

I agree with you about the large high schools and the students stuck with the same teacher for four years. Since many of those small school teachers are not considered quality teachers you can imagine how the students do on the Regents.

Pissedoffteacher said...

My daughter attended Townsend Harris HS, an elite small HS in Queens. Although the education she received was top notch, and she was well prepared for college, we both feel that she would have been much better off in the neighborhood, overcrowded high school. Because her school was so small, the number of teachers was very limited. If a child didn't get along with a particular teacher, there was no other class to go into. The kids were also very clicky and it was hard for many kids to make friends. Advanced Placement classes were also limited. My son went to a local high school and although there were 4000 kids in a building built for 2500, he still had a much better experience.

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