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July 22, 2014

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The Turnaround:

Halfway into second year of ‘turnaround,’ schools build on progress but still face challenges

Image

Leila Navidi

Senior Raequan Charingto feigns exhaustion during a science proficiency exam tutoring session for seniors in the classroom of science teacher Sergio Lopez at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas on Monday, April 23, 2012.

Turnaround: Year in Review

Senior Jayla Lewis walks into Mojave High School prom at Aliante Station in North Las Vegas on Saturday, April 21, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Last year, the Clark County School District launched an ambitious effort to improve the lot of thousands of children in Las Vegas’ worst-performing high schools.

Armed with $3 million in federal School Improvement Grant money, the district set out to overhaul Chaparral, Mojave and Western high schools. Principals and hundreds of teachers were replaced, school days were extended and outside consultants were brought in to coach educators.

School “turnarounds” — much like their corporate counterparts — are drastic measures designed to radically and quickly shift the campus culture and boost student performance at chronically underperforming schools. And indeed, there were many “quick wins” in the first year: clean campuses, a renewed focus on discipline and a dogged attention to achievement data.

These improvements seem to have paid off, with all three schools seeing significant gains in test scores and graduates, increases in student attendance and teacher retention rates, and declines in truancies and fights.

All the schools saw their star rankings improve — in Western’s case, a jump from two to four stars.

Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones said the culture at a school has to be right before learning can take place.

“There are still tremendous challenges, but I’m pleasantly optimistic that these schools are on the right path,” he said.

Now halfway into the turnaround’s second year, the hectic pace has calmed but the work continues at the three high schools. The Sun caught up with the three principals to talk about the lessons learned from last year and what lies ahead for the turnaround.

•••

Overhauling a school wasn’t an easy sell, especially at Chaparral. When the central valley school was announced as a turnaround school in spring 2011, hundreds of students protested.

As students learned longtime teachers were being replaced and their beloved principal removed, they objected. The “Chap” community was being torn apart, they argued.

Jones explained why dramatic changes were necessary at the schools, which serve a high number of low-income and minority students.

“There was a clear marching order for change when I got here,” Jones said. “The community (and) the board of trustees expected us to get our arms around the dropout and graduation rates. They expected us to have more kids reading on grade level and ready to exit.”

Chaparral Principal Dave Wilson found that being able to hire a new staff benefited his students. Using bonuses to lure educators to come to an at-risk school, Chaparral filled more of its classes with highly qualified teachers.

“I’d like to tell you there was some magic bullet that we found, but the only thing that really matters is quality teachers,” Wilson said. “The teachers we have at Chaparral truly care about our students and know how to motivate them.”

•••

To drive students toward graduation, the three turnaround schools took a more personal approach to education.

They participated in the School District’s inaugural Reclaim Your Future walks, during which school officials went door to door to encourage dropouts to return to campus. Teachers and administrators were encouraged to shake students’ hands and greet them every passing period.

The most powerful motivator for students is their relationship with teachers and the school, Mojave Principal Antonio Rael said. It’s all about good coaches on the field and good teachers in the classrooms, he said.

“We made lots of home visits this year,” he said. “I think that lets people know that, ‘Hey, this school is serious about making this turnaround happen.’ ”

The schools also dove deep into individual student data to help identify and track at-risk students. Struggling pupils were given additional resources — mentoring, afterschool tutoring and Saturday boot camps — to help them pass their proficiency exams and graduate.

At Western, this attention to detail was particularly evident as Principal Neddy Alvarez created a massive spreadsheet with input from all 2,100 students and 100 staffers. In an instant, Alvarez could see which students needed the most help and analyze trends in her staff’s teaching. Teachers have planned lessons and learning goals based on this student information.

“Data drives instruction,” Alvarez said. “We’re digging into our assessment data so teachers can learn from each other, see what worked and what didn’t (in their lessons). We’re always refining our craft.”

