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Who's For, Against Letting Students Transfer To Better Schools

Jonathan Kozol is for it. The USA Today editorial page is for it. But not -- why am I surprised? -- the National School Boards Association. In a pro/con debate on student transfers from yesterday, the paper comes out saying that there should be more city-suburb transfer programs like the ones in St. Louis (Let urban kids transfer out) -- and that NCLB's weak transfer provision should be beefed up to create more real opportunities. But NSBA president Norm Wooten says no -- transferring out is not popular with families and wastes school funds (here). Funny thing is, NSBA represents mostly districts that would be receiving students --and money--for transfers. Maybe they think this is a stalking horse for plans to abolish district boundaries entirely.

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The article makes us sound so rosy! Perhaps the article should have mentioned what has happened in the aftermath of the STL public schools losing accreditation; County districts have all scrambled to say why they can't take the City kids who are now legally able to transfer with their ed $$'s. NCLB backfires. Why would I want a new 11th grader coming in from a failing school district (and we have three in the metro region) who is 3 or 4 years -- if we're lucky -- below grade level and in one or more of the subgroups? In April, he's tested along with everyone else. Factor in 10 or 20 of those kids, and now we're not making AYP. Even Clayton has said they aren't taking the newly eligible transfers. The transfer kids are great to have in class -- I really enjoy teaching them -- but you can see how NCLB has suddenly make them a risky proposition.

Programming Students for Success Means Equity and Access for All: We Must Press On

By Phyllis C. Murray

There are many schools which are programming students for success. Their work is already worthy of much praise and emulation. The most recent is Green Dot.

"Green Dot has gained widespread visibility as it currently operates ten public charter high schools in Los Angeles’ highest-need communities that vastly outperform comparable traditional public high schools. The success of Green Dot is based on its “Six Tenets of High Performing Public Schools” calling for public schools to: (1) be safer and no larger than 500 students each; (2) implement a college preparatory curriculum for all students; (3) empower principals, teachers, parents and students to own all key decisions related to budgets, curriculum and hiring; (4) add more dollars to classrooms and significantly increase teacher pay; (5) value and support parent participation; (6) stay open later for community use. By implementing this model, Green Dot has produced real results for its students, graduating 98 percent of its seniors. In addition, 78 percent go on to four-year universities. These results are unmatched within the Los Angeles Unified School District where Green Dot currently operates."

Another High School addresses the problem of the Plight of Minorities in the Bronx inner-city.

"The Eagle Academy For Young Men was developed on the premise that “Excellence, both in character and scholarship, opens doors and provides a bridge to equality.” This school has a “strategic partnership,” whose partners include students, administrators, teachers, parents, mentors and community supporters, all of whom are focused and committed to the school’s guiding principles of: Academic Excellence, Mentoring, Leadership, Integrity, Character Development and Community Service. The Eagle Academy prepares its students to join the ranks of future leaders in society. Professionals from a wide array of careers act as mentors to provide scholarship and internship opportunities. They are successful male role models who partner with students in their development inside and outside of the classroom environment."

Specific Programs in Westchester County High Schools have successfully targeted an at-risk population..
The Woodlands Individualized Senior Experience; Ossinings’ High Hopes Expectations College Track; Byram Hills’ Intel Science Program; and Mount Vernon High School’s Business Club, are proof positive that there are already solutions to the heightening dropout rate among African American Males in Westchester public schools. These programs should be replicated nationwide.

And in order to replicate these programs, we need to see a reinvestment of economic capital in education. Then, we will see a revitalization of structured environments in school communities. We will see new programs which provide the skills and develop the competencies needed so that all of our students will become productive members of society.

An investment of economic capital would assure the development of new schools, state of the art libraries, supervised playgrounds and after school programs. New capital investments would seed programs of prevention and intervention for our at - risk students and increase guidance and counseling services to end a child's cycle of failure and frustration. Failure and frustration unabated, far too often, translate into assaults, disruptions in classrooms and heightening violent incident statistics.

If we are to continue to be a pluralistic society, we must make sure that the road to becoming a productive citizen : the road to being the best that we can be, is not impeded by unfair testing which leads to unfair tracking, and unfair labeling. Every child must be given an equal opportunity to achieve and succeed.

It is obvious that all parents want their children to succeed. However, if parents have not traveled along the pathway which leads to success,they do not know which road to take. They will need a guide for their children. Without a guide, success may become a dream deferred from one generation to another.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators/guidancecounselors/ mentors to invest in these human souls along with parents. This is the "strategic partnership" which is sorely needed as the child is programmed from PreK to Grade 12. And certainly, if we are not a part of the solution, perhaps we are part of the problem.
Phyllis C. Murray
District 8 Region 2
Bronx, NY

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