Oh, seemingly intractable social inequalities: Fewer than 15% of undergrads at the top colleges come from the poorer half of American families. At specialized high schools in New York City, only 5-7% of attendees are students of color. Chronic absenteeism and poverty are correlated. And, I'm putting this blog to rest.
Creating a "home" at school, a safety net for kids who may have limited parental supervision or positive role modeling, creates the best chance for students to succeed. For teachers, this represents an added layer of responsibility, one for which we can't expect recognition within our formal evaluations, but which is nonetheless a vital component of doing our jobs well.
Both liberal and conservative approaches to poverty treat recipients of social mobility programs as "hollow men," shaped only by economic structures, as opposed to individuals surrounded by certain values and attitudes. These programs tackle only the economic underpinnings, and not the social ones. What role can character education play, and how does it work at the school level?
Rather than thinking of oneself as a "bad" or "good" teacher in a macro way, simply focusing on best practices that have succeeded (and on the ones that have not) in our recounting of our work in the classroom is the most surefire way for us to improve our pedagogy, and to better inform each other's.
Teacher turnover nationwide is 15% per year--and 20% in high-needs schools. Almost half of teachers leave within their first five years. With all the perks--free or subsidized health care, union representation, and all that vacation time--why are so many teachers "dropping out" of the profession?
I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for the teachers and principal who participated in this cheating scandal, despite its inherent dishonesty. The students in this middle school were learning, as one of the teachers interviewed in the article points out; however, they simply came in without requisite skills to meet certain scores on these tests. By changing the kids' answers to boost scores, the school was able receive extra funds and grants to provide students with a variety of clubs, trips, enrichment opportunities, and most importantly, avoid closure.
A study by the Annenberg Group showed that in fact, overwhelmingly, these late-enrollers are placed almost exclusively in failing schools, perpetuating the intractably low graduation rates, and thus giving Department of Education higher-ups seemingly air-tight reasons to close down the "Big Schools" for low performance and create new "Small Schools" to replace them.
Ultimately I think the work of fostering good social behavior is equally important to endowing kids with good academic skills, and that schools--for better of worse--are responsible for both.
When the test on which teachers will be evaluated simply offers no incentive for students to complete it, it's hard to imagine a worse indicator of teacher efficacy.
What struggling students most need is time one-on-one with teachers, or at the very least, time with a teacher in small groups. But when class size is capped at 34, as it is in high schools under the NYC Department of Education, it's nearly impossible for these students to get their needs met.