Quality teachers combined with personal relationships and data-driven instruction helped lift the turnaround schools to a first-year success, principals said.

At Chaparral, the graduation rate jumped 15 percentage points to 49 percent. Western and Chaparral saw double-digit gains on the math section of the high school proficiency exams. Mojave saw smaller but significant gains on tests, as well.

“We’re excited. We think we’re doing a much better job,” Wilson said. “We’re graduating more kids, and we’re going to continue to do a much better job of graduating more kids.”

•••

Although the federal requirements of the School Improvement Grant emphasize academic growth, turnaround efforts extend beyond the classroom.

For years, the three turnaround schools were well known for a host of discipline problems: graffiti and vandalism, drugs and fights. The new principals got creative.

At Mojave — where discipline was perhaps the most pressing issue — Rael realized suspending students rarely worked. They soon reoffend.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that sending at-risk kids home for suspension is really counterproductive for the school and community,” he said. “Suspensions just are not very successful. They don’t change behavior because we’re not teaching (students) how to change behavior.”

That’s why Rael launched a new version of Saturday school called Solutions Other than Suspension — SOS for short.

Click to enlarge photo

Mojave students who attended a Saturday morning detention program strike a pose similar to the "Breakfast Club," the 1985 John Hughes movie about students who bonded in a similar situation.

Instead of issuing immediate suspensions for minor offenses, offending students were required to show up at the North Las Vegas school for three hours on Saturdays to be tutored and mentored. Students were required to complete community service around campus: moving textbooks, sweeping the quad and wiping down the cafeteria tables.

By the end of the year, suspensions and expulsions were down by half.

“We understand that there are going to be children who come to us with some issues,” Rael said. “But we’re going to own those children — keep them on our campus — and try to teach them replacement behaviors so it’s not just about consequences but how to set children up for success.”

At Chaparral, the decrease in suspensions and expulsions was especially substantial.

To address fights that broke out primarily during lunch, Wilson changed the bell schedule, moving the midday lunch period to the end of the day and replacing it with two 15-minute “nutrition breaks.”

The students still ate lunch, but there were fewer fights as students were forced to keep moving to their next classes. Expulsions and suspensions declined by 72 percent, prompting Metro Police to pull its units stationed nearby.

“I think the perception of Chaparral is good,” Wilson said. “People were very apprehensive at first, but now people feel good about bringing their kids here.”

•••

Although there were positive gains made last year, there have been new challenges.

Enrollment is up more than 200 students at Mojave, and more students are attending classes at all three turnaround schools. While principals welcome the new students and increased per-pupil funding, class sizes have ballooned.

At Chaparral, American government classes have swelled to 60 students; one band class is bursting with 200 students. Mojave is seeing an average class size bump of about three or four students, especially after the school instituted a 9 a.m. start time to better suit teenagers’ sleep cycles.

“It’s a great thing that attendance is up because kids are turning up to school every day,” Rael said. “But it creates some more challenges and discipline issues because we have more students in class.”

The school day also was extended at Mojave and Chaparral. Hourlong periods were stretched to 75 minutes to maximize instruction.

At Chaparral, the longer instruction periods forced Wilson to reinstate the lunch period. Students can’t go an extra hour or two without a lunch, he said. Teachers and students have come to enjoy the midday period because it allows more time for tutoring and club activities.

However, the downtime also has translated to more in-school fights, especially among students expelled multiple times from other campuses and placed at Chaparral. One fight made it to YouTube; another was stopped when school police used Mace.

“Those kids who are part of your school culture, these problems are nearly nonexistent,” Wilson said. “It’s those students who are on that never-ending circuit of being moved from school to school to school where we continue to have our issues.

“We have to come up with a better answer with what to do with these (chronically expelled) students.”

•••

Even in their second year, turnaround schools continue to face the same academic challenges from a year ago.

