SCHOOL REPORT: 2016 A FAILING GRADE? YOU DECIDE!
As a result of losing students to magnet schools, military schools and charter schools school districts are faced with new fiscal challenges in addition to the budget cuts that were a result of the recent recession.
According to District Administration an online education magazine, “As a money-saving measure many school districts nationwide are exploring innovative group-level groupings and thinking beyond the traditional model to figure out how to continue to deliver appropriate education with fewer funds, and are reconfiguring their schools away from typical K5 elementary school, grades 6 through 8 middle school and grades 9 through 12 high school.”
When corporate raiders take over a company they frequently force a merger with other companies to reduce overhead costs by eliminating dual functions and increase short-term profits. It’s called the economies of scale. This approach frequently sacrifices the strategic vision of each company on the altar of short-term gain for the shareholders: just one of the five stakeholders in any company, the other four being employees, directors, customers and suppliers. The not-so-flattering sobriquet for this manipulative technique is pump-and-dump, and the perpetrators are the vulture-capitalists we all hear about.
On the face of it grouping students by grade level rather than neighborhood makes sense. One building that houses a single grade rather than several grades, or one building that houses only a couple of grades makes management simpler. It’s known as the Princeton Plan and was initiated in Princeton NJ to achieve racial integration fifty years ago.
According to Charles Murphy, the superintendent of the Island Trees New York school district, “The move (the Princeton Plan) has saved the district nearly $500,000 per year during its five years of implementation, largely because staff can be used more efficiently. We were able to level off class size, which allowed us to eliminate some teaching positions and remedial classes that had been duplicated. And that, he says, has likely (the italics are mine) benefitted students academically…….When we instituted the Princeton plan, it wasn’t about education, but it certainly didn’t do any detriment to it. In fact, if we hadn’t done this, things likely would have been worse, educationally speaking, because to achieve the cost savings that we needed to stay in the black, we would have had to raise class sizes in both buildings.”
The article goes on to quote other school districts that are doing the same kind of re-structuring; some because they are gaining students; others who wish to build specialized educational schools such as fine arts or special needs.
I have the greatest sympathy towards school superintendents and school boards who are faced with a wide variety of issues that have little or nothing to do with education such as a fluctuating economy and varying demographics, asbestos in buildings, parents who are not parenting, apathy on the part of voters when it comes to education and teacher turnover rates. And I applaud their efforts to improvise by shifting and reallocating resources. I would do the same; eliminate duplication of functions and spaces. It makes sense.
The only problem I have with all this is that it is the wrong conversation. Yes, we should be budget-conscious. These are our tax dollars. But we should also be talking about the burdens we are putting on our teachers and students. Beginning with this.
Public schools are teaching to the tests! Businesses want people who can think! This is causing an enormous imbalance between supply and demand. And tests are literally scaring our students and their teachers. What follows is an open letter from the teachers of PS 167 in New York City.
“When they enter our school each fall, our sixth-graders write about their hopes and fears for middle school. This year, 35 percent said their greatest fear was failing the state tests. At one of the most socially difficult times of their lives, over a third of our children have more anxiety about standardized tests than any other issue. This year in our school, as in schools across the country, we have seen the number of standardized tests we are required to administer grow sharply, from 25 to more than 50 (in grades 6-10). In the next six weeks alone, each of our sixth-graders will be required to take 18 days of tests: 3 days of state English tests, 3 days of state math tests, 4 days of new city English and math benchmark tests, and 8 days of new English, math, social studies and science city tests to evaluate teacher performance. Additionally, students who are learning English must spend 2-3 more days taking the NYSESLAT test for English Language Learners—a total of 21 days in just the next few weeks. Consider your own education. Yes, high-school students have always faced college entrance and graduation exams. But as elementary or middle-school students prior to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, you likely had no more than a few days of standardized testing every spring (if that). For today’s students, however, these standardized tests have become a centerpiece of their educational experience. Time spent on these tests is time not spent on learning or teaching. The centrality of testing should be shocking, but instead is somehow accepted as commonplace.”
In conclusion. Of course there should be a vigorous debate about how we allocate the $11,000+ we spend on educating each child in the USA and I encourage superintendents to explore ways to manage costs.
We should, however, also be vigorously discussing “What We Teach” and “How We Teach.” Time is running out. 25 other countries that also teach to the tests, test better than we do in in reading, 36 test better in math, and 28 test better in science. Does that sound like a successful return on investment to you?
Alex Terego - Terego Enterprise Training - After 40 successful years in the hi-techbusiness, during which he participated in all phases of computing, beginning with IBM and culminating in selling his voice mail company, Alex became an early thought-leader in 21st Century skills development. He developed his Terego Enterprise Training Method™ when teaching at he Thunderbird School of Global Management and the Eller Graduate School of Business at the University of Arizona.
Check out my previous op-ed on Why Instruction Matters?