What Would Work/Help?

The Southend and the struggle for better schools. This has been an issue since I started as a parent in the district. So I have some questions for anyone who works there, lives there, grew up there or has children in schools there.

1) When we say "southend" do we mean southeast, southwest and West Seattle? I perceive those 3 areas as fairly different (with SE and SW more alike than West Seattle).

2) Regardless of what hasn't happened in the past, if the Board and the Superintendent said they would grant 3 things they promise to do for at least a year that schools/parents want, what would they be? Would schools say the same things as parents? Or is there a big gap between what parents want and schools want

3) What was working in the past that got taken away?

4) Would stronger principals at all these schools make a difference?

5) What is the main thing(s) that parents could do?

6) What is the main thing(s) the communities around the schools could do?

7) What is the main barrier from the district preventing parents from being more involved in their child's school?

8) If we asked the students, what are they likely to say?


anonymous said…
I don't live in the south end so probably shouldn't be posting, but I have seen a dramatic improvement in the effort that Eckstein is making to address struggling students this year and want to share.

Both new this year:

Homework Cafe:The Cafe’s goal is to improve student achievement by providing a place, during school hours, for students to do homework and other missing assignments. The Cafe also emphasizes to students that homework is important and that all students are expected to complete their work. Students who are missing work are referred to the Cafe by their teachers. The Cafe takes place during lunch and students are required to attend and continue to attend until they are caught up.

Saturday school: On November 20th, Eckstein will launch Saturday School, a new intervention program for students who have four or more missing assignments and a grade of D or E in a class. Teachers will refer students to Saturday School and counselors will call the student’s home to let families know that the student is expected to attend from 8:30 – 11:30 am. Students who successfully turn in all missing work by Thursday afternoon after being referred to Saturday School will be excused from attending. The purpose of this intervention is to encourage students to take responsibility for their work and to give them additional time and support if they are stuggling to complete it.

These seem like some basic strategies that could work across the district to provide some intervention and at school support for struggling students.
Zebra (or Zulu) said…
I am as far South as you can get before leaving the city limits...Rainier Beach. That's the Southend. And yet, the district generally refers to the Southend as most of the schools below the Montlake Cut.

I define the Southend as the area where, on average, one can hear firearms discharged in the vicinity of your home at least once per week. That would be anywhere below Hillman City.

The Southend is where gang graffiti marks stop signs, fire hydrants, fences, 7-11's, and most of the vertical surfaces around public schools.

The Southend is where you lock your car doors when entering your car as well as leaving it.

The Southend is where kids leave school and go, not to soccer practice, but empty homes, bad TV and low income housing.

My Southend is where the very poor and slightly middle class co-mingle in an uneasy truce for the sake of survival. If you don't live here, you have no idea how hard it is for Southend students to make it day-to-day with nothing to do, no place to go.

It is cynical and callous for SPS Administrators to blame teachers for the failing Southend School problems. If you want to get a real picture of the problem just hang out at the corner of Henderson and Rainier for an hour on a warm school night. If the mobile police station is not there, you will see from dozens to a hundred SPS students loitering unsupervised when they should be at home studying. Perhaps our Superintendent and her staff could go out and talk with these lost souls once per week. It would certainly do more good than any of the other useless education endeavors they have foisted on us down here in the last ten years.

The only viable fix for Southend Schools is economic redevelopment in the Southend; a massive program designed to create jobs, activities, parks, infrastructure, and support during the transition.

See: http://seattlecrime.com/2010/09/08/seattle-police-call-in-the-cavalry-at-rainier-and-henderson
Excellent! I think that's just the kind of basics we should be starting with first. You could probably get parent tutors if you needed more help.
ParentofThree said…
At the highschool level we need to acknowledge that not all students are going to go to a four year college and do a better job of offering programs that would have them earning a living upon graduation. In my day that was called Voc Tech, where I grew up not only need we have voc tech programs in the schools, but an entire Voc Tech school. Several of my friends went through these programs and have done very well in life.

