In this country, we find ourselves jumping onto whatever new shiny object is being hyped although in the near future we’ll be latching onto another newer shiny object. I’m not opposed to innovation, but we need to stop our practice of choosing a couple of schools at a time to try out this year’s grand experiment while placing other schools on the back burner. Under the last several years of austerity budgets, local schools with the most needy students have been stripped bare and left to fend for themselves and we wonder why they’re not succeeding.
In Philadelphia, maxed out and oversized classes are the norm, due to the lack of ability to hire and retain highly qualified teachers and support staff because this District continually shows a lack of respect, verbally and through critical cut-backs of staff, resources, even the atrocious condition of the schools themselves. You value individual teachers that you get to know; you just don’t value teachers as a whole. You’ve pushed out experienced teachers and principals and instituted rigid rules for how both must be evaluated. True collaboration of staff requires a good instructional leader as we used to call principals who respects and enables teachers, and the time to fine-tune the curriculum for the students at hand, a knowledge of how children learn as well as being able to share with each other the academic progress and needs of their students over time. I was a school counselor at one school for 38 years with a staff and administration that valued longevity which gave us the ability to work professionally and cohesively, to really know our students, parents, generational and extended families, the neighborhood, and to be considered a part of them. I can’t impart to you more strongly the value of that.
Your model and those of the corporations to whom you’re outsourcing much of our dollars, view the product or method as paramount. Well, that’s the job of a profit-making enterprise. You and they see teachers as temporary interchangeable parts. The District’s idea of staff training is what I call the 2 hour/ 2 day/ 2 week Turn-around training and then expect instant mastery and results. I have always found this to be an absolutely bizarre process for any educational entity to use.
The Philadelphia School District must do its due diligence for ALL students in EVERY school throughout the City, instead of spending money on creating pockets of schools and programs that make good press while leaving the rest of the District’s students and staff to muddle on their own.