More on Schools

From a speech by Bill Cala, former Superintendent of Rochester City School District (RCSD), who worked as an interim while they were looking for the next Superintendent Jesus who would fix everything:

Let’s go back to those root causes of failure in school.

What is being done to address these issues?

What is our city leadership doing about the health issues facing children?

What is our city leadership doing about teen pregnancy?

What is our city leadership doing about the child abuse epidemic?

What is our city leadership doing about the immigrant population who cannot speak English?

What is our city leadership doing about the explosion of children in the mental health system?

None of these issues have anything to do with school governance!

What have been forwarded as solutions under mayoral control?

Neighborhood schools

Zero Tolerance – Test, Punish, and Push Out – Advancement Project

Recreation centers such as the Ryan Center

Schools open longer hours

Is there one idea in this plan that addresses the dire needs of children and families?

Is there one idea in this plan about how children learn and need to be taught?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

My vision for Rochester is for us as a community to think about rescuing our children. Saving our children will rescue the Rochester city schools. This cannot be done without putting children at the center of our efforts. The RCSD cannot do this alone. This absolutely must be an effort of everyone in the community.

What do WE do for the child who is sexually abused at 2 years old?

What do WE do for the child whose father is repeatedly arrested and jailed for selling cocaine?

What do WE do for the child whose family is repeatedly reported to Child Protective Services?

This is the biography of one of our “dropouts” who is accused of murder. Can we understand why such a child would drop out?

Can the RCSD stop this madness alone? I think not.

Read the whole thing. The focus is holistic, not on a few tweaks to schools themselves, and if anything, it’s progressive.

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40 replies
  1. 1
    dr. bloor says:

    I presume the tar and feathers are being prepared for Mr. Cala?

  2. 2
    Bulworth says:

    I don’t know the answer to any of these questions other than that more and more standardized testing is the way to go, always. /

  3. 3
    Schlemizel says:

    For a moment I thought perhaps you had found the source of the teabaggin GOP when I read “MORON SCHOOLS”

    Yes Bernie – SNARK! kiss my cancer ravaged ass!

  4. 4
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    having to think about child welfare and the intersection of achievement and social stability is cheating.

  5. 5
    Matthew Reid Krell says:

    The Family Law Section of my state bar organization does not conduct child welfare seminars at all. Apparently, alimony and support are more important than child abuse and neglect. That seems consistent with our attitude toward education in this country as well.

  6. 6
    Pooh says:

    Heresy!

  7. 7
    SatanicPanic says:

    He’s whining about immigrants not speaking English? What on earth would he have the community do about that? That’s the schools job, dude.

    The rest I don’t disagree with, but I’m not hopeful the community can or will do anything about them.

  8. 8
    Misterpuff says:

    Somebody been watching too much of The Wire.

    Just juke the stats and STFU/The Mayor

  9. 9
    Schlemizel says:

    Just read the whole thing and I wish him well. He didn’t win any friends in the political world by being honest and (worst of all) right.

    There is a lot of stuff in there that people need to understand and deal with but at the moment all people want to do is bash the teachers and divert public education funds to private pockets.

  10. 10
    taylormattd says:

    So how do you pull, from a speech about schools in Rochester, that proposals to appropriate more money for additional tutoring, music, and art in 5 separates states is bad?

  11. 11
    daveNYC says:

    A lot of that stuff sounds difficult and complicated to fix. What we need are more easy answers, unleash the free market!

  12. 12
    taylormattd says:

    @Schlemizel: Yeah, and as far as I can tell, that’s what mistermix was doing in his previous post.

  13. 13
    Chris says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    He’s whining about immigrants not speaking English?

    One of my best friends is from Wisconsin. According to him, there’s a building in his town that used to be a school, which taught everything in the German language until the early twentieth century; apparently there was enough of a German population to keep it going.

    Other examples of that probably abound in the rest of the country if I bothered to look.