Not every student will go into Science, Math, Engineer and Technology so lets offer up something for these kids...
anonymous said…
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anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
SPS does offer some voc ed opportunities. Follow the link below for a list of all off site, for credit, voc ed opportunities!


Here is a description of just one of the programs, CWEST:

C-West provides experience in the skilled trades through classroom learning and paid internships. Skilled trades include crafts such as carpentry, plumbing, auto mechanics, electrical work and more. The class is based at Rainier Beach High School and meets from 12:30-2:15 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students meet at an off campus internship site from 12:05-3:30. Students will be earn money as they work under the supervision of a journey-level mentor. Internship sponsors include City of Seattle, King County, King County Dept. of Transportation, Painters and Allied Trades, and Port of Seattle.

I also recently read that Kay Smith-Blum is suggesting having a CTE program where students build the portables for SPS. Sounded interesting, and would tie nicely into a voc ed program.

And here is a nifty chart of all the voc and tec ed opportunities listed by school:


It's on the SPS website, but sadly hasn't been updated since 2007/08

Vocational education is a great option for kids that aren't college bound, and I fully support it, but it's no replacement for true academic intervention and support for struggling students.
One thing I can truly agree with MGJ on is the CTE Center the district wants to build to support vocational ed. It's one thing the district is pushing the state for funding this year. So there is progress in that direction but internships like C-West sound great.
wseadawg said…
Pof3, you're right on the mark, but unfortunately, what you suggest is verboten in today's society, because separate pathways are labeled as the boogeyman called "tracking." Very, very politically incorrect to suggest that all kids are not, in fact, the same, have varied interests, and should not be measured on the same standardized tests, over and over and over again.

Standardization and one-size-fits all is what the Ed Reform movement is all about, and little Johnny will get those scores up, come hell or high water, or his teachers will have hell to pay. Does it matter what little Johnny wants and is good at? No. Diversity and needs? Be damned! "No Child Left Behind." Mechanics, technicians, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, electricians? Not in the reformers' vocabulary. Get it someplace outside the schoolhouse.

I took shop and loved it. Still use it today in my garage, while working in my white collar world 5 days a week. Something about working with one's hands that gives one compassion for his fellow man that has to do it for a living. Not what the upper class and professionals want. Sure as hell not what Wall Street, or Arne Duncan want.
Greg said…
ParentofThree wrote, "Not every student will go into Science, Math, Engineer and Technology"

But, I hope you will agree that every student should have a chance to go into science, math, engineering, and technology?
Charlie Mas said…
1) I think that when most people say "southend" they mean the part of the city south of the Ship Canal. Some exclude Queen Anne and Magnolia. I often refer to the part of the City south of Downtown, which divides the city along, say, Olive or Denny. That division excludes Queen Anne, Magnolia, Eastlake, Capitol Hill, Montlake, and Madison Park.

There are certainly affluent neighborhoods in the southend and low income neighborhoods in the north-end, but using Denny instead of the Ship Canal as the dividing line sharpens the contrast.

2) Three promises that I would want from the district? a) Early and effective interventions for every student, K-12, who is working below grade level. b) Assurance that advanced learning opportunities are real and effective. c) Freedom to deviate from District-mandated instructional materials and strategies in favor of other materials and strategies that hold more promise for the students.

3) I don't know that anything ever worked across the region, but I can't help thinking that there was more collaboration among schools initiated by the schools than there is now. I could be completely wrong about that.

4) Yes. Stronger principals make a big difference. But then we're going to need a while to define principal quality.

5) Student families could demonstrate the high value they place on education.

6) Communities could work to make the school zones and the walk zone safer.

7) The main barrier from the district in family involvement is little regard they have for student family input. What's the point of getting involved if nothing you say or do matters?

8) I think students want choice and challenge, which reflects respect. I think students want teachers to bring more order to the rowdy classrooms.
Momma Snark said…
I lived in the south end for 8 years and taught at a public school with a diverse population (not in the SPS), and I agree with some of the ideas here.

