Thursday, March 27, 2014

Solutions for Schools

Two articles on the reality of schools and teaching in an economically and racially segregated city:

From MinnPost's Beth Hawkins, At Minneapolis Public Schools, data on teachers raise resource-equity issues. The numbers clearly show that higher paid teachers (with more years of seniority) cluster at schools with the lowest poverty rates.

From teacher Kirsten Ragatz, writing a commentary in the Star Tribune, Why do teachers leave the toughest schools? Children with traumatic lives, no homes, or not enough food need more from school than one teacher can provide. And that's even if the students stay in the school for a whole year. Ragatz writes,

One year, of the children who started kindergarten with me on the first day of school, only three were still there on the last day. Every two or three weeks all year long, I lost a student and gained one, all the way through May. That was one of my most difficult years. By then I was a mother, had less time on evenings and weekends, and wanted to work someplace where I would have enough energy left to bring home to my own children.
Ragatz proposes a solution in line with many of Diane Ravitch's nine steps toward effectively improving U.S. education:
If we are to keep new teachers from leaving the toughest schools and bring the experienced teachers back, we need to give those teachers the help they need. It would be nice if teachers who work in the most challenging schools could be paid more. More important, though: They should work under experienced, supportive and talented principals whom they can trust; have a full staff of social workers and psychologists to help serve the children and their families, and work in a healthy and caring school culture. They should have small class sizes, as well as support staff working with them in their classrooms. Their schools should have effective behavior staff and school behavior plans that actually work to minimize disruption while keeping children in class and learning.
MinnPost commenter Ray Schoch, himself a former high school teacher, nailed the larger question:
Why are there 14 “racially identifiable” schools in the MPS system? Why has that phenomenon taken place, and, since it surely did not happen overnight, why has it been tolerated? What are the political and economic leaders of the Twin Cities metro going to do to address it?
Everyone knows the answer lies in the highly segregating Minneapolis neighborhoods but no one does much about it.

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