Friday, August 22, 2008

Academic Watch

The word is official, Cleveland schools are back on the Academic Watch list.
Am I surprised? Not at all.
From my view point in the classroom, not much has changed beyond the way students are dressed to come to school, and the addition of extra security guards (the private Tenable Security Company) to keep an eye on the exits and entrances in the morning. Oh, and let's not forget the metal detectors.
When Dr Sanders came to Cleveland he spent a good part of the first year listening to the community, and he acted on their concerns. Safety and security are improving, and the students come to school appropriately dressed. New programs and specialty schools are springing up all over the district. All good things for sure.
Maybe now it's time to ask the folks who are directly involved with the students what would help us do our jobs. Ask us where we see the need for improvement.
In my building, the one big problem last year was staffing in key academic areas. Unfortunately, there were several teachers with long term health issues, which resulted in a revolving door of substitute teachers. Without regular teachers in the classrooms, learning just isn't going to happen.
The other major problem related to staffing is the annual fiasco of scheduling at the start of the school year. Teachers are shifted from one building to another from the month of August through the middle of October, to adjust for changes in student populations. In turn, the master schedule in each school must be adjusted, which means student schedules get changed. This results in first quarter chaos which has become business as usual in Cleveland. Twenty years ago I was advised by a veteran colleague to delay putting names in my grade book until the end of the fall quarter, since the class lists would change almost daily until after the final ADM week counts were submitted. Two decades later, I still pass that same good advice along to new Cleveland teachers.
Well, that's my two cents this morning.
If anyone wants to hear the other 98 cents worth of my observations, all you have to do is ask.
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Wendy A. Hoke said...

Just wondering how X-ray machines and metal detectors at every entry are going to "make our environment welcoming" to parents and students. Sanders talked about the disconnect between community and schools during his state of the schools address last Friday. Security is important, but if you create a prison-like atmosphere, aren't you reinforcing negative behaviors by establishing a culture in which kids are perceived as potential threats?

I'd be very interested to know what you and other CMSD teachers think about this.


Sammy said...

Wendy - I'm pretty sure that the intent of the security devices are to affort a safe environment for the faculty and students, rather than enforce the "prison-like atmosphere" you mention. I've worked in several of the so-called "roughest" schools in Dallas, Tx, and the continual message was one of safety and freedom within the rules and guidelines. The negative elements and behaviors you refer to (I hope!) are EXTERNAL to the school environment, not contained within the school. Sure, everyone wants to keep weapons and drugs OUT of the schools, and the mind-set that kids are a threat negates the efforts of many to distinguish between the student and the symptoms of the immediate society at large. Unfortunatley, metal detectors, frisking, and other security measures are needed to preserve the safety of all concerned, but what are we doing outside the school to promote safety and well-being? How safe and free do the students feel to express their negative feelings within the school itself? Are these efforts at self-expression honored or discouraged? It's difficult to consistantly encourage and recognize positive behaviors without attempting to "punish" negative behaviors, but this approach works for people of all ages suffering from any myriad of addictions. I think we all need to think of kids as kids, and review our own issues that cause us to see them as anything but kids.

marybeth said...


This is such a good question, I'm going to devote an entire post to it. Look for my essay tonight or tomorrow.