Making Schools Work

From http://www.wgbh.org

This two-hour program focuses on educational successes — communities and school models that have significantly raised student performance and closed the achievement gaps often experienced by minority and poor students. The examples cited in the program affect more than a million students in seven school districts from coast to coast, from inner city to rural America. The first hour covers four diverse school reform models: Success for All, the Comer Process, KIPP Academy, and High Schools that Work. The second hour covers districtwide reforms in three cities — New York City’s District 2, San Diego, and Charlotte, N.C. — with commentary from experts. Hedrick Smith hosts.

This was an interesting program about schools that have implemented broad reforms and been successful. There were lots of different ideas about what was needed in public education and how the problems should be solved. I found myself wondering what the political slant on it though was throughout the piece. There didn’t seem to be much critical coverage of reform ideas (in fact there wasn’t really any since the focus was on reforms that ‘worked’). I was wondering how the success was measured. There were some interesting ideas, like pouring funding into development for existing teachers and creating a collaborative no-blame environment to help teachers not feel so isolated. There was the obligatory coverage of a successful magnet school. So what? That only solves the problem for a few children and leaves the rest behind. It doesn’t begin to address the actual problems in public education; it just takes a few kids out of it and allows then to be successful. There was also a study on a district in Charolette that implemented quarterly standardized testing in its schools. The tests were used to isolate struggling children and allow teachers to give them more help and also have hard data on whether or not their teaching was effective. At least from what the documentary showed, the tests were not used to penalize anyone, but just to establish what was working and what wasn’t. I was trying to remember back when I did that research paper freshman year whether or not the people I agreed with this approach or not. One theme that kept coming up was the need to raise expectations in poor performing schools. Also, in a high school shown, they pointed to how they had found that the older students needed to be given a reason to be motivated to learn. Why was it important? Why should they care? I kept thinking about this and how it pertained to me when I was in school (excluding college). I can’t really remember being dedicated and really caring about what I was learning, even though I was committed to succeeding(and doing it well). I’m sure that some things were more interesting than others, but it seems like I was just doing it because that was what I was supposed to do in order to get to college. That was where the real learning was going to take place. I just needed to do good enough to get there. That was a constant acknowledgment to myself throughout school: I just needed to gut through to do good enough to get into a good college where I could learn something important. Perhaps a superficial motivation, but it was one. The point is though, that I never questioned the idea that I should do well enough to get into a good college. It was never a choice. That was an expectation from my parents and family from a very early age. I would do well in school and get into a good college. I’m sure that my middle to upper middle class town culture also contributed to this (most kids in my town went to college and many even went to very good colleges). Just the idea that I had those expectations though is interesting. I never thought about them until I got to college and realized that in fact, I was very privileged (as in white, middle-class privilege) to have been raised with those expectations.

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appointive
appointive
appointive
appointive