  14. 14
    Pococurante says:

    Israel wants to bomb Syria, asks permission from Jordan.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/int.....es/265818/

    /sits down with hot buttered popcorn to watch ensuing post madness

  15. 15
    jonas says:

    @Bulworth: and of course lower tax rates for rich people. That’s essential.

  16. 16
    jonas says:

    @Chris: Bringing non-English speaking students from refugee/migrant backgrounds up to speed in a classroom is a herculean task for any teacher, and doing it on the shoestring most public schools are run on these days is just nuts. Indeed, in the past, immigrant communities frequently just established their own schools rather than deal with the various forms of discrimination/inattention in public schools. In the case of German speakers, the massive backlash against all things remotely “kraut” during WWI resulted in a brutal, self-imposed integration that ended much of the unique cultural traditions of German America. About all that was left was a few half-hearted Oktoberfests with shitty American beer and a lame polka band.

  17. 17
    gelfling545 says:

    @SatanicPanic: If they are school age, certainly, although a certain political party wants to cut funds for ESL/Bi-lingual ed. What happens if they are 20 or 25 or 60 years old may not be under the control of the schools.

  18. 18
    Keith G says:

    In it’s most general formulation, the purpose of a society’s education system is to service the needs of that society.

    Our current system has been designed to service a society that do longer exists.

    If the process is flawed, spending more time at that process will not yield better results.

  19. 19
    JoyfulA says:

    @Chris: There were a lot of German-language schools in the Midwest until WWI, when federal authorities started threatening prosecution and jail time. Liberty cabbage days.

    I see Jonas already mentioned this. Still more, PA Dutch descendants of Revolutionary War vets had to do away with German church liturgy and hymnals.

  20. 20
    Chris says:

    @jonas:

    Yeah, I have nothing but the most enormous respect for immigrants who manage to adapt to those circumstances. Knew someone in college who came here from Iraq as a teenager with zero English language, got tossed into a DC public school. When I met her, she was one of the most brilliant students I knew in college, and last I heard she was finishing medical school. I don’t know how the fuck people like that do it.

    Hadn’t thought about World War One, but it makes sense; the timing works out exactly. Funny how you never hear about that prejudice. Prejudice against the Japanese, the Italians, the Irish, the Jews, and of course black people, you hear quite a bit about, but anti-Germanism seems to’ve gotten completely written out of the history books.

  21. 21
    👽 Martin says:

    Wait, didn’t you just go on a tear earlier about longer school hours? And the money that’s going to school is often addressing items on that list:

    My son’s HS has family planning and family counseling services. The teen pregnancy rate in our city is the lowest in the nation. The dropout rate is well in single digits. They’ve reported that the abuse rate has dropped. They’ve got at least some data to show that as a result, the abuse rate originating from students later in life is dropping.

    The district has programs for intervention for families where domestic violence and abuse are reported (important at the district level as many abused children get shuttled around to different schools to avoid detection).

    You were telling us that money instead of going to schools should be going to other programs. But where would that money be more effectively applied to social programs but in the institutions where the kids are housed 1500 hours a year?

    Granted, I suspect none of this is happening in Rochester (which is just sad given that NY per-pupil funding is at least 50% higher than here in Cali) but I don’t think you’ve considered that your problem and your solution in fact go together like macaroni and cheese.

  22. 22
    NonyNony says:

    @taylormattd:

    Yeah, and as far as I can tell, that’s what mistermix was doing in his previous post.

    Explain how criticizing adding more hours to the school year as a panacea for “fixing” urban schools is in any way the same as blaming teachers.

    Bonus Points: Bill Cala in the excerpt listed above bullet points a number of things that have been proposed that are stupid and do not work. How far do you have to count down to get to “Schools open longer hours”.

    Show your work.

  23. 23

    @Schlemizel:
    Q: What do you call an honest politician?

    A: Unemployed.

    There is a lot of stuff in there that people need to understand and deal with but at the moment all people want to do is bash the teachers and divert public education funds to private pockets.

    This.

    Plus add “find ways to divert additional funds to exclusionary schools (such as charters and magnets) for MY kids” to this list.