“Unfortunately, we’re still working with kids who are academically deficient and bringing them up to the standard,” Rael said. “That’s a challenge we’re going to face for a long time, and we understand that.”

Across the School District, there are another 21,000 seniors who are at risk of not graduating this June. That means hundreds of juniors and seniors at the turnaround schools will need long hours of tutoring to pass their proficiency exams.

Until there is systemic improvement, students will always come to high school below grade level, Wilson said.

A fall assessment found that most incoming Chaparral students were reading at a fourth-grade level. Of the 650 in Chaparral’s freshman class, only 26 have passed algebra honors with an A or a B grade, a key measure for college readiness.

“That to me is unconscionable,” Wilson said. “How is it that you can only expect that only 4 percent of your kids are going to be going to college or a trade school when they graduate?”

That’s why the turnaround schools have redoubled their efforts this year to help students catch up and prepare for college.

Click to enlarge photo

A student walks out into the arena during the Chaparral High School commencement ceremony at the Orleans Arena on Friday, June 15, 2012.

At Western and Mojave, teachers have begun testing students every three weeks. Teachers won’t move on until students have mastered the unit or lesson.

“We’re not going to keep driving the train down the tracks while kids are falling off,” Rael said. “If a kid falls off, we’ve got to stop the train and fix the problem right there.”

Western also has continued offering its preprofessional programs, such as nursing. Given opportunities to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios, students seem to click with school, Alvarez said.

•••

The turnaround schools also have begun offering more electives and sports to entice students to stay in school, principals said. The more engaged students are on campus, the less likely they will be to drop out.

“I’d like to say that the majority of my kids come (to school) for their math or English classes, but they don’t come here for that,” Wilson said. “They come for band, orchestra, choir, sports. That’s your hook.

“Unfortunately, we continue to see these are the first programs to go with our cuts because we have requirements for these kids to graduate. But it’s those (extracurricular) programs that cause them to be successful.”

Rael agreed. The former arena football player said a realignment in the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association has favored the turnaround schools, all of which have dropped to a lower division. Now, turnaround schools — which have been plagued by lower athletic funding — have winning seasons in many of their sports.

“When the community sees a product on the field or the court they can be proud of, that translates into perceptions of success overall,” Rael said. “That had a systemic impact on the pride and academic performance of our campus.”

However, even though turnaround schools were supposed to be immune to staffing cuts, they were hit by austerity measures imposed by the district. Some electives were cut, and licensed librarian and computer specialist positions are now filled by support staffers. Some schools — such as Western — were forced to use other federal grant money to bring back teachers and programs.

“We were hoping that we wouldn’t be cut,” Wilson said. “But the budget cuts hit.”

•••

Although school turnarounds are often successful during their first year, those positive outcomes are difficult to maintain, according to limited research.

The sheer enormity of the task and its Sisyphean nature make sustaining the turnaround a challenge for educators. That’s especially evident in the teacher retention rate at turnaround schools.

Mojave was able to retain more of its teachers than in previous years, but other schools have not been as successful. At Western — where this problem has been particularly persistent — a quarter of teachers left after one year of the turnaround.

“A lot of folks realized that turnaround work wasn’t what they expected it to be,” Rael said. “I was surprised not just by the amount of work but how that level of work never subsided over the course of the year.”

“Turnaround work is very demanding,” Alvarez said. “Our teachers probably work harder than most, over and beyond.

“But the teachers who stay here are here because they have a love for it. I’m grateful that they have the heart because it takes a special person (to turn around a school).”

Each year of the School Improvement Grant, the academic bar is raised for the three turnaround high schools. And when Nevada fully institutes the Common Core State Standards, a more rigorous national curriculum standard, the bar will be raised even higher.

The goals are daunting but a welcome challenge, the principals said.

“We never want to be complacent,” Rael said. “We want to continually raise the bar for our students because, even as we’ve made growth, we’re a long ways from where we want to be as a school.

