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Proviso Probe

Friday, April 27, 2007

ED, teachers quit b/c bad conditions; implications for Proviso

Kevin Drum (Political Animal) wrote a blog entry that ends with:
But complaining about low salaries and bad teachers is a lot easier than focusing on the seemingly intractable problem of dysfunctional communities creating dysfunctional schools. So that's what we do.

In Drum's entry he quotes LA Times (Howard Blume):
....At high-minority and high-poverty schools, teacher turnover typically runs at 10% annually. "If this churning is going on, you can be sure you have a dysfunctional school," Futernick said. "As long as we think of these schools as combat zones, we'll never solve the retention problem and we'll never close the achievement gap" between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers.

More from the same article:
The real issue is working conditions, which are the flip side of a student's learning conditions, said Ken Futernick, who directs K-12 studies at the Center for Teacher Quality at Cal State Sacramento.

Classroom interruptions, student discipline, increasing demands, insufficient supplies, overcrowding, unnecessary meetings, lack of support — all play a role in burning out teachers.

Drum complains about the methodology of the research, but the conclusion sounds plausible.

Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I sorta feel the problem districts in Proviso have the problems described in this study plus an intrusive amount of politics. Some teachers are largely left alone, but some clearly feel the politics is a negative. Isis (It's Just Teaching) has some recent specific gripes.

So what's Proviso to do?

The problems need to be addressed in a holistic way, but we need to be cognizant of the legacy of racism (and current racism). Racism pervades everyone's thinking. Racism plays a role in everyone--voters, political bosses, administrators, teachers, parents, the media, law enforcement and everyone else--accepting things that would be unacceptable if Proviso schools served at 75% "White" population*.

We need to do a better job of preparing people to be parents. We need to do a better job of supporting parents. We need schools that are optimized around students. We need to de-politicize schools as part of administrators creating a conducive-to-education environment for teachers.

Anyway, feel free to add your two cents. Try to focus your criticisms on problems not people. Even of the worst bad actor on the local level died in a vehicle collision today, tomorrow Proviso schools would still have 98+% of the problems they have today.

* According the (2000 Census the United States was 75.1% "White", 12.5% "Hispanic", 12.3% Black, 3.6% Asian & 2.4% "multiracial". By contrasts Proviso Township was 42.7% "White", 36.3% Black, 17.3% "Hispanic", 2.3% Asian & 1.1% "multiracial". And the schools have significantly higher percentages of Blacks and Latinos.

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  • What are the success stories of
    "high-minority and high-poverty schools" nationwide ?

    The memory seems to recall that success has occurred in small, privately run academies that specialize in this demographic.

    By Blogger chris miller, at 1:30 PM, April 27, 2007  

  • Roosevelt Middle School...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:19 AM, April 28, 2007  

  • It all begins at home. You forgot to mention a large racist group in your theory.. That of which is the STUDENT themselves. Having worked for PTHS for over 20 years and being African American, I hear those students and observe African American Admin speaking ghetto and acting like they are on a street corner selling crack. I have many white teacher friends along with hispanic, and white. What do they all have in common that attracts me to their friendshhip? They are teachers who care. Nothing to do about what color someones skin is. We all need as a society to ignore the racists. I am not saying racism does not exist, it does. But I have seen the shift to where the African Americans are now discriminating against white students and teachers. The school must stop trying to educated these children on social levels, and become what they truly are...TEACHERS.....If a student outlashes against someone over nad over suspend and expel him or her. Do not counsel them over and over showing everyone else in the school that its ok to pretend you are on the springer show. Enough of the drama

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:22 AM, April 28, 2007  

  • Jane says: Proviso loses teachers because of various reasons:
    1. The salary is about$10,000-$20,000less than neighboring schools districts.
    2. Teachers are pressed to give grades to kids they didn't earn. In other words, pass kids who don't deserve to pass
    3. The schools are not under control. Kids come late to classes with no consequence. Kids swear at teachers with little or no consequence. Kids roam the halls. Kids threaten teachers and nothing is done. Kids answer cell phones and text message during class.
    4. Parent involvement is nil. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Parents don't have to come for PTA, etc., but they do have to support education. Most parents come to school to defend their little darlings and blame the teachers.
    I truly don't think the politics of the board affect most teachers. There are few if any teachers who come to board meetings, so they don't know what really goes on. Teachers get burned out at schools like Proviso because there is a lack of teacher support. Many teachers see their friends with college degrees making twice as much and they choose to leave the profession altogether. It's a shame, because most teachers really care about students.
    Do charter schools work? Let's look at PMSA for a moment. It's not a charter school, but it does get to select its clientele. Go to the PMSA website. Read the principal's message where he mentions over 3000 tardies the first semester. He also mentions discipline problems. Go to the student newspaper where they mention that only 29 kids were exempt from finals (That means only 29 kids out of about 275 maintained a C average). Read how students are upset because some teachers won't offer to help them.
    I personally think Proviso just doesn't know how to run schools. Fields' new program may help. What Proviso needs to do is what Triton does. You take remedial courses until you are up to grade level. The remedial courses do not count for high school credit. This may mean that some kids will take 5 or 6 years to get out of high school. At least at the end of those years they will be educated and not just passed along.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:30 AM, April 28, 2007  

  • This was posted a while ago by Steven ...

