Sunday, December 20, 2009

JG Right on Target Today

Both Kelly Soderlund's front page article and Karen Francisco's editorial about the troubles of FWCS were straightforward and right on the mark today. Two points were particularly telling. One were Steve Brace's comments that his job is saving teachers jobs. There should be no doubt that's the primary mission of the Fort Wayne "Education" Association.

The other was Karen's line "It will happen because there is no other choice." Not because as Wendy keeps claiming "It's the right thing to do". Why didn't they change when they had a choice? Isn't that what ("proven") leadership is about?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Social Promotion and High School Principals

The FWCS layoffs of assistant principals shouldn't come as a surprise in light of state budget cuts. Although FWCS will try to spin this as part of their shakeup to get "Race to the Top" funding , it's purely a money issue. In removing the principals at North Side and South Side high schools, however, Wendy and the board probably think that this will be seen by the state as a serious effort at reform in light of the recent visits by the Cambridge Group to diagnose the reasons for their imminent failure under PL221. Two years away from possible state takeover and perhaps, God forbid, conversion to charter schools, these two high schools (well, at least SSHS when I went there) were once among the best in the state.

There may be legitimate concerns about the effectiveness of these principals. But the success of a high school is determined almost entirely by the quality of the students from the middle schools that feed into it. When almost half of the students are socially promoted through these middle schools into the high schools, unprepared and doomed to failure, the high schools and their principals don't have a chance. Social promotion is the equivalent to the moral hazard in bailing out failing banks. In a school system the high schools, being at the end of the chain, suffer the consequences of a misguided attempt to decrease the drop out rate.

Unless the district changes its blanket policy of social promotion, the new principals (sacrificial lambs) will suffer the same fate as their predecessors. FWCS may hope that these changes may turn these schools around within the two year deadline the state has imposed, but they won't.

On the bright side, Don Willis is planning to open a new Imagine charter school on Pontiac Street in the former Fruehauf headquarters building. You go, Don! Keep on truckin'!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wendy, you can't be serious? Finally?

At last night's FWCS board meeting, Wendy Robinson gave a presentation about jumping on Obama's "Race to the Top" bandwagon. She repeatedly emphasized that she was finally going to reform the system instead of just talking about reforming it, not because of the threat of closing failing schools, turning them into charters, or mandated "turnarounds"/ "transformations" of those schools by the state if they can't get their test scores up. It's not even about getting a cut of Arne Duncan's $4.3 billion handout to states and schools who go along with the program. We're doing it because "IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO" for the students, their parents and a community footing the bill that deserves to see improved results.

Seven years ago at a town hall meeting at SSHS I asked Wendy what her plans were for raising test scores to comply with NCLB. She didn't have a plan. She and everybody else running our district blew it off. Apparently back then it wasn't "THE RIGHT THING TO DO". The demographics were too tough. Now seven years later, with the demographics even tougher, it is "THE RIGHT THING TO DO" but not for any of the reason above. School board president Mark GiaQuinta did offer up a valid reason, saying that having schools in our district designated as "failing" could prompt parents who didn't know better to send their kids elsewhere. Parents like, oh..., for example, school board president Mark GiaQuinta who sent his three kids to Canterbury although they live within walking distance of South Side HS.

Whether anything happens is now is up to the teachers who have to agree to a change in their contract to allow their evaluations to be linked to standardized test scores. So now Wendy and Steve Brace and company have to come up with a way to do that that's palatable to the state, the feds and the teachers. But I'm sure they'll go along with the program because the teachers also believe "IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO".

Hey, Steve, if you're out there, I did pat several teachers on the back today like you suggested. But if they're going to go have to go along with merit based pay, you should at least see to it that they don't have to put up with social promotion. If you don't, every high school except Snyder will soon be at the mercy of the state. And you know it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Don Willis must be doing something right

Anyone who can trigger a personal tirade by Karen 'Frisco has to be doing something right. In a rambling editorial rant the other day she accused Willis of saying the public education system has to die. Whether Willis said that or not is irrelevant. The truth is that urban systems like FWCS are dying all on their own. FWCS is not being killed by Willis but by an academic decline that forces middle class parents to avoid the system by moving, staying out of the district or sending their kids to private school like school board members Steve Corona and Mark GiaQuinta did. At least Willis isn't a hypocrite.

FWCS is dying a slow, agonizing death because the teachers union, the administration and worst of all the board can't adapt to the reality of urban education. They fear change too much. If Willis can speed up inevitable collapse with his charter schools, FWCS students, parents and taxpayers should thank him. After all, they shoot horses don't they?