Tag Archives: No Child Left Behind

Social Reform in Education: the Skinny on Race to the Top

27 Feb

Race to the Top. These words have infiltrated the news, our schools, the president’s speeches, and created controversy across America. In homes, high schools, universities, and political sessions, Race to the Top is a hot topic. Scalding hot.

As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund was established to help improve public charters, high schools, and universities. Let’s consider the numbers of the fund for just a moment.

The total monies of the fund amounted to $53.6 BILLION. Out of the $53.6 BILLION, roughly $48 billion of the money was given to state governors. The remaining $5 billion was allocated for what the public knows as “Race to the Top”. Enter the controversy. Continue reading

Scoring Consistently Better than the Average – Schools still not making AYP

19 Feb

Preble High School is not making AYP in all the areas required by No Child Left Behind.

As part of my teaching training program, several future colleagues and I visited Preble High School in the Green Bay Area Public Schools District. The school is huge, the third largest in the state with over 2,200 students. While Preble was initially built to house only 2,000 students, its school-of-choice title and impressive academic and athletic programs have drawn media attention and higher student enrollment. Preble students still consistently score above state and national averages in academic areas.

The date we visited was Friday, February 18, 2011, the day after the Wisconsin State Senate was stalled in voting on the controversial bill regarding state workers’ rights. 45 of the school’s 168 teachers were absent, taking personal leave to join the growing protests at the Capitol. Multitudes of students marched outside the building, demonstrating against passage of the  bill. Most school faculty and staff wore red. The school was abuzz in the political climate, yet the school day continued and I was able to see how Preble operated.

I was impressed.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Preble’s MAC scholars, a student group devoted to promoting diversity on campus. These students gave us a tour of the school and we learned about the following aspects of a Preble education:

  • an Advanced Engineering Program
  • the Technical Education Department (which is currently building racecars)
  • the Culinary Arts Program
  • the Advanced Placement Science, Math, and Language Arts Departments
  • the Agriscience Department and corresponding greenhouse
  • the Library Media Center (which recently implemented “Noodlebib,” a new program that guides students in the process of source citation)
  • the five World Languages offered: French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, and German
  • the school’s Smartboards
  • the Special Education Department

We also learned about Preble’s initiatives to integrate diverse student populations through their ELL and MAC Scholars program. I sat in on a Spanish 5 class, where the students proficiently read and discussed Gabriel Garcia Márquez in Spanish.  I learned about the Phuture Phoenix Program, which assists kids placed at-risk by providing them with one-on-one tutors from University of Wisconsin Green Bay’s education department. The program is wildly successful for students.  The best part of my experience at Preble, however, was the distinct feeling of community. Every administrator, teacher, and staff personnel I spoke with (a librarian and AV Coordinator) cared about their school, their job, and most especially, their kids. The administrator for Student Enrichment called out five students by name while he escorted me  to the Spanish room (about a eight minute walk). He made his high expectations clear to each student he interacted with, mentioning conduct, academics, or getting to class on time. One of the Associate Principals walked the hall to ensure a hospitable atmosphere in the midst of the politically charged day. The Spanish teacher talked about how she collaborates with all the Spanish teachers in the district to create a more uniform foreign language education for all students. The students were responsive, engaged, and respectful. The spirit of learning was palpable.

Right before we left for the day, I learned that Preble wasn’t making AYP in all the required areas. If the school doesn’t improve by the next evaluation, Preble will face serious repercussions, including the potential threat of a state take-over.

I did not know what to make of this. Preble offers their students some of the best technological education available; they have a staff of well-educated, caring professionals; the school offers vocational studies in addition to AP curriculum; there is a “Zero Hour” in which students and teachers arrive before school begins for additional coursework; a night-school is offered for students who may not “fit” the typical school day; there is a distinct focus on diverse education for exceptional learners; their students consistently score above state and national averages. What more could be asked?

The demand that no student be left behind could be asked; the demand that Preble perform better than its overstretched best could be asked. The educational opportunity these students are receiving is incredible; for the above-average, average, and most especially below-average student, Preble has a wide array of programs and incentives to help each individual student achieve. Yet they are still being told by the federal government to improve.

I believe that in any occupation, there is always room to improve. However, when a school is producing the type of results that Preble does while at the same time educating a largely diverse student population and serving more students than its original capacity called for, one must ask themselves, “Why is this considered failure?” Under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top legislatures, public schools are being asked to do more with no additional funding, even when the schools already have a reputation for academic success. The idea that Preble may one day face a state take-over is ridiculous; the environment of learning and community was the best I have ever witnessed in a public or private school. The students are respectful. The teachers care. The administrators are constantly looking for ways to be better. This is the learning environment I want my child to experience.

NCLB has proven to be the failure, not the academically successful schools. The Department of Education needs to seriously reconsider, restructure, and redesign the law. If NCLB had been working over the past ten years, public schools would be drastically improving. However, schools that struggled before the law for the most part remain struggling and successful schools are being labeled as failures. This is wrong. It is time for our government to reassess the validity of laws like NCLB and contests such as Race to the Top. While the goal is to help all schools improve their standards for the good of the kids, we must create legitimate pathways to meet this goal with success. Without hard research and better evaluation methods of teachers, administrators, and schools, the majority of struggling public schools and students will continue to struggle.

Preble High School Website: http://www.greenbayprebleonline.com/index.html

Preble High School Stats: http://www.greenbayprebleonline.com/assets/2010%20PHS_profile.pdf

Preble AYP Info: http://www.greenbay.k12.wi.us/01/info/board/10/MINUTES10_25.htm

About AYP: http://www.nea.org/home/18081.htm

Phuture Phoenix Website: http://www.uwgb.edu/phuturephoenix/