Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Students' Perspective Of What The "Turnaround Model" Means To Them.

The rhetoric about closing 33 schools and reopening them using the "Turnaround model" is loud and becoming louder with the threats of a union and parent lawsuit to stop the politically tainted proposal. However, what nobody seems to care about is what is the student perspective? Not even the so-called student lobbyist, Governor Andrew Cuomo, ever bothered to ask the students how they felt about closing their schools mean, Therefore, in one of my classes I had time, after giving my students a test, to ask them how they feel about the fact the school will be closing and at least half the teachers will no longer be at the new school next year? The student responses were, to say, at the least, quite interesting. One of my struggling students told the class that most teachers don't care about him and so he doesn't care about the teachers, except for Mr. Chaz of course. However, thankfully most of the class felt differently. The next student told the class that she likes her teachers and that the teachers who will replace them may not know how to teach and that is bad. A boy also said the same thing, especially about the two new young teachers who he now has who can't teach or control his class. Most of the class hated to see the teachers leave. One female student expressed real concern about the teachers being fired. Apparently, this was the first time many of the students heard that their teachers could be fired and reacted badly about that possibility with shouts of f**k the DOE and Mayor Bloomberg. I explained to her and the class that their teachers who will not be back next year in the new school will not be fired but will still have a job, just not at the new school. Of course I didn't want to tell them that many of the teachers will end up as one of the 3,000+ ATRs. What a waste of talent and money. My statement seemed to reassure most of the class and I was quite astounded and pleased how these usually "me first teenagers" really had warm and caring feelings for their teachers.

I asked them if they could change the school, what would they do to improve it? The answers were essentially what I expected. First, they all agreed that the school should "kick out" the students who don't want to learn. Second, students should be suspended who are found walking the halls and not going to class. However, they seemed split on the clothes issue with many of the boys believing that droopy parents were appropriate while all the girls thought that the ones who have their underwear showing was disgusting. Of course all the students see no problem what the girls wore, no matter how revealing. Finally, they were mostly in agreement that the school should be more responsive to student issues such as a reasonable cellphone policy, lateness (many of the students travel long distances to the school) and most of all student activities after school which have been eliminated due to budget restrictions.

Interestingly, the student complaints were very similar to the teachers of the school when it came to student discipline. However, it was different when it came to clothes, cellphone use, and lateness with teachers wanting to restrict cellphone use to common areas (cafeteria, auditorium, etc) and having a zero-tolerance lateness policy since late arriving students disrupt classroom instruction. Teachers and students alike all agree that the school needed to restore many of the extracurricular activities that attracted good students to the school in the past. The bottom line is that the students don't like the "Turnaround model" if it means losing their favorite teachers" and especially true if the school discipline issues remain unchanged.

If the Governor, Commissioner, Mayor, Chancellor, and the DOE really want to implement their "children first" policy, then why not ask the students what is best for them?


Anonymous said...

This week in Education Week there is an article very critical of Value Added Evaluations by Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University. Professor Hammond is a proponent of authentic assessment and a critic of the Teach for America program.
You can locate the article by Googling Her name and Value Added Evaluations.
Caid Mille Failte! (it is Saint Patrick's Day!

Anonymous said...

Great post. The education reformers never ask the students and parents what is best for them.

I guess they are afraid the answers would not be what they want to hear.