“The Common Core will be very difficult for my kids,. In the short term, there will be a lot of growing pains. But in the long term, I think it will be a very positive thing.”

•••

Sustaining the turnaround at Chaparral, Mojave and Western will become even more difficult after the three-year, $8.7 million federal grant runs out in 2014. Once the grant money is gone, funding for professional development, an extended school day and tutoring programs will vanish.

That has district officials worried about the fate of the three schools.

“What we’d hate to do is turn around a school and then pull away the resource that was the very thing that helped them turn around in the first place,” Jones said. “And then all of a sudden they start heading the wrong direction.”

Compounding the concerns is the overall existence of the School Improvement Grant itself. The $4.6 billion federal program — which represents one of the largest single investments in public education in the nation’s history — has been threatened in Congress. And the initial investments from Congress are drying up.

To address the impending funding shortfall, the School District has created a “turnaround school zone.” Using a mix of federal grants — not just School Improvement Grant money — the district hopes to create more turnaround schools, improving the life chances for struggling students, one campus at a time.

“I have a lot of challenges, more than just those schools that are in the School Improvement Grant program,” Jones said. “We still have a number of other sites that we have to stay pretty intentional about.”

But in the meantime, the turnaround principals remain thankful for the opportunity to revamp their campuses.

“I feel very fortunate that we were given this opportunity,” Alvarez said. “I think they made a wise decision in making Western a turnaround school because it has benefited Western in just so many ways. I know that our students are very grateful.”

For Wilson, a longtime turnaround principal from Mesquite, the past year reaffirmed his belief in the turnaround model.

“Sometimes drastic measures are necessary,” he said. “In those most chronic cases, I believe the turnaround is a very successful, very positive model.”

The turnaround schools made significant progress, but they still have a long way to go, Rael said, optimistic the gains will persist.

“We wanted to have some great growth Year One, but our goal is not to have a one-hit wonder,” he said. “Our goal is to create a school that this community can be proud of for years to come.”

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  1. If these kids are going into high school with a fourth grade reading level as was stated in the article, then the major problems lie in the lower grades.

    Congratulations to the staff and students who have worked hard to turn it around.

  2. In order to make "Turnaround" high schools more sustainable, we need to strengthen the best practices going on at the elementary and middle school levels. This would also include what they are doing at the high school level as stated,"The schools also dove deep into individual student data to help identify and track at-risk students. Struggling pupils were given additional resources -- mentoring, afterschool tutoring and Saturday boot camps -- to help them pass their proficiency exams and graduate."

    If you really want the "magic bullet" you will find it in the 'personal connection' between educators and their students as Rael stated, "which school officials went door to door to encourage dropouts to return to campus. Teachers and administrators were encouraged to shake students' hands and greet them every passing period.

    The most powerful motivator for students is their relationship with teachers and the school, Mojave Principal Antonio Rael said."

    We need this going on at the lower school levels. Why wait until these children enter high school to provide such supports? Administration should be encouraging caring, not just on the surface (dare I say, like input/output machines), as we are dealing with whole human beings.

    It sends a message to both the student, the parent(s), and the neighborhood community, that those at the school that serves them daily, really cares and is concerned about THEM. Here in Las Vegas, you rarely see elementary awards ceremonies (especially at-risk, Title 1 schools)having an audience full of parents and family to watch their child be acknowledged for an outstanding achievement. That has an affect on children at an early age.

    We need to bridge that disconnection EARLY. We all value education, and believe that most parents and families do as well. Parents need to know what they can do to assist their child(ren) and do it. That sends a message to their child that education is important to them. Those at school will do all they can to continue supporting that child's lifelong education.

    Who can put a price on CARING?