Absolutely principals make a huge difference, and YES, we need to define what "quality principals" might mean. In addition, the policy of moving principals around like chess pieces every few years or so needs to STOP. It takes a while to get to know a community and earn its trust; a promising principal should be allowed to stay at a school as long as possible to create strong relationships and a sense of accountability to that community. This goes for the principals at "successful" or "affluent" schools as well.

I have to respectfully disagree with Charlie on one point: "The main barrier from the district in family involvement is little regard they have for student family input. What's the point of getting involved if nothing you say or do matters?"

There is no "one" main barrier to family involvement in schools that are struggling (or have many struggling students). Having worked on this issue myself at a diverse public school, I found there were MANY barriers, depending on the family's circumstances. Among the top few:

1) Work schedules and/or childcare issues
2) Language and/or cultural barriers (for example, confusion on what is expected from parents as far as "involvement" goes)
3) A sense that the district staff and school faculty should be making the decisions about what happens in the classroom, etc. (many parents at my old school were taken aback by our efforts to get feedback on what their children's education should "look like" - weren't we the professionals?).
4) And, I hate to say it, but apathy (or something like that) plays a role for some parents. I used to call each and every parent of my 150 students at the beginning of the year and before conference time. My goal was to make a personal connection with the families and, of course, get people to show up at school and feel connected to what we were doing with their kids.

I cannot tell you how many parents hung up on me, blew me off, never returned my messages or just failed to ever materialize. And these were the parents who actually had working phone numbers - there were plenty of disconnected numbers too (this is a different issue, I realize).

The thing is, the south end is diverse in many ways, so the problems facing its schools are never going to be caused (or solved) by one thing. The district is guilty of plenty of things, but I'm not sure it is responsible for the lack of family involvement in these schools.
nacmom said…
This article was interesting/misleading in that it's headline was the rich vs. poor/north vs. south schools, but then there was nothing in the editorial about that.

Sadly, I think the district fails all of the kids equally! Affluent kids just have the advantages of parental involvement, parental eduacation, advocacy and money to make up for the deficit.

More $ are spent per student in problem schools, but, obviously, throwing more money at the problem without proven, innnovative solutions doesn't yield anything.
wseadawg said…
Thanks for the honest truth, MommaSnark.

I think we all know how much of a difference parental/grand-parental/counselor/whatever involvement makes in a kid's education, and I don't think it helps the situation for people to say, "shame on them" when it just means yet another generation of confused, partially-educated, alienated and disaffected youth will be the result.

Kids need adult role models and butt-kickers from time to time to keep them on track, but we have a district presided over by a dyed in the wool ed reformer who constantly says "The Single Most Determinative Factor in Student Performance is the Quality of the Teacher in the classroom." So, head-fake & blame the teachers, close the schools and shuffle the kids around, but don't increase the number of counselors & tutors for kids who can't get enough support at home, regardless of the reason. Nah! Let's just put the parental responsibilities entirely on the teachers, setting them all up to fail and be fired for low test scores so we can privatize, charterize, non-unionize, and most importantly, computerize our schools to turn out mindless fact-spewing drones who can't think.

All sarcasm aside (if you can believe it), the first thing struggling kids and struggling teachers need is more human beings to help. I don't know if JSCEE's "interventions" will accomplish anything, but they'll never touch what an adult role model who genuinely cares about a kid will produce from that kid. Until JSCEE's minions realize that the SE is unique and can't be fixed with magic bullets, but needs real resources, I don't see it changing much. And that infuriates me as I watch this district blow millions and millions on computers and buildings while cutting counselors and people who really make a difference in kids lives.