  24. 24
    Hattie says:

    But the biggest worry would be those exploding children.

  25. 25
    Mnemosyne says:

    Actually, aimai was pointing out in the previous thread that schools used to do a lot of health screenings that have now been eliminated. I know that we were regularly screening for hearing and scoliosis, but I don’t know if schools do that anymore. They used to vaccinate in schools, too, but good luck getting paranoid upper-class parents to agree to that.

    I think schools could successfully deal with a lot of those issues if they were permitted to and (more importantly) given the funding to do it, but school administrators seem to have a “not my job” mentality that treats schooling as “readin’, writin’ and arithmetic” when it could and should be much more holistic.

    Who’s better equipped to notice that a kid is being abused and needs to be referred for services than a teacher? Who else does that kid see every day other than his/her parents? But as long as school administrators have a “not my job” mentality, there’s no way to improve screening for things like that.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, too, can you imagine the shit fit that would be thrown by conservatives if schools even attempted to address teen pregnancy? And yet, again, who would be better suited to spot girls who are at risk of that and get them into prevention programs than the teachers who see them every day?

  27. 27
    Maude says:

    @Chris:
    Bruno Hauptman.

  28. 28
    Ohio Mom says:

    @Mnemosyne: The rules by which schools are run vary from state to state*. In my state at least, school personnel are mandated reporters, which means they must, by law, report any suspected child abuse to the proper authorities. I can imagine it’s a big hassle to report abuse and that teachers are loathe to do so, though.

    Don’t think my kid has ever had a scoliosis screening in school but in the first half of his schooling (he just started high school) he did undergo periodic hearing and vision screenings. Finally, Ohio schools do not vaccinate but parents do have to send in doctor’s notes certifying that the kid’s vaccines are up to date before the kid can be admitted to school (I think there is a procedure for people who opt-out of vaccinations but since I was never in that camp, I don’t know any details about it).

    * The reason the rules for schools vary from state to state is that school districts are actually a form of local government, and as such, are creatures of the state.

  29. 29
    gene108 says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Also, too, can you imagine the shit fit that would be thrown by conservatives if schools even attempted to address teen pregnancy? And yet, again, who would be better suited to spot girls who are at risk of that and get them into prevention programs than the teachers who see them every day?

    The historical problem of this is teachers can be racist and would shunt all the black kids (now, I guess Latina too) into the at risk category, while assuming the white kids weren’t at risk.

    I think having services open to anyone, who wants to avail them, while keeping the services discrete enough that the girls won’t get tagged with “being a slut” for using them.

  30. 30
    taylormattd says:

    @NonyNony: He slammed five separate states that were going to appropriate more money for public schools for additional tutoring, music, and art.

    He simply decreed with zero evidence he didn’t believe it would actually go for tutoring, music, and art, and as a bonus, he used the right-wing/charter school epithet: “throwing money at” schools.

  31. 31
    Feudalism Now! says:

    Mistermix has borrowed the GOP chicken for sloppy seconds. More funding will always go to test prep and babysitting because it’s cheapest. So we shouldn’t throw money at schools or have more class time because… there are other underfunded social institutions?
    I love what the Interim Super is saying, but the schools are being required to do all of this regardless of whether it is their mission or not. If not in explicit policy, then in public sentiment.

  32. 32
    sb says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Who’s better equipped to notice that a kid is being abused and needs to be referred for services than a teacher? Who else does that kid see every day other than his/her parents? But as long as school administrators have a “not my job” mentality, there’s no way to improve screening for things like that.

    We are mandated reporters of suspected abuse. There is not one administrator (I’m a teacher) and I mean, not one, who will look at an abused kid and say, “not my job.” Because it is their job and they are liable if they don’t report. Just and FYI.

    And I love yours and aimai’s posts.

  33. 33
    sb says:

    @gene108:

    The historical problem of this is teachers can be racist and would shunt all the black kids (now, I guess Latina too) into the at risk category, while assuming the white kids weren’t at risk.