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  3. LIFELONG education for all Americans does NOT need to be taxpayer funded. Condescending that YOU can grant blessings is out of place. OK, CCSD is FINALLY putting some attention on students who don't do well--that emphasis SHOULD BE when they START falling behind, not years or decades later. What is wrong with all the highly educated teachers that they fail to recognize students falling behind as it occurs or within a year? We waste tens of thousands per kid by NOT recognizing WHEN they need attention. And, by the way, ditto but more so for the super intelligent who are ignored unless they have super parents with influence that demand attention--in other words, those kids get attention because their parents pull them out of public school and seek other avenues to educate the gifted and talented.

  4. "but the only thing that really matters is quality teachers," Wilson said"

    That's such nonsense. If this man actually believes this, he is ignorant. The efforts of students themselves are massively important, as are supplementary programs for students who are behind - which take money, and which wouldn't be as necessary if students were placed in classes according to skills instead of age.

  5. Recognizing each and every student by name is what works--as I've mentioned for more than 2 years. 60 Minutes did a piece on Black reform educators in ghettos. It is NOT more money. It is treating every student with common decency and expectations that s/he will do well. It is NOT about class size or advanced degrees for teachers. See also David Brooks articles on education.

  6. truthserum: Let's assume you "blah, blah" the other Posters, not the reporter--the reporter did a heck of a job here.

  7. And Commenter Roberta Anderson said, "OK, CCSD is FINALLY putting some attention on students who don't do well--that emphasis SHOULD BE when they START falling behind, not years or decades later. What is wrong with all the highly educated teachers that they fail to recognize students falling behind as it occurs or within a year?"

    It is a FACT, that many, if not most, students who are BEHIND, were BEHIND before they ever enrolled in our public schools. When you talk with public school kindergarten teachers (or as the case may be, Pre-K teachers), they can tell you that the first thing they must do with these children is test them, and it is a time consuming, comprehensive test. Those initial test scores are very revealing as to the children who are already at-risk, already struggling, who are set on a path to not succeed academically before starting their formal, public school, education.

    So what's the solution?

    Each year, every school must set a budget on how the money is spent. This process is open to the PUBLIC. How many readers, parents, members of the community, concern themselves with the budget of their neighborhood school?

    Students perform and behave so much better when they have support and know others take a personal interest in them.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star :)

  8. Did you know that in most places in the nation - children start some sort of formal education at age two? Some sort of pre-school, early education, or headstart. Where are these programs in Clark County? When do children learn the most? Birth to two. Do we support Nevada's children at all at the age? Kindergarten isnt even mandatory in this state. Would money make a difference? Yes. Children are two to three years behind BEFORE they ever set foot in a public school. They attend only a half day Kindergarten program because of lack of funding.

  9. Did you know that it takes five to ten years for a student who is a language learner to develop the academic language that is required to be a successful learner in a second language? Do you know how much financial support Nevada provides for English Language Learning students? None. Would money make a difference? Yes It's possible that between 50-75% of Vegas could use support

  10. Do you know the research has shown the primary and leading indicator of academic success is . . . Financial? Household income. Poverty is the enemy - not a woman standing in a classoom of 40+ students. If children dont have their basic needs met - they do not learn. Food, shelter, clothing, safety -- Vegas students have significant needs. We have large numbers of students who are homeless. Would money help? Yes.

  11. Did you know the Vegas pays Nevada's bills? Yep. 75% to 80% of the state revenue comes from Vegas. It goes into a general fund - according to the "Nevada Plan". And generously the legislature gives Vegas back 50% to fund our schools, child protective services, juvenile programs, mental health, healthcare etc. Wow. Lucky us. We can watch the other parts of Nevada spend twice as much or in some cases four times as much - to educate and support their children and youth. Something is very inequitable and unfair about this - since Vegas also has more children with indentifiable needs who need support due to a variety of reasons. Where is the southern legislative caucus that should be making sure that Vegas money stays in Vegas? We are strangled by counties who have more than enough due to mining proceeds and told to live within our budget - by persons living off of Vegas money? Something is wrong here. We need to make sure our children are taken care of.

