Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What planet was I on?

On what planet would a high school going from one of the top ten in the state to one of the bottom ten be a cause for celebration? A hallelujah, born again moment. Where staying the course and watching it happen is considered strong leadership. Only on the Mork and Mendy public education planet.

I only went to the state's "public" hearing at South Side last night. As expected almost all the speakers were officialdom or teachers. Less than a handful of parents spoke. They were all committed to the reform bandwagon. Amazing what the threat of a state takeover did for their motivation after five decades of excuses. Like the JG said this morning they all asked for more time, if scores didn't improve this year.

That's probably what they'll get and I can't say I disagree with that, although they did nothing for six years. One year to turn around the deplorable situation at SSHS will not be nearly enough and the teachers who signed on to fix these schools would get the shaft if they're taken over after only a year. But as I said last night to Mr. Bennett and Co., continuous improvement will require continuous pressure from the state. The district showed that it couldn't reform itself without intervention and the continued threat of state takeover has to be maintained. The problem is really in the middle schools, and unless that's fixed, the high schools will have a tough time improving.

So stay tuned.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

D-Day the 21st of June

In case you're among the (less than) 30% of Americans who know about the D-Day on the 6th of June, 1944 this is not that D-Day. That D-Day the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe and eventually my former country from the Wehrmacht. On the June 21 D-Day the Indiana Department of Public education will land at my former high school Fort Wayne South Side to liberate it from Wendy and Mark GiaQuinta. Well, I hope, maybe.

If they don't show sufficient improvement in the 6th year of academic probation under PL 221 SSHS (and NSHS) could be taken over by the state and put under new management (read charter school). The state will conduct a public hearing on the 21 st to get community input on that or other options. The hearing will precede the release of the latest test scores so an actual decision will have to wait on the data, which will be based on the delta between the ECA scores and the 8 th grade scores for the same kids the previous year. Since these two high schools are dependent on the k-8 schools that feed them, I don't see much chance of significant improvement until the feeder schools improve. That will take years. But there's probably not much chance the state would step in right away. Most likely they will get a pass for a year or two.

Both papers have recently run lengthy articles on the LEAD school process,which by and large were pretty well balanced, outside of Karen Frisco's tiresome, obligatory potshot at charter schools. Of course the district claimed in both JG articles that they consider this process as having started ten years ago. No way. Ten years ago Wendy and the FWEA were concerned only about getting all the buildings air conditioned. That turned into the $850 million remodeling wish list rejected in a remonstrance by property owners. Losing that may have caused a change priority but they didn't get serious until the state threatened to step in last year. That's what it took get the FWEA to "do the right thing".

The SSHS hearing will start at 5 pm in the (air conditioned) auditorium. According to IDE director of school improvement Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, the meeting will be conducted by Tony Bennett, who will talk for 5 minutes followed by Wendy who will explain the program at SSHS. So the IDE won't be dodging bullets on Omaha Beach. Instead they will face a barrage of feel good propaganda. Hopefully GiaQuinta can hold himself in check. After that the members of the public can talk for 2-3 minutes each, but they have to sign up ahead of time. I wouldn't put it past Wendy to stack the sign up sheet with friendly speakers, so you might want to get there early. They'll be leaving for NSHS at around 7 pm. Actually, I'd recommend writing Ms Kwiatkowski a note and sending it in the mail or giving it to her at the meeting. Written input will be considered in their recommendation.

I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Social promotion is a lie

Yesterday the NS published an article quoting David Chow, superintendent of the Anderson, Indiana public schools who said that social promotion is a disservice to students. Today the NS followed with an editorial which put the burden on public schools to justify continuing the practice. Social promotion is a lie to the student who thinks he is doing well enough to get a diploma that's not worth the paper it's written on. It's a lie to the taxpayers who think their sacrifice pays for graduates who can meet meet a minimum standard. It's a lie to the business community and colleges who think a high school graduate is prepared for the next step. Most important it's a lie that keeps the money flowing.

The blanket social promotion practiced by districts like FWCS is an admission of failure so obvious that they won't even talk about it. They're afraid of a lower graduation rate if kids are told the truth and held accountable. What's the difference between a drop out and a kid who gets a worthless diploma? None for all practical purposes. But it's proof of a failing system with a gutless school board and administration.