Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Providence Public Schools: Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Negative


Although (PPSD Director of High Schools) Onye praised the positive changes at Hope, she said that the school's academic performance remains disappointing. Hope's attendance and graduation rates continue to lag behind the district averages and the school's SAT scores are not good enough to meet admission standards at either Rhode Island College or the University of Rhode Island.

"We've seen millions of dollars infused into Hope," Onye said. "Those funds were diverted away from the other high schools. But we did not see the gains we expected."

Actually, the gains seem pretty much in line with what you should expect if you take a low-performing high school and divide it in three. One school doing very well, one improving modestly, one more or less foundering. The question is, what do you do next? Build on your real successes or just call it a failure and scrap the whole thing?

When achievement scores go up in a high school, what do you do, praise them or bring up a new set of numbers to make them look bad? Do bad attendance numbers offset high test scores? What about vice versa? And aren't graduation rates inherently a trailing indicator compared to scores from tests given to juniors in October?

Or maybe you just stick to saying there isn't enough money.

Anyhow, once again kudos to Hope High students for questioning authority and finally bringing these issues to a wider audience in Providence.

Nice to have ESPEC chime in and even stick up for teachers a bit:

Harlan Rich, a member of the East Side Public Education Coalition, urged the School Board to come up with a compromise that would honor Hope's gains. He also said that the School Department has forbidden teachers to speak publicly about their profound concerns about the changes coming to their school.

Also, this "lost instructional time" stuff is just bullshit:

But Nikoli Onye, the director of high schools, painted a very different picture. Hope, she says, has lost 105 days of instructional time over four years because its classes meet every other day instead of daily. The six-period day, which has been adopted by every other high school, will allow students to take Advanced Placement classes and enroll in college classes.

But students said -- and teachers have confirmed -- that a block schedule allows a student to take 32 classes over four years compared with 24 under a six-period schedule. Students also said that a six-period day would limit the number of electives, especially in the arts, which make Hope special.

In other news:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The School Board voted 7 to 1 Monday night to close two schools, Perry Middle School and Feinstein High School, over the passionate objections of teachers, students and elected officials who represent those schools.

Actually, both went pretty quietly, as such things go. Both buildings do probably need to go. I just wish Feinstein in particular could have been closed in such a way that did not disparage the school's real accomplishments. It could have been done, there just was no will to do so.

And frankly, a little kabuki could go a long way here. Couldn't the city and the state make a show of asking the Feds to make Hope eligible for turnaround funds? Couldn't the city have asked the state to reconsider Feinstein's turnaround status after their test scores shot up? Even if it was all just for show and to make the students, teachers and citizens of this city feel a little better?


Claus von Zastrow said...

You're right to point out the danger of simply scrapping what's come before. It seems that a number of struggling schools have achievements to build on, but the rhetoric of restarts tends to disparage EVERYTHING that has come before.

In communities that have already experienced wave after wave of restarts, the message that everything they did was for naught is disheartening and hardly motivating.

mzm said...

Hi Mr. Hoffman,

I'm a Brown University-member of Hope United, and I happened upon this blog while doing some research. It looks like you pretty firmly land on the side of preserving the progress at Hope.

As I'm sure you can tell from the ProJo articles, the campaign is heating up, and we can use all the help we can get! So, we would love it if you would get in touch with us at hopeunitedgroup@gmail.com.

Enjoying keeping up with your blog!

Michael Mezera