Good intentions no matter how well placed, can’t replace good information

“Parents demand plan to fix failing Boys and Girls High School.”
“Schools were closed Monday, but two dozen parents showed up at Boys & Girls HS to demand that city officials disclose how they’re going to fix the troubled school. “We have been patient, waiting for a plan to turn around this institution — and now here we are with no principal, no leadership from City Hall, and no plan on what we’re going to do next,” said Darlene Boston, whose sons attended the Brooklyn school before dropping out. The Department of Education lumped the historic Bedford-Stuyvesant high school into a group of 23 struggling schools it plans to upgrade. But five weeks into the school year, no plan has been made public.”–NY Post 10/14/14

The good news is that the parents and community care; the bad news is that the type of plan they are seeking, is not coming…

A few basic thoughts…

I truly believe that these parents and community members are sincere in their efforts. And I respect what they are trying to do. But, there is no “central district office plan” to improve a school, and make it work for children. The most gifted and talented chancellor or superintendent can’t lead an individual school. The important role that the NYCDOE (or any central board) can play is to (1) provide the resources; i.e. materials, expertise (instructional and leadership coaches), partnerships, connections to city social service agencies, supplemental (in and out of classroom projects) funding, etc… (2) If the school has a shocking 35% graduation rate; that means there are probably a large number of students who are “under-credited” and “overage”. I don’t care if you bring John Dewey back and make him the principal; this group will continue to fail if they don’t receive a radically different “treatment” other than the present 9-12 grades, four-five year format. The 35% also suggest that a majority of students entering the 9th grade are not equipped with the ELA and Math skills to do high school work (this is the definition of programmed for failure). This means that a radically different curriculum, and bell, day, year schedule, is needed for these very weak students; that would allow for the bridging of pre-high school learning objectives, with high school learning objectives. Further, (there is the schools culture), without a pedagogy of empowerment (essentially when the entire school community goes on an educational success mission), most of the students will be doomed upon entering the 9th grade; they need a sense of a collective mission! And (3) here the parents and community can work together with the NYCDOE; but this may be hard for some to take. The school must be transformed into a productive learning environment for the majority of students, who do want to learn. Quality learning time is essential for these students to even have a chance to succeed. Students (more than likely the “under-over” group) know that the school offers no hope for them in its present format; therefore they are going to disrupt the learning environment; which means. More students are not going to be able to learn (a vicious cycle). Finally, (also a parents community, NYDOE effort) (4) Protect and defend the principal; as any plan that would raise the level of academic achievement in a school facing this level of challenges ; and because of B&GHS’s demographic profile, will definitely ruffle some feathers; and will absolutely place the principal in danger. But with a 35% graduation rate, any timid or half-hearted plan won’t work; no matter who puts it together.