The headline could’ve come from The Huntsville Times, but the article “Schools Data Show Chasm: Gap Widens Between Haves, Have-nots” is from The Wall Street Journal:
Of the top 10 schools, all but two screen some of the students, through tests or interviews or both. One school stands out: P.S. 172 Beacon School of Excellence, a Brooklyn school with 80% Hispanic population, is no. 5 on the list. The K-5 school takes kids from the neighborhood without testing or screening them.
Beacon’s feat is all the more impressive given that the state said the new proficiency standards hit black and Hispanic kids the hardest. Among Hispanic children across the state, 65% proficiency in English last year turned into 37% this year.
On the low side, the 10 worst-performing schools mostly have troubled histories. Three, including the first on the list, are schools that Mayor Bloomberg tried to close this year, but a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers and the NAACP stopped him. The mayor vowed to try again next year.
Here is a great article on the Beacon School (P.S. 172) from The New York Times “Brooklyn School Scores High Despite Poverty”:
To ace the state standardized tests, which begin on Monday, Public School 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, finds money for coaches in writing, reading and math. Teachers keep detailed notes on each child, writing down weaknesses and encouraging them to repeat tasks. There is after-school help and Saturday school…
But on the tests, P.S. 172, also called the Beacon School of Excellence, is coming close — even though 80 percent of its students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch, nearly a quarter receive special education services, and many among its predominately Hispanic population do not speak English at home…
The school’s approach, while impressive in its attention to detail, starts with a simple formula: “Teach, assess, teach, assess,” said Jack Spatola, its principal since 1984.
Mr. Spatola attributed the coaches and other extra help to careful budgeting and fighting for every dollar from the Department of Education; the school’s cost per pupil, in fact, is lower than the city’s average…
While about one-third of the students are still learning English, there are no bilingual classes. They were eliminated years ago at the request of parents, who noticed that children placed directly in English-only classes, with extra help from teachers of English as a Second Language, were scoring higher…
Mr. Spatola defended his laser-beam approach, noting that his school still had art, music and dance instruction. “They are not asking us to teach skills that the children don’t need to know,” he said. “It’s not a test,” he added. “It’s learning.”
Back here in Huntsville, it is our responsibility to vote on August 24th for Board of Education Districts 2, 3, and 4. Candidates running to replace Doug Martinson are David Blair, Emily Elam, Carole Fandre, and Court Heller. District 3 candidates are incumbent Jennie Robinson, Mark Huff, and Walker McGinnis. District 4 candidates are incumbent Topper Birney and Tiffiney Garner. The Huntsville Times has a summary of the City races “22 candidates qualify to run for Huntsville City Council, school board”.
Considering the weaknesses and criticism of the current process for evaluating the superintendent (PEPE), what process do candidates recommend for evaluation? I’m certain that any process “that gave Moore a perfect score” is deeply flawed.
Jennie Robinson noted that Moore received all 52 points possible in the Alabama Professional Education Personnel Evaluation Program, or PEPE. That score was tallied despite less-than-perfect evaluations from board members.
Hiring and evaluating the superintendent is a key duty of the board, Robinson said.
“And if we have an instrument that does not permit us to accurately evaluate the superintendent, I think there’s a problem.” she said.
Which of the incumbents voted to approve the construction of a new Lee High School in an undersized lot requiring students to cross the busiest railroad tracks in the City to use the sports fields? Vote those dummies out (imagine the Dale Peterson ricochet sound effect).
How do candidates plan to address the terrible test scores in parts of the City and falling test scores in schools that used to be more competitive when compared to Madison City schools?
How do City schools plan to compete against the growth of private schools and homeschooling (which are a valid response to the decline of City schools)?
What plans do candidates have for dealing with excess capacity in some areas and overcrowding in others (another symptom of the abyss into which the City schools seem to be spiralling)?