If only they took as good a care of their "human capital" as they do their costly projects & initiatives to nowhere.
Charlie Mas said…
Yes, absolutely, the barriers to family engagement are myriad - transportation, leisure time, language barriers, the presumption that their involvement isn't necessary, all of the things that Momma Snark listed and more.
But just to be clear, my question was what barriers does the DISTRICT have to parents being more involved? I understand the life pressures but I when I attended the Road Map conference, Renton district staff were talking about their outreach. They said in focus groups they asked about "district" barriers and got more focused answers on what they could be doing.
Charlie Mas said…
The District needs to understand the variety of barriers for student families and work to lower the threshhold for them.
Anonymous said…
Looks like TFA, as per today's announcement, is clearly one part of the strategy. THEY are focused on the achievement gap says our CAO.

Anonymous said…
Do principals really make such a HUGE difference? That seems to be something believed to be as true as "The sky is blue", but without a lot of evidence to back it up. If they only stay in their schools for 4 years or so, how could they really matter. Having been in public schools for more than decade, I really question this oft touted truism. At every school we've attended, the persistent staff culture is the overwhelming factor, that outlives any principal. The southend school cultures feature lots of kids milling around on independent projects as enrichment, strict and often ineffective discipline without a lot of thought for alternatives, not much resourcefullness for materials acquisition or use, a persistent anonymous rule-based attitude, little attention to the trash in and around the building, little attention to building school communitiy as opposed to following rules. For example there might be strict littering rules in the school... but no effort to have the kids actually take pride in keeping the place clean. Why NOT throw your trash everywhere if the school is kept as a garbage can? They have rules about "no bullying" but do nothing to teach kids to be inclusive. Why NOT bully people, if you don't really value everyone? In these examples, we're really asking students to simply be compliant and not addressing any reason to do so.

All these things are products of the school staff values and attention to details. And, they do matter. It isn't ALL about the money.

Perhaps a principal can put a dent in the culture, but the staff endures long after the principal is gone. It is also possibly true that a principal can really screw up a smoothly oiled machine, but I've not experienced that. Michael Debell noted that the principal contract and state laws essentially are a lifetime employment guarantee for what is really a highly paid managerial position. They can't be fired, though they can be bought off. All such "firings" have resulted in lawsuits against the district.

One parent.
Greg said…
Skeptical, on the achievement gap, it appears that most of it is due to loss during summer vacation. This recent article in Time magazine has a good writeup:

"The Case Against Summer Vacation"

From the article:

"After collecting a century's worth of academic studies, summer-learning expert Harris Cooper, now at Duke University, concluded that, on average, all students lose about a month of progress in math skills each summer, while low-income students slip as many as three months in reading comprehension, compared with middle-income students. Another major study, by a team at Johns Hopkins University, examined more than 20 years of data meticulously tracking the progress of students from kindergarten through high school. The conclusion: while students made similar progress during the school year, regardless of economic status, the better-off kids held steady or continued to make progress during the summer, but disadvantaged students fell back. By the end of grammar school, low-income students had fallen nearly three grade levels behind, and summer was the biggest culprit. By ninth grade, summer learning loss could be blamed for roughly two-thirds of the achievement gap separating income groups."
Jan said…
One parent: your post is like water on parched ground. It is so hard to know exactly what is happening, what is not working.

I agree with your point that a "bad" principal can really gum up the works in an otherwise working school (though I have also seen good staff come together and basically lock arms and insulate most of the best attributes of a school against a bad principal, until they could get her out).

I also think a good principal cannot achieve "in spite" of an unwilling staff. To me, this is one of the great conundrums of teacher performance/retention. What does a gung ho principal do with a new school, new initiatives, etc. if he/she arrives to find 20 to 30 percent of the staff are old (read, lots of seniority), tired, maybe a little bitter about newbies arriving every few years with new ideas, and don't want to be told that everyone is going to pull together to achieve certain goals -- especially if the union contract doesn't require them to do it "that way." Flip that over, though, and it becomes -- stiff-necked, illinformed young newbie arrives with 67 new, bad (we tried this 3 times before, and it failed every time) ideas, all of which take huge amounts of time from the real goal -- teaching XX subject -- but the new person doesn't want to hear "negative talk."