  12. Did you know that one of the main things urban students need? Access to technology - Internet, wifi, laptops, ipods, cameras etc. Why? Because they will not only compete against Americans but the whole world - which is connected. Would money make a difference? Yes. If it meant access for kids who don't have it.

    Meanwhile - instead of focusing on higher level thinking skills - like application, analysis, innovation, creativity, and problem solving -- we are drilling our children with test taking skills. We drown them with practice tests, actual tests, and remedial classes. We figure we can pound them with A, B, C, D questions similar to standardized tests and this is education.

    The world is moving at a fast pace. The technology is advancing exponentially and we are asking our kids to practice information over and over - things that are not valid to real life at all. We may even be damaging smart kids with testing frenzy insanity. Would money make a difference? Yes. What if we spent the money we are using for testing on science labs and field trips? Or anything authentic?

  13. Did you know that one of the main things urban students need? Access to technology - Internet, wifi, laptops, ipods, cameras etc. Why? Because they will not only compete against Americans but the whole world - which is connected. Would money make a difference? Yes. If it meant access for kids who don't have it.

    Meanwhile - instead of focusing on higher level thinking skills - like application, analysis,
    The world is moving at a fast pace. The technology is advancing exponentially and we are asking our kids to practice information over and over - things that are not valid to real life at all. We may even be damaging smart kids with testing frenzy insanity. Would money make a difference? Yes. What if we spent the money we are using for testing on science labs and field trips? Or anything authentic?

  14. I'm a teacher. You would like me and the whole mass out there to think I'm the problem. I can always improve. But you are on the wrong track if you think whipping this already hard working professional to work harder and longer - is going to improve public education in a significant way.

    Im in the trenches. I know when students in this district start failing. They are five - when I meet them - and they are already behind if you believe in standardized testing. They are behind before a public school teacher ever sees them. And it compounds as they lose 6 months every year- until school makes no sense to them at all. I see the light go out before third grade for most. I see teachers working but the conditions are hard for everyone.

    I just keep praying to God. O God hear the words of my mouth - the teachers and children are weeping. The love of learning is dying because of oppressive and unnecessary competition. We are racing to where? Please have mercy on your children. Hold us all in your hand. Soften the hearts and lighten the burdens. We belong to you - help us in this state which has enough and to spare. We need to fund our public schools and invest in our children.

  15. RefNV,
    I've reported your post as a personal attack because it is a personal attack.

    Angie Sullivan is an education activist who is interested in real education reforms, like wrap around services, but is fighting against fake, corporate sponsored, "reform" agendas designed to put profits in the pockets of corporate executives at the expense of Nevada's middle class and poor students.
    By the way, it's obvious you didn't actually read that article you linked, http://www.vltp.net/prvt-edu-sys/nationa..., because if you had you'd realize that I'm correct and you're wrong. Just about anyone with critical thinking skills can quickly pull up hundreds of research articles that prove that for the most part Angie is correct in saying what she does.

    As for the negative Occupy Las Vegas comment. What issue, exactly, do you have with a U.S. citizen utilizing their first amendment rights? I know you're overly fond of your second amendment rights but I sure wish you'd use your fifth amendment rights.

  16. WE ALL are responsible. WE ALL have somehow allowed this to happen in our country's public school system, as well as local school system---we OWN IT, folks. Now, with the next Nevada State Legislative Session on the horizon, will we hold our State Lawmakers accountable?

    There is precious little we can do about the current dysfunctional FEDERAL government gridlock, but opportunity awaits with our STATE government!

    Presently, we are all being ruled by a TOP DOWN type of corporate style governance, from our schools to what's going on in Washington, D.C.---how's that working?

