Today, all heck broke loose at Northeast College Preparatory and Northwest College Preparatory high schools, which share the old Frederick Douglass High School building. (The names of those schools, which have nothing at all to do with places on a map, have always irked me.)
These schools were started in 2006 and partnered with the College Board. They have smaller enrollment, about 500 each, and higher graduation rates of around 75 percent in 2012. They were touted as places where kids beat the odds, graduate and go onto college.
Last school year, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas announced a Wegmans executive would conduct an experiment of sorts at Northeast. The school would have an extended day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Students would eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at school. They would be able to take all kinds of classes administered by community volunteers. They would get to learn yoga, or take cooking and dance classes. This intense focus was to ensure no kid was lost and the opportunity gap would be closed.
But the project didn’t work out. Parents and kids didn’t buy in. You can’t leave volunteers alone with students. The whole thing was rushed. School now ends at 3:45 p.m., according to the district website. It also appears the College Board is no longer an integral part of Northeast or Northwest.
Now the schools are battling a chaotic environment, and reports indicate today wasn’t an isolated incident. Maybe there’s still awesome work happening in this building, but enough has happened to take the shine off. We will be watching to see if the early promise has been sustained.
Something else happened today. The district announced it studied Edison Tech’s multiple schools and found them lacking. Edison was broken up into smaller schools by former superintendent Manuel Rivera 10 years ago. Less than a decade later, Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard began phasing out schools at Edison and adding others. Today’s report found all the rejiggering made no difference. Kids are not getting ready for college or anything else. The district wants to make Edison one school, with a career and technology focus. Perhaps BOCES will take over.
No discussion of school reinventions is complete without mentioning Franklin High School. Former superintendent Clifford Janey created multiple schools on the campus. They were also deemed unsuccessful and are being phased out.
Faced with terrible results, the district is not afraid of trying new things. Vargas opened All City High School and then cut its budget in half in the space of one year. The superintendent even wants to turn over some schools to colleges.
Meantime, a whole bunch of charter schools are coming to town, ready to try their own version of something new.
All of these experiments are costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Former Mayor Tom Richards used to lament all the new programs coming and going in our schools:
“We must be dependable and stable—like adults are supposed to be. Our children must be able to depend on us. At its most fundamental level, this need for dependability—for stability—should not be overcome by some debate over educational philosophy. Or by which group of adults gets to decide which philosophy is correct. It means that we pick some fundamental programs and approaches and that we stick to them.”
Update: Here’s what RPD said happened. Took them 24 hours to respond and it’s far more detailed than what district put out there.
Links of the Day:
– It is astounding and disturbing that the state budget director had no idea so many people live in poverty in Rochester. The state seems clueless when it comes to the plight of cities.
– COMIDA does most of its work behind the scenes. When it’s time for the board to vote, decisions have already been made.
– I did an interview today with the City of Rochester’s transportation specialist about bicycle boulevards.
– Did the police really need to read Philip Seymour Hoffman’s diary – and then go blabbing about it?
– I LOVE this column about the ridiculous hysteria surrounding the sleepwalking man statue.
Tweet of the Day:
Best thing about the @MedleyCentre parody account is that the handle wasn't taken. Also the worst thing.
— Nestor Ramos (@Nestor_DandC) February 12, 2014