I have found over the years that strong, visionary leadership -- with good ideas -- is critical. Schools with good staff can limp along for a few years with a bad or mediocre leader (some of us watched with bated breath while GHS stumbled through the Chow/Derse years -- Mr. H is not perfect, but I for one was glad to see him come, and the school has worked under his leadership.) More than a few years? -- it catches up with a school. For a group to never pull together for a common goal weighs on teachers. For teachers to have to try to shield each other, kids, and parents from an inadequate principal wears them out, and distracts from teaching. So much of what you describe in your post speaks to me of less than stellar leadership (or good leadership, thwarted by unhelpful staff -- I have no way of knowing which).

MGJ is famous for moving principals around with no parent/school/community involvement. I have to say -- if you want a community behind you -- include them in picking the leader!
I honestly believe the principal is key at a school. He or she just has that much power to create change. A skilled leader can make a difference.

One example I can give is Brian Vance at Roosevelt. He came in after something like 3 interim principals, it was a brand-new building with he and the other 2 assistant principals being new. And, they had a very established teaching corps.

Yet, he was able to come in and firmly establish his leadership vision. From working with him, I found that teachers seemed to respond to him and there was general respect among the staff. He exited two poorly-performing teachers within 18 months.

I'm not staff so I can't speak for them but when I was co-president of the PTSA, I was able to observe a lot on an almost daily basis. Sometimes, as a parent, I was not happy with decisions he made. I continue to wish that principals were not torn in so many directions and, in the end, have to go the direction the district wants.

But my experience is that a principal, for better or worse, sets the tone. I liked One Parent's example about trash. It's the little things. If a principal doesn't allow trash, teachers won't. If a principal doesn't allow loud voices all the time in the halls, the teachers won't. But the principal lets the teachers make all their own decisions about student behavior, then you get a free-for-all with kids know who they can play.

It's a good discussion and we should probably have a separate thread (including the principals' contract - look who gets a raise).
gavroche said…
To Jan @ 1/18/11 6:36 PM:

MGJ doesn't care if the community is behind her or not. What she wants here is to control the Principals. They are her team of CEOs who she trains or intimidates into implementing her agenda.

She jerked them around last year as a power play -- in 2009-10 she moved roughly 30 percent of all Principals from one school to another or out of the system. She wanted to show them who was boss. Those who got good assignments, deserving or not, are now beholden to her. Some were sent where they didn't want to go (RBHS or Lawton). Some problematic Principals were dropped into strong school communities with the express purpose of having those communities push those Principals out (McGilvra and probably Lawton). MGJ didn't give a damn about the problems these inappropriate placements would cause for the school communities or the Principals themselves.

It's all about top-down power and control. It has nothing to do with community engagement. That is a quaint idea to the MGJ and Broad Foundation mind-set. It only concerns MGJ when it shows up as a negative on her annual reviews and she runs the risk of not getting a full bonus because of her lack of it.

That, at least, is how I see it.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, it isn't about making rules like "no throwing trash on the ground" OR rules like "use a quiet voice" OR rules "do not bully people" and then enforcing those rules. That's exactly the problem! It isn't a real or complete solution. It's minimal and compliance oriented. The school has to make a commitment to actually clean up the messy grounds. Regularly. Daily even. Why don't they organize students to actually work to clean stuff up? Community service. There's a pride in doing something like that. That's taking responsibility for your community. That is teaching values on the cheap and small scale. Instead of focusing on bullying and tolerance, they should be teaching inclusive thinking and actually valuing diversity. It's one thing to not harm somebody because you're tolerant, (fine and good) but it's a completely better option to learn to really value ALL members of the school and to teach students to reach out. I'm not sure you understand what I'm talking about. Roosevelt was never the sort of school we're talking about.

