Saturday, August 22, 2009

Funny Story...

Jeremy Chiappetta (principal, Democracy Prep Blackstone Valley, aka the mayoral academy):

Ready to crash after a second amazing week with teachers...highlight included working with more than 20 scholars on STEP

Funny story... six or seven years ago Charles N. Fortes Elementary School, a site-based Providence Public School, was working with the STEP team from University of Chicago, having very promising results from testing it alongside their existing literacy program, and hoping to switch.

I was sort of along for the tech support ride, and my expertise on early literacy was tiny compared to the people I was talking to, but very smart teachers at Fortes were telling me things like "Using the old assessment I could tell something was wrong with this student, but I couldn't put my finger on it, and I didn't couldn't figure out what to do to move her forward. Then I gave her the STEP assessment and BINGO, I knew what was wrong and how to fix it." Seemed like the way this stuff is supposed to actually work.

Then NCLB got rolling full steam, Fortes overnight went from being considered a model urban elementary one encouraged to experiment and flush with grants to an officially failing one that had to be brought into line. Then Reading First's corrupt "research-based" requirements required them to buy another program (or turn down lots of funding, not really possible). And that was that (at least the school is making AYP now, for what that's worth).

So... good - the mayoral academy should have a good reading program. I'm not sure what lesson this teaches me about school reform though. I can have a my choice of literacy program if I'm willing to give up my pension? And suggesting today in Providence that your school adopt a unique curriculum, particularly in the context of the still-extant contract provisions on site-based management, will get you laughed out of the room.

By the way, I'm really not sure if we're supposed to consider the current regime in Providence as "reformers" or even "reformy." Or are they self-consciously reactionary? I mean, they are reactionary. Do neo-reformers consider them part of their team? Or a sub-sect? Is there a schism that isn't really talked about? Truly, I don't even know.

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