    It is time to roll up our sleeves, come together, as a concerned citizens grass roots movement. Call for the elimination of waste of every level. An example is the daily practice of students throwing sealed food products into the trash at each meal because they are force to take ALL the food items while going through the food line. Last spring, policy was set to not allow adults/parents/the public be in the MP/Lunch Room, to prevent witnessing this waste and taking issue with it. Anytime you intend to visit your neighborhood school, always check in at the Office for security clearance, don't casually come onto school property. Twice a day, perfectly good food is thrown into the trash. I am outraged with such waste, and if you saw it, you would be as well. Many, if not most all, school meal programs are funded by the Federal Government and subject to their rules.

    By the time new technology gets into the hands of students, it is nearly outdated. I watch stacks of nearly a hundred new i-Pads setting since last June, still not in the hands of students. Problem: technology support. Other problem: last May, and the year before in May, many ECSes went back into the classroom due to the budget cuts or "austerity measures" which put the district short ECSes where they are stretched to the limits.

    Schools with considerable ELL populations no longer have ELL Specialists to service them. Their load has now shifted to the regular classroom teacher. Learning to master the English language does take time and practice, and special allowances need to be in place for teachers with classrooms having ELL students, especially with the new state mandated evaluations. Public schools cannot turn away these children, and it does our society a disservice to not educate them. It is what it is.

    We all want to live and have a country that we are proud of, and part of that has to do with caring for the children of our country.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  17. I am one of the new highly qualified teachers brought into one of the 3 turnaround schools this year. I have 18 years experience teaching in another state, and I could write an entire book about the incompetency of the Clark County School District. However I will stick to one of the comments made in this article: "Teachers won't move on until students have mastered the unit or lesson. We're not going to keep driving the train down the tracks while kids are falling off... If a kid falls off, we've got to stop the train and fix the problem right there." This is so patently false that someone should be held liable. I am forced to cover chapters 1-6 by the end of the semester because I have to administer a district semester final on those chapters. This is based on a one-size-fits-all course pacing guide that is appropriate only for honors students. Even more appalling is that most of my students have failed one or both of the prerequisite math courses before being dumped in my class. Administrators have not "stopped the train" for these kids. On the contrary, they've put them on a bullet train to failure.

  18. Angie and Star always write comments worth reading. It is obvious that they are dedicated teachers.

    I'd like to support a couple of their comments with my own:

    - NCLB is a joke. Every child who does not have reliable Internet access at home is automatically left behind. Excessive testing does not bring children into the 21st century.

    - The top-down method of running schools - with those who have no clue what real teaching in a real classroom is really like telling the teachers who have the actual expertise what to do - is not working. It makes money for those who sell their programs, though.

    - The methods of acquiring and distributing money to run this state are ludicrous.

    - Those who care need to become involved.

    Additionally, let me reiterate that this district needs to stop pushing, pushing, pushing kids forward into classes for which they do not have the prerequisite skills.

    Every administrator who admonishes teachers for low grades, or routinely changes grades, should be placed back into the classroom (and have her/his grading monitored).

    Every teacher should have the freedom to realistically fail kids who are below grade level.

    Every kid below grade level who wants to learn and tries should have the support and opportunity to master lower-level skills before moving to higher ones.

  19. Ref: What I continue to find curious is that the socialists seem to think we're concerned about them, not the kids. Enough free income for life just cause you got tenure. Let's get more real teachers in public K-12 or let's shut it down.

  20. RefNV, you have clearly never taken preCalculus or Calculus in high school or college or you would understand the absolute necessity for independent practice done outside of the classroom. As for the French president ... he's a politician, not an educator, which is a huge problem in this country also. Note the phrase "draws criticism" within the very title of the article!

    Why you think I am neither qualified or passionate because of my desire to uphold CCSD to a view expressed to a newspaper reporter... clearly you have never taken a logic or debate class either. You have not refuted or even addressed my view that teachers need more autonomy to allow their students time to master objectives; you have just tossed in a completely unrelated topic. It's like trying to argue gun control by quoting an article about birth control. Good luck to you and your children.

  21. Also RefNV, the French President is not talking about high school. Just elementary and middle school. So please use supporting evidence relevant to your argument.