One Parent
Anonymous said…
"in 2009-10 she moved roughly 30 percent of all Principals from one school to another or out of the system"

So are you suggesting that some of these principals were good at their jobs and should not have been moved? Not all the principals who got moved were serving students professionally and capably in their schools, One Parent. Students who for whatever reason were outside the "norm" were particularly poorly served by some of the principals. I think we can applaud the fact that there were shakeups. The shakeups have been very important for many students.
Anonymous said…
Forgot to sign a name, above.

Two Parent
dan dempsey said…
What would help?

A District that was not hell bent on ignoring what works and continually pushing what does not work.

Published on 1-11-2011 at EdNews.org
Sahila said…
@ Parent One...

In my day (!!!) at a poor catholic school in New Zealand, we kids had to run around the grounds at the end of lunchtime (an hour) and pick up all the rubbish... it was a daily thing and took 5 minutes...

Then, at the end of each term (quarter), we would spend the afternoon of the last day of school cleaning the whole school, top to bottom...

The whole school was involved, taking care of their own classrooms, and also cleaning out the lockers, washing internal windows, polishing the hall floors, and cleaning the bathrooms...

We had a caretaker/cleaning staff, but the thinking of this was our environment, our community and our responsibility...

I dont remember anyone complaining, and very few kids slacked off...

When I see the mess in our external environment, when I drive behind a car and someone throws a wrapper or a cigarette butt out the window of that car in front, I wonder at the ignorance...

But then they were probably not made to clean up their school when they were young...

Good character/community building stuff!
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said…
I like that Sahila! No reason our public schools can't do that too. Our south end, private co-op pre school sure did! Three year olds helped to wash dishes, and were led by parents out to collect litter that community members discarded near the school playground! Every parent and child had a "job" to do - washing windows, bookeeping, sanitizing toys, doing laundry, shopping for snack, organizing a fundraiser - And it wasn't voluntary, it was mandatory, so everyone participated!

Fast forward, at my sons baseball facility they are doing the same thing. We have work parties to paint, clean, and maintain the facility, and each team has "jobs" to do (our sons team cleans the bathroom and locker room every Friday night). And, I haven't heard one complaint from any of the boys (grumbling teens mind you).

Kids can and should be taught to take pride in their environment!

BTW, anonymous, I think Melissa was agreeing with you, and did understand what you meant.
gavroche said…
Anonymous @ 1/19/11 6:16 AM said:
So are you suggesting that some of these principals were good at their jobs and should not have been moved?


You might want to talk to parents at TOPS, McGilvra, even Coe, Hay and Center School. Their well-liked or decent Principals were moved (one sort of willingly, admittedly--but how easy is it for a Principal to tell his/her boss, the Supt. "No, I won't go"?).

In the Magnolia/Queen Anne cluster alone, MGJ changed 4 out of 6 Principals in one year (Lawton, Coe, Hay, Center).

Some moves were good -- something had to give at Madrona, for example. But many were unnecessary churn, or bad placements, which just added to the upheaval Supt G-J and the Board created with the unnecessary closing and then reopening of schools, and the messy NSAP.

MGJ is all about churn.

Churn is not good for kids.
Jan said…
Gavroche: I don't disagree with your points. (I TRY not to be any more paranoid than I have to be, and to not assume that actions that may just be careless bad management are not, in fact, intentional bad management (meant to create crisis, or chaos, so that top down solutions can be implemented) but I must say -- the number of principal changes last year makes one wonder. There are always some, and you could expect a few more in a school closure year, but there were so many, and some that seemed to make no sense (except in an intentional bad management scenario).

Short of some great future expose, I suppose we will never know for sure. But I sure wish they would get back to giving school communities some say in principal selection (at least in most cases) and letting good principals who want to stay at a school remain in place for more time.
Jan said…
And -- as for cleaning up the schools, I wholeheartedly agree with Sahila, One Parent, and others. Taking care of the place you live creates a sense of community ownership and pride. Kids are also less likely to throw trash around, etc., or to let others do so without comment, if they have taken the time and effort to keep it clean, painted, etc.
seattle citizen said…
"Taking care of the place you live creates a sense of community ownership and pride. Kids are also less likely to throw trash around, etc., or to let others do so without comment, if they have taken the time and effort to keep it clean, painted, etc."

