Thursday, November 10, 2011
My Adventures As A Gypsy ATR . School #6
I found myself in another "Restart School" and expected the worst since my other two experiences in school #3 and #5 where like being part of a horror show, with the students as the flesh-eating zombies. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the school was orderly and the students respectful. Yes this school has many problems, it wouldn't be a "Restart School" if it didn't, but I must admit my stay was pleasurable.
I did spend the election day doing unprofessional development and hear the "Restart Company" speakers (ex principals from Atalanta, the cheating capital of the nation) tell the staff that they are the blame for the school's poor grades over the last three years. They blamed the teachers that "they look out the window rather than looking at themselves in a mirror" when it comes to student achievement. The short version it's the teacher's fault for the students shortcomings academically.
First, let me tell you about the good things in the school. The APO greeted me with a hello and three keys (bathroom, classroom, and elevator). The first school to actually give me a bathroom and elevator key! Second, the students were relatively well behaved even for me. Third, the hallways were empty during class time and the few stragglers were handled quickly by school safety agents who patrol the hallways. Finally, there was ample parking and the staff, including the Administrators were helpful and friendly.
Unfortunately, this was a "Restart School" for a reason. The students are low achieving as they enter the high school with serious academic needs. To expect teachers to raise the academic standards of "1's and low 2's to pass rigorous high school courses is not realistic. Because higher achieving students don't attend this school, higher level courses are not given. For example, there is no Physics and only one class of Chemistry at the school. Further, the 16 Earth Science classes are taught by teachers who are not licensed in the subject with one being a Math teacher! The result is that few students pass the Earth Science Regents and can't obtain a "Regents Diploma". To cap off the problem, quite a few students come from Brooklyn and they seem to have the most problems adjusting to the school's culture and act up both in class and on school property, thereby increasing the violence associated with the school.
This school, like the other "Restart Schools" I have been in have two vacancies that they cannot seem to fill. Moreover, they also have hidden positions where teachers left on long-term leave and are not coming back. These positions are covered by day-to-day substitute teachers from outside the DOE and not ATRs. In addition, the elimination of one day of Science means that two or three Science teachers don't need to be hired. The Principal is a "Leadership Academy Principal" who has never taught in the classroom and has an "F status" Principal shadowing her.
Teacher morale is poor as they told me that in three years, when the "Restart" money ends, they will be ATRs and the academic ability of the students the school attracts make meeting the "Restart" conditions highly unlikely. There seems to be less "ineffective ratings" in this school than the other "Restart Schools" but still many teachers fear that it will still lead to a "two-year and your terminated" and nothing the union tells them changes that feeling. I ran into the Chapter Leader and he has worked hard to tell the members that this year's evaluation does not count. I believe he is wrong but to the teachers the evaluation system is just a termination process, when combined with the uniformity low academic achievement will allow the Administration to target selected teachers.
Overall, I had a pleasant experience at the school and would consider a position there, if offered, even if the school closes three years down the road.