Last week the state put out its list of "persistently lowest achieving schools" and five Rochester high schools were on it. In saner times, school district officials might have been able to make individualized decisions about what was and what wasn't working at each school, and how to respond. But because we live in the era of the Race to the Top – and because New York State is getting $308 million dollars for running that race – the district is required
to take one of four actions at schools on the list. The four actions are euphemistically called the "Turnaround Model" (replace the principal and at least 50 percent of the staff), the "Restart Model" (convert the school to a charter school or hire an outside company to run it), the "Transformation Model" (replace the principal) or close the school and transfer the students to higher-performing schools (I guess they ran out of euphemisms).
Because there's not enough chaos in most city school kids' lives, right?
I don't know the specific situation at those five schools. To be honest, I don't have first-hand knowledge of what's going on at ANY of those schools. But imagine that at one school on the list, if not more, great things were happening. A great principal, say, an enthusiastic staff, strong partnerships with local colleges, kids who were learning. And say that when low-achieving schools were shut down last year, many of their kids transferred to this school, bringing the school-where-great-things-were-happening's graduation rates (because test scores and graduation rates are all that matters when you're racing to the top!) down. So before those kids had even been at their new school a year, before the teachers and principal even had time to make a difference - that school where great things were happening was on the failing list.
Read this story about what's been going on at Freddie Thomas High School:http://flowercityparents.org/forum/index.php?topic=1853.msg5725;topicseen#msg5725
Should that principal be removed? Her staff replaced? Never mind the programs they've started or the relationships they've built. Or, shut the whole thing down and shuffle those kids off to somewhere else, so maybe THAT school can end up on the list next year? HOW does that serve our kids?
I can't say for certain that the scenario I described is the case, though it's what I've been hearing from educators I deeply respect. But what if it is? How can it be good education policy for our hands to be tied, our district's choices entirely dictated by Washington and Albany?
It doesn't make sense to me. And I don't see how it makes sense for our kids.