[Video at the link now because it was auto-playing]
This is Anibel Soler, principal of East High School, an urban Rochester school that’s been told by the state of New York that it needs to shut down or take on new management. Soler is addressing the school board, advocating that they ignore the state:
East has 1,700 students in grades 7 through 12. Seventy-seven percent are low-income. Fifteen percent speak English as a second language. Twenty percent have disabilities. The graduation rate is the same as the district average – 43 percent.
“You cannot find another urban school district in the country that is performing without some kind of filter, without some kind of way to pick kids, pick staff, do something different,” Soler told the board. “The beautiful thing about East High, we don’t do that. We take what we get. We do the best we can. We work hard every day and we’re proud of it.”
Soler implored the school board to ask the state a simple question about urban school transformations, “Show me where it’s worked.”
This is a district where kids entering kindergarten have a vocabulary that’s an order of magnitude smaller than kids entering in suburban districts. We’ve tried chocolate Jesus superintendents, stretching the school day and school year, and teaching to the test until hell wouldn’t have it any more. And still the schools are “failing”. Now the state wants to re-arrange the deck chairs on this Titanic one more time to avoid facing the fact that the performance of the schools here are little more than an honest measurement of the deep structural issues of the society in which they’re placed. As Soler himself points out, there’s no way the school board will engage in civil disobedience, but it would be pretty goddam interesting to see some school board somewhere say “enough” to the reformers. Instead, we’re going to bring on the next set of dancing horses.