    "Your basic recipe for continued academic failure of our children (other ingredients can embellish the mix):

    (1) add thousands of parents within the Proviso School District who fail to teach their children good educational values and who fail to act as good role models for their children

    (2) mix in low familial socioeconomic status, high neighborhood crime rates, and a generous powdering of feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, apathy, and a low sense of self-efficacy within and among families

    (3) sift in generous portions of negative peer group influence including the social reinforcement of antisocial behavior, drug use, violence, and truancy

    (4) combine well-motivated students who have good academic potential with a large group of losers (2,256 Black students operating below grade level) so the good students face the same struggles as Sisyphus with the same results.

    (5). add a only a dash, because of its concentrated powerful effects, of incompetent, inept, self-serving, psychopathic, manipulative, deceitful school administrators, board members, and teachers who do not have the best interests of the students on their agendas, hidden and otherwise

    (6). Misallocate millions upon millions of dollars to a school, PMSA, for the academically-gifted which serves a relatively low percentage of the total number of students in District 209. Don’t allocate the monies to a far larger percentage of students who are academically-challenged or academically-disenfranchised. The logic in this seems akin to the logic employed by those who choose to forego making their mortgage payments or live in squalor but drive new Cadillac Escalades

    (7) add a pinch of ostensibly good-intentioned but basically ignorant legislators and “wanna be” legislators who think that there is a simple solution to the problem, who paint the problem with a broad and sometimes dumbfoundlingly stupid brush ("No One Loves Black kids"), who appeal to gut reactions of voters rather than coming up with complex total solutions (if there are truly any that can be implemented), who fail to lobby for and/or appropriately fund the solutions, and who make damn sure that, when sprinkles of money are allocated, the sugar ends up on the plates of relatives, cronies, friends, and neighbors (Patrick Fitzgerald, are you there?)

    Add all of these ingredients together, let them stew year-after-year-after year, until they become solidified ... until the mix becomes a gargantuan brick of shit, seemingly impenetrable, that stinks to high heaven and then serve it over and over again to the community".

    By Anonymous Makes Me Vomit, at 3:21 PM, April 28, 2007  

  • Jane:
    I find the dialog here very interesting and helpful. Sounds like there is a conversation that is at least civil and concerned.

    Teachers are some of the most under rated professionals on the planet. They come into the school system bright and wanting to help the next generation and leave disillusioned and looking for greener pastures.

    How can we be supportive and helpful to teachers as community member who do not have children in the school system?

    By Anonymous ab of bellwood, at 5:27 PM, April 28, 2007  

  • From a tired East teacher:
    Right on, Jane! I'd like to add to your list about why Proviso loses teachers.
    5. Lack of respect for instuctional time. Every day, there are PA announcements in the middle of classes; very often, these are repeated again a few minutes later. So, a teacher starts a lesson only to be interrupted several times during a class period. Add to this the "class meeting" assemblies that are announced, cancelled and rescheduled willy-nilly. So much for carrying out a well-planned lesson.
    6. No supplies for us, especially no Xerox machine and (when the Xerox does work) no Xerox paper. Last week there was no toilet paper or towels in the faculty women's bathroom at East.
    7. Students who won't carry pencils or paper, never mind even thinking about carrying books.
    8. Kids who boldly say, "I can get you fired" because when they were in Dist. 89 grammar schools they saw teachers leave after being hit in the head with books, so they think they can "fire" us in the same way.
    9. Seldom being able to teach the kids who want to learn because you (and they) are stuck in a classroom with a bunch of knuckleheads who spend their classtime insulting each other and throwing "F" bombs.
    10. The gnawing feeling that, after teaching so many years at Proviso, you will lose your ability to teach real subject matter in a real school.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:58 PM, April 28, 2007  

  • Carl,

    Why did you post the 8:22 A.M. anon comment? That comment demonstrates the lack of higher level thinking and education that exist in our schools. The comment is guilty of the same thing they are expressing in his or her comment. Please post comments that elevate the discussion.

