Schools come in all shapes, all sizes, and all levels from, “Oh my goodness, I want my kid to go there!” to “There is no way on God’s Green Earth that I would let my child darken that door. I don’t care if I live in a hovel; we’re going to private school.”
That being said, I believe that something has to be done to push our bad schools out of business. I also firmly believe that the free market will take care of failing schools on its own. BUT! What makes a failing school? Is it the teachers? Is it the administration? Is it the central office staff? Is it poverty, lack of money going to the school, lack of money getting to the classroom, lack of salary for the best and brightest teachers, lack of__________? Or is it too much money going to the big dogs’ salaries, too much money spent on things outside of the basic education of our kids like testing, too much of ______________? Ironically, it’s none of that.
What makes a failing school is this little thing called the Georgia (please note: not National…Georgia) College and Career Readiness Performance Index (or, what we in the biz like to call the CCRPI Score). The CCRPI Score is based on a lot of factors, and one of those factors is how many kids pass a test. Another part of it is how many of our most vulnerable and underserved kids grow academically in a year. You get bonus points if teachers log on to the state system and mess around with it; points for AP classes being offered and taken, especially by minority students. Although old, this is a user friendly score guide. For you Education Wonks, check out the DOE Site and dig deeper.
A school that has a CCRPI score of less than a 70 is a big, fat failure. If that school is a big fat failure for three years, it is taken over by Big Deal and Company. What are Big Deal and Co. going to do, though? Is there a plan beyond the “Great Takeover”? Whom will they hire? How will those teachers get paid? Will they be paid more than their peers because they took on the challenge? What will the class size look like? What will become of the facilities? What will the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) funding be for the school population? Books? Technology? Supplies?
Here’s my prediction. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Big Deal and Co. will take over the school (s). Student:Teacher ratio will be ideal in all classes and not an average (20:1); facilities will be updated; teachers will be compensated on a higher level; administration will be held to a higher standard; our underserved population will be put into higher level classes and expected to perform at higher levels (because they CAN, and we forget that sometimes). Test scores will jump dramatically because the kids have the best and brightest working with them in smaller classes, lower student teacher ratios and higher expectations. IT’S a miracle! And then the best and brightest, the money, and the expectations will move on, and the school goes back to what the government has allotted it in the beginning. Guess what happens next?
Wouldn’t it be easier to simply hire teachers and administrators who are the best and brightest, pay them well, treat them well, and hold them to a higher standard? Give them a smaller class size so that they can get to know their kids and personalize learning. Give them support in areas they need support . Give them time to collaborate, to plan, and to give everything they have to the kids whom they serve? I’d say so. Jim Arnold of Pelham City Schools agrees. What say you?