But in the "real" world, do we "take care of the place we live"? Students of many ages are probably conscious of the waste stream we moderns produce: plastics, disposables, gasoline, everything changed out every two years for the NEW new thing.

Are we good role models in teh bigger world? This speaks to the disposable nature of our ghettoes - does society take care of its poorest, its struggling, or just cast them away? If we cast them away, should we blame students for casting stuff away recklessly?

Cornel West was on Tavis Smiley the other day, and said that the measure of a nation's greatness isn't its tech, its big buildings, even its defense of the rights of its citizens - It's how well the nation takes care of its poor. I agree with him that we don't do well at this all. If we cast away our poor, throw them aside, out of sight, out of mind, then who can blame children in the dump from treating their places like dumps?

I agree that modeling clean places is good, but if the world around is still a dump, of waste and of people...
Syd said…
It has not been my experience that south end schools are dirty, ill-kempt, or especially noisy. My children have attended two elementary schools in the Rainer valley, one middle school, and one high school.
The families have been involved, personable, and caring. Lot's of parents volunteer their time.
I agree with Charlie about the definition of the south end of the city.
Things I think could help include more parent participation, and I specifically think interpreters are helpful. I have seen their value, and I have seen the district cut these resources. PTA meetings with interpreters regularly draw more 10 times more families than ones that do not offer this. This is not hyperbole; I have seen meetings with interperters with hundreds of people and meetings without with 10's of people.
I think children who come from homes with less education need more interventions. I think that means smaller class sizes and more support staff. I think it more than one teacher reaching out to a family, but multiple attempts by multiple staff in a concerted and strategic manner.
I think it could mean longer class days. It does not mean cutting out "the extras." I have seen families from middle class backgrounds complain about the number of field trips. "We need to concentrate on the basics" they say. Well, your kid will probably go see the Picasso exhibit with you. The only way many of these children will be introduced to a world outside their immediate community is through the school. Yeah - I think we owe more to these children. They need more.

I think we need more experienced teachers, not more TFA recruits replacing experienced teachers. I can see using TFA staff as additional resources in the class, team teaching with more experienced teachers, but not by themselves with a large classroom.

We need to allow the schools to innovate. Garfield has a PTA funded reading program that really works - bringing students who can't read up to grade level. That program needs to expand - it works! And it needs district funding.

I want the schools to be more welcoming. There are a lot of rules that I feel are unfriendly to families. You can't walk your child to class? Children are not allowed in class before school? The school is for the children and their families, and children should own that space. They and their families should feel welcome.
Sahila said…
I wasnt meaning to imply that south end schools and south end people are any less aware and caring of their environments... or less involved in their schools/communities... my comments were about the system at large... I dont remember my older children having to clean up their high schools in Australia and New Zealand, though I do remember them doing "emu patrol" in primary school...

And I agree with SC about how the (western/american) world models caring - both of people and the environment...

Its a bit rich of us adults to expect children to take on values of caring for anyone other than themselves, when our society really doesnt care for the most vulnerable in our midst...

The message sent is that you're in a vulnerable place because there is something wrong with you/your community, you're not trying enough, you're your own worst enemies, if only you'd buck up and pull yourselves up by the boot straps, if only you were like "us", blah, blah, blah...

and we're not much better when we're dealing with the elderly - if you dont have resources to provide for yourselves then you did something wrong in your earlier life; you were lazy, a spendthrift, foolish, irresponsible etc...

Why should kids take on the values of caring about other people, (or even want to strive for "success") when we show them every day that we (the system) dont really care about them and only a comparative few get to enjoy life at the top?
Anonymous said…

-southender shortimer

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