Friday, August 28, 2015

The Renewal Plan

9 percent of NYC's public school population is literally homeless, In some schools, the number can run as high as 40%. Governor Cuomo, rather than trouble himself with such trivialities, works tirelessly to demonstrate it's teachers and schools that are failing our children. Of course, being impoverished in a city like New York is far from limited to those who lack a consistent home.

But that issue is being disregarded altogether in favor of fixing the schools and teachers at the root of the more pressing issue, which Andrew Cuomo and his Heavy Hearted Assembly have determined to be low test scores. After all, when you're seething with ambition, indifferent to absolutely everything else, and you've taken millions of dollars from people whose agenda entails squeezing further millions out of those costly public schools, you tend to do what they say.

The city, containing dozens of so-called Renewal Schools, has got to do something about it or have Cuomo take over those schools. That's basically the plan. If de Blasio can't figure out how to get the homeless, the hungry, the tired, the poor, the non-English speaking huddled masses to get better Common Core scores, MaryEllen Elia will get busy and do it herself. It isn't easy to ignore root issues, but she's determined, and she can't wait to turn those money-sucking community schools over to her wealthy and therefore worthy BFFs.

The city plan to deal with test scores directly related to homelessness, learning disabilities, and lack of English entails merit pay, which has not worked anywhere in over 100 years. Perhaps that's why no one's calling it merit pay, but since the entire project revolves around solving the wrong problem anyway the point is moot. Each school will get $27,500 to offer as bonuses to the teachers who will help raise the test scores and save the schools. It doesn't matter if your school has 20 teachers or 200 teachers because that doesn't matter either. The problem is test scores and the solution is $27,5000.

A principal can take that 27K and distribute it among up to three teachers. These lucky duckies will then set about the task of raising the test scores of kids, because that is the only way New York needs to help its children. Once their test scores are higher, they won't mind being homeless anymore. That they have disabilities hindering their ability to read, write, or do math will no longer be of any consequence. And kids who don't speak English will no longer find that an obstacle. (I actually spent several years teaching ESL students how to write formulaic nonsense so they could pass the English Regents exam, without which they couldn't graduate. I'm absolutely certain they would've benefited more from my teaching them English conversation, grammar, usage, and actual writing.)

Would you move to a school facing extinction in order to make an extra $7500? I wouldn't. I don't believe in miracles, and every educational miracle I've seen thus far has entailed either juking the stats, changing the grades, selecting the students, getting rid of those whose scores weren't high enough, or some combination of the above factors. In fact the most recent fantastic charter success I've seen occurred when the staff decided to grade their own state tests, something illegal in public schools.

It's pretty easy to fabricate miracles. It's unconscionable that the United States is so determined to scapegoat communities, schools and teachers in its effort to ignore a basic and fundamental issue affecting our people.
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