Sunday, March 04, 2012
Why Schools Fail. The Answer Is The "Broken Window" Theory.
Under the Bloomberg Administration approximately 115 schools have closed down with more expected to close in the next few years. The Mayor is well on his way to destroy the remnants of the large comprehensive high schools and claim victory as the many students suffer with limited choices of classes and extracurricular activities in the small and charter schools that replaced them, and worse of all, his failure to improve the career and college readiness of the students of the City.
The question is why did so many of these schools fail and close? The answer rests squarely at the door of the DOE and their student discipline policy that allows principals to dictate to the staff the "do's and dont's" on how they can discipline unruly and disruptive students. In many schools the principals put up roadblocks for teachers to effectively discipline students who also fear that any altercation with a student could result in the teacher being disciplined and subject to a 3020-a termination hearing. According to the Tweed Taliban, any teacher who tries to discipline a child can by accused of "corporal punishment or verbal abuse" and many a teacher have been brought up on these charges by a student or an Administrator. Therefore, teachers are reluctant and fearful in trying to discipline a student since it could cost them their job. The result is academic child abuse as these unruly students disrupt the classroom with their behaviors.
The failure of a school to handle student discipline problems can only cause a deterioration of the academic environment . Just like a community, if the community allows the "little things" to go unchallenged, like public drinking, smoking weed, urinating in public, or sidewalk gambling, the neighborhood deteriorates and crime increases as many families keep their small children inside. This is known as the "broken window theory" which states that if windows are broken and not repaired, the surrounding neighborhood deteriorates as people give up maintaining their homes and community, which in turn, attracts an unfriendly and undesirable element to the neighborhood which further worsens the problems associated with the deterioration.
Back to the schools, many of the large comprehensive schools were targeted by the Bloomberg Administration by steering many students with behavioral issues to these schools. The principals of these schools, rather than nip any problems in the bud by suspensions, or even arrests when necessary, looked the other way least they land on the State's "most dangerous schools list". In the more extreme cases a school like Hillcrest hardly ever reports incidents and were rewarded by the DOE as a "safe school" which is a subject of ridicule by the staff at that school. The principals developed a ladder of referral that requires Administrative intervention only when a student threatened a teacher with physical harm, throws furniture, or has a weapon. In all other cases, the teacher is required to handle the problem, at their own peril.
The result is that students walk the halls, show up to class late, curse at the teacher, or use their cellphones to text message their friend rather than doing their work. The result is that the other students see little consequence to misbehavior and just like a "broken window" that does not get fixed, they too start to lose academic focus. This finally shows up in the academic achievement of the school and a target for the Bloomberg Administration to add to the number of closing schools.
In summary if a window breaks, you promptly fix it to keep the neighborhood from deteriorating. The same goes for a school, if the Administration fails to enforce student discipline and dumps responsibility but not the authority on the teachers, you can expect a deterioration of the academic environment of the school and target the school for closure.