    Also, I thought you did not post anon comments anymore.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:29 PM, April 28, 2007  

  • Jane says: to Make me vomit...You hit the nail on the head. To ab of Bellwood...There needs to be a whole mindset change in the community and with the administration. I worked at Proviso years ago when the principal always backed the teachers up. He sat and listened to a parent complain and ALWAYS backed the teacher. Now, after the parent was gone, the teacher might have been read the riot act, but while the parent was present, the teacher was right. This has changed. The school now teaches kids that they and their parents are always right. Parents can even come in and drag a teacher out of class to argue with her in the hall while an entire class sits not being educated. What can the community do? SUPPORT EDUCATION. I remember after Martin Luther King's death how the parents felt about education. Kennedy contributed to this too. The best way to get out of the ghetto was through a good education. What happened to that feeling. In the 70's kids listened and learned. Now they just don't seem to care. The worst is when a student comes up and asks, "How can I be failing, I'm here everyday?" I always told him the chairs were here everyday too, but they haven't gotten any smarter. Who gives them the idea that their mere presence gives them the right to pass?
    To the East teacher...I don't think West has as many disruptions as East, but they do have the Xerox problem. I bet PMSA has paper, Xerox machines that work, and far fewer class interruptions.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:04 PM, April 29, 2007  

  • To "makes me vomit":

    Thanks for quoting my former posting which I posted months ago, but which I think is still applicable. Someone pointed out to me that there seems to be a contradiction between points (4) and (6). To clarify, I do think that it is hard to shine academically in a dark and oppressive atmosphere in which a large number of "students" couldn't care less about how well or poorly they do in their studies. However, I don't think the answer is to throw multi millions of dollars into a new building and a new curriculum for the more academically advanced students. Rather, I think a good portion of the monies could have better spent on programs to raise the academic performance of poor-performing students. Traditionally, students of different academic levels have been educated in the same high schools, but on different tracks.
    Surely, there is some separation involved in this system as well, but not at the cost of millions upon millions of dollars for new infrastructure, materials, additional teachers, etc.

    In my opinion, the creation and continuation of PMSA was more of testimony to the short-sightedness, narcissism, and greed of board members than it was to sound educational logic and to the betterment of the general population of District 209 students.

    By Blogger spi9959, at 8:18 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • Jane says: tracking has been frowned upon. The current consensus is that it keeps the minorities down. To this end, Proviso has eliminated many of the lower track programs. In effect they have placed 4th grade readers in with 9th grade readers in social studies. What happens in a class of 30? The low readers fail and the upper readers don't get a good education because the teacher must"dumb down" the curriculum. Why is it that people who are not in education get to make policy decisions that are not good for most kids? If the lower level kids were placed in lower level classes, they might actually succeed. Special ed has been destroyed by the state. Many kids are mainstreamed with an aide in the class. Again, they mostly fail. This happened at Proviso and after the parents raised hell, Proviso quietly changed all the grades to D's. Many kids at Proviso beg to be in the upper level classes because there are less disruptions. They don't mind getting a D when the teacher can actually teach and not discipline all period.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:32 PM, May 01, 2007  

  • Regarding tracking -- I can only say that I am very, very grateful that the Cincinnati public schools
    were able to support a separate, high-track high school because my parents could not afford to give me a private education -- and so I am also grateful for everyone involved in making PSMA a reality.

    Maybe that makes me an elitist -- but I think that the crime of holding back those who have the desire and ability to learn far
    outweighs the crime of neglecting those who (even for a variety of understandable reasons) don't. (and BTW, that school, despite Cincinnati's terrible Jim Crow reputation, was multi ethnic)

    By Blogger chris miller, at 11:09 AM, May 02, 2007  

  • Jane says: Oh Chris are you naive. The best of Proviso still go to private schools. Kids at PMSA are supposed to be the best of what's left. Problem is, no one is saying who's the best. Is it based on test scores? essays? teacher recs? We will see exactly how smart these kids are after they take the ACT. As to class disruptions, check out the PMSA website. Between the principals newsletter and the student newspaper, you can read a few articles that claim discipline needs to be tightened up. Especially noteworthy is the mention of over 3000 tardies to 1st per. Hell, that's about 10 tardies per kid!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:01 PM, May 02, 2007  

  • According to the website -- Cincinnati offers a test to all 6th graders -- and everyone who scores above 70 gets into the special college-prep school if they want. (it's more convenient for many to take special programs in their local school)

    The resulting ethnic percentage looks like it reflects the city at large (35% minority)

    It's too bad PMSA different -- and I feel bad for parents whose children couldn't get in -- but whose test scores were higher than some who did.

    (special schools can always throw out -- or flunk out -- kids who are too immature. And if they're really tough about the work load -- a lot of kids - like my brother - will be happy to drop out and return to their local school. But all those who score highest on the test should at least be given a chance - regardless of past academic performance)

    By Blogger chris miller, at 4:44 PM, May 03, 2007  

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