    I had no idea that’s what we were doing historically until you told me so.

    The shit you learn on this blog…

  34. 34
    mistermix says:

    @taylormattd: Tell you what. You get back to me in a year after the latest panacea, longer school hours, is implemented, and tell me what percentage of the money went to art and music, and what percentage went to test prep.

    And thanks for the language policing, there’s not enough of that around here.

  35. 35
    sb says:

    @mistermix: I read the article. They’re going to use that time and money for instruction.

    As for the language policing, well, “throwing money” at the problem is what wingnuts have been saying for, oh, three or four decades at least about public education so, yeah, as a teacher I’m sensitive to that phrase. But it sure seems like what you’re saying is that throwing more money at test instruction or trying to improve test scores through longer hours (paid for by said money) does more harm than good.

    I agree. And again, I also agree that’s where the bulk of the money is going.

  36. 36
    Ron says:

    From everything I can tell, fixing the Rochester school system is not something that can be done in a year, or even 5 years. part of the problem are societal issues like the gangs and drugs. not sure how the school system can fix that.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ohio Mom:
    @sb:

    I probably should have been more clear — the “not my job” attitude I see coming from the administrators is what to do about the kid being abused beyond just reporting it to the proper authorities. Should there be in-school counseling available? Ways to get the kid from their new foster home back to the school they’re familiar with even if the foster home is in a different school district? How can the school make it easier for the kid to heal from their experiences and not have their lives completely disrupted?

    But you can’t show a test score for that, so administrators say, “Not my job.”

  38. 38
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gene108:

    From everything I’ve seen, the current social science about teen pregnancy says that the best way to prevent it is to give the girls hope that they’re going to be able to go to college and do better than their own parents did so they don’t feel like their only option to have an adult life is having a baby, so ironically it might actually be better for AA and Latina students to get “shunted off” into those programs since they would help them plan for college.

  39. 39
    sb says:

    @Mnemosyne: Everything your describing is happening. There have been bad administrators who give short shrift to abused kids (Sally Gauthier, LAUSD–horrific in almost every sense) but the vast majority I’ve encountered have been extremely empathic and there has been follow-up of the kind you’re describing. That said, resources are slim–at my school, we’ve got a part-time psych to go with overwhelmed counselors. We do what we can do but the vast majority of administrators are not the “not my job” type you describe.

    And I wrote what I wrote aobut yours and aimai’s posts without a trace of sarcasm–not to be overly fawning but I really look forward to them.

    Okay, enough. Bed, and grading papers in the morning.

  40. 40
    Ohio Mom says:

    @Mnemosyne: I certainly agree that the emphasis on test scores is completely out of hand. In the last two days, Diane Ravitch has had a couple of posts which really illustrate this.

    The first was on an elementary school teacher in Florida who was named Teacher of the Year last year but rated Unsatisfactory this year: her school as a whole did not raise test scores enough so everyone’s ratings were slashed, even if an individual teacher might have never taught the kids who bombed the test. Did the teacher in the post ever think she earned a bit of job security with that TOTY award? Hah on her, if she did. Easy come, easy go.

    The second post announced that in Louisiana, 50% of a teacher’s rating is now going to be based on their kids’ test scores. Now who in the world would want to take on challenging kids under that stipulation? Taking on teaching just typical kids will be a big risk to one’s chances of keeping one’s job.

    At this rate, teaching is going to transform into a revolving door of a profession — idealistic beginner teachers will soon realize the deck is completely stacked against them, and potential teachers who are more pragmatic won’t even go near an ed course.

    Teaching will probably become in large part the sort of job people take when they can’t get any other, as a stop gap. Then there will be no one left with the ability to care about the kinds of kids you describe. Anyone with anything going for them will be too busy spending their spare moments looking for another line of work, and packing up and leaving when they do.

    Teaching and schools are under siege. Just go visit http://dianeravitch.net/ for a few minutes. It’s a nationwide effort to privatize as much of education as possible and our side is losing.

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