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Closing schools causes chaos.

No Child Left Behind makes districts “turnaround” or close schools persistently failing schools. Remove the principal. Replace half the staff. Phase out the school altogether.

Sometimes, the cure is worse than the disease.

Look at what’s happened in Rochester. The first “turnarounds” of Franklin and Edison have been a total failure. Now they’re being closed.

Freddie Thomas lost a well-regarded principal whose time was up under the law. East High’s principal could be next if graduation rates don’t improve.

The replacement schools are showing mixed results.

Meanwhile, the drawn-out process of closing schools is coming under scrutiny.  Teachers say phasing schools out over several years is like attending a long funeral. The Democrat and Chronicle reported:

But that option has proved costly because the district continues paying for administration and overhead at all of the schools, and each year as the student population shrinks the schools have fewer teachers and less money.

“The way that we’re doing this is harmful for kids and harmful for the entire system,” said Interim Superintendent Bolgen Vargas.

There’s growing recognition around the country these “turnarounds” cause major disruptions to neighborhoods, students and staff. Former Superintendent Brizard got virtually no resistance to his phase-out plans in Rochester. But that’s not the case in Chicago, where parents are being urged to fight his school-closing proposals.

School “reform” critic Diane Ravitch questions the zeal of politicians and school officials to wield the ax:

Why are they so eager to persuade the public that a school can “turnaround” in two or three years by firing the staff and starting over? The hyperbole of politicians, policymakers, and foundation leaders serves only to undermine confidence in public education and set the stage for privatization. There is no evidence that their slash-and-burn tactics improve the education of American students.

But as long as NCLB puts a time limit on raising test scores and graduation rates, we will continue to see the shuffling of the deck. Unless there’s a magic bullet out there somewhere.

6 Responses to Closing Schools Causes Chaos

  1. February 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm Donald Murphy responds:

    what a surprise. They don’t replace failed Principals, they move them to another school. For instance a former Principal at Franklin (whose background was a Home Ec. teacher), the school fails, so they move her to Douglass, the school fails, so they move her to Edison (an Engineering school!), the school fails. Her predecessor at Edison was a Elementary School Principal, the staff takes a vote of No Confidence, they Move him to the Engineering school…the school starts the slippery slope to failure. And the staff the Board hires? Cabana boys, illegal immigrants, Liberian Warlords, Gym teachers who the RCSD turns into Engineering teachers, Unlicensed and Uncertified teachers by the hundreds…need I go on?

  2. As long as we continue to work within the paradigm of self contained urban school districts, with children of poverty as the majority, nothing will change significantly. I am in favor of thinking out of the box; dissolve urban districts all together and start fresh. Creating boarding schools or commune campuses in rural settings. Or have each suburban district be forced to take a piece of the urban pie. Education must start at birth and resonate though the teen years.

  3. February 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm Jim Webster responds:

    NCLB is a farce today, was a farce when conceived by a clueless POTUS, and will continue to be a farce until overturned.
    How much of a quality education is a student receiving when a teacher is forced to teach to a test? Where is the critical thought, and critical learning?

  4. @ JimWebster
    “teaching to the test” has gotten bad press. Critical thought and critical learning are very much part of the tests. There is nothing wrong with testing as a benchmark,, as a minimum expectation of acquired skills and content, Without such tools, our urban children would be passed along without knowing much of anything,.. based on what they do.. not what they know. The problem is not having tests.. the problem is that the standards of the tests are way below what us expected in the suburbs, and the urban districts can barely get the kids passing at these lowest levels.

  5. February 9, 2012 at 10:15 am Reggie Henderson responds:

    All these city eductation topics in The Rochesterian are certainly a worthy topic of interest for Rochesterians. But I guess due to some ideal of a reporter reporting, and not injecting their own opinions and trying to remain unbiased. We miss the opinion of Rachel Barnhart herself who went to the Rochester city school Marshall, which is not a school of choice, and she has been very successful. Her opinion on Rochester city schools would be nice to know. What also will be interesting is what she will do if she chooses to have children someday (or is she married with children already?). No matter how satisfied she might have been with her education, or how much she might believe in the system, I would bet that she prefers to have her own children go to school with other children who have more educated parents with more stable home lives.

  6. February 9, 2012 at 10:25 am Reggie Henderson responds:

    @Jim Webster @Susan I disagree with you both. I am for standardized testing, and the standards of those tests are not “way below what is expected in the suburbs”. I agree with the tests as a method to evaluate students, I don’t agree with the tests as a method to evaluate teachers and principals. Teachers and principals can’t always turn around the life of a child that comes from a home where they do not get the support they need. Teachers and principals should be evaluated, but students test performance should be one part of many, somehow taking into account the students home environment, the students abilities, just observing the teacher and school might be the most effective.

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