It’s New York State testing season and as this Times article notes, some schools are under tremendous pressure to do well. Schools in Mayor de Blasio’s Renewal Program, an effort that works to provide consistently and critically underperforming schools with additional social, mental, and academic support (as opposed to closing them), will no doubt be under a microscope. The schools in the program are in their last year but have shown “mixed results” thus far. The Education Department does not know what it will do with schools that do not “pass” the three-year program.
As I was reading, I wondered what metrics they will use to determine successful, detrimental and eveything-in-between aspects of the program. What impact does having added social support and how can you slice and dice different answers to that question. Perhaps students are still underperforming but there seems correlation with a particular health program that shows suspension rates gave gone down. I worry that most people will focus academic performance so much that it will be hard to see these other forms of “wins”. The article may have the same concern and cites Norman Futcher at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools to point out weaknesses as a test-heavy data point for reasons to close schools . Futcher honestly and realistically notes that real test gains, with the history of schools in the Renewal program, won’t be realized immediately. Fair enough. It’s not uncommon for seventh grade teachers, for example, to inherit students who are several grades below their reading and math levels. At that point, we are expecting some teachers to fix years worth of the system’s neglect. Students are promoted to the next level when they have hardly adequately grasped…makes no sense. As I mentioned earlier this year, in addtion to the changes New York City is making to supply support, it should work on changing the system for students in the earlier grades. Part of the biggest issues is that the system tries to rush an “fix failing schools ” too late. The schools are not the problem per se. The students who are forced to do work they are not prepared to do (at no fault of their own) need help sooner rather than later. Period.