Wednesday, October 07, 2009

As a classroom teacher...

The results of the election this week have me...concerned. Wake County voters have elected new Board of Education members that favor neighborhood schools, a policy which is in opposition to the bussing and diversity policies currently in place in Wake County.

What I have heard about proponents of neighborhood schools is an almost "back to a simpler time" argument, back to a time where you could count on your school always being the same and not having to face constant reassignment. While it may seem like a majority of students are being shuffled around, it's actually only about 3% of the student population. Most students attend schools very close to their neighborhood.

To me, this seems like the true motives are slightly more sinister. It seems more like parents are trying to control the populations of the schools their children will attend, and don't agree with Wake County's policy of assigning students based on economic diversity.

It's not a perfect system.

But Wake County is a model for counties around the country, and I don't think it's an accident. Charlotte-Mecklenburg abandoned their diversity policy, and Wake County has them beat in test scores and teacher turnover rates. I doubt this is a coincidence.

I'm really concerned about the implications:
-Schools who draw from a poorer base population will have less PTA funding (which, let's be honest, helps more than you know).
-There may be higher teacher turnover in those poorer schools.
-EVERYBODY benefits from a diverse classroom. I have seen my poor kids learn a lot from the experiences that students who have had more resources can share. But ALL of my students are learning how to relate to people from very different walks of life. This isn't fluff. I've seen it happen firsthand. And it's a wonderful thing that could very well be lost. There aren't boundaries in my room. Why are there boundaries being formed in the county? This seems more like a euphemism for segregation, maybe not in the intentions of all who voted for this policy, but in the consequences of such a change.

I am terrified about the change that may occur in my classroom. I think about the diversity I have in my room, and how students from completely different socioeconomic backgrounds are extremely close friends. I think about the community that is forming during our Friday Family Meetings and what it would be like without those students that are being bussed in from other parts of the county. I know they won't be reassigned this year, but I can't imagine what my class would have been like without them.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

It's good to hear from a teacher who has this perspective and has real experience. I think there are 'gray' areas that some of the neighborhood school crowd don't understand nor do they want to. They simple want to publish numbers and tell people they are wrong.

Warning: Your blog was posted on the WakeEd blog which is a collection of a dozen or so people who support community schools and don't believe the diversity policy works because of the famous 54% number. You might receive some impolite comments.

Keep up the good fight and thank you for what you do for our kids.

Liz said...

If only 3% of the kids are "being shuffled around" then what will change under this new board? If kids are already in schools close to their neighborhoods, then that should persist.

It's really hard for me as a parent to get accurate/truthful information about what is happening in Wake county. I can't trust the reporting on scores and graduation rates. The politics is visible in the labels "neighborhood schools" and "resegregation." Hopefully the new board will bring some transparency to their work.

The problems with public education are so many and so much of any student's success is out of control of the schools.

Anonymous said...

I respect your opinion as a classroom teacher. However, you might want to revisit your math. Nearly 18% (25,000/140,000) of students were scheduled to be moved over the next three years by the current BOE. And while some of that was for growth, there were moves in my part of the county that had nothing to do with growth or socio-economic balancing. They were done merely to make schools look good. That needs to stop. If we focus on healthy students the healthy schools will follow.

That 54% percent number the other poster mentioned - that's the percent of ED kids Wake County Schools graduate. We fail with 46% of them - without a high school diploma, they are handicapped for life in our society. The bussing kids around for diversity doesn't work.

I volunteer in my child's classroom. In her Kindergarten class, I saw all of the children eager to learn no matter what their socio-economic standing. How can they be that eager at 6 and fail to graduate at 18?

It's time to look at new options and solutions - not just what WCPSS does or what Charlotte does. Let's see what works within WCPSS now and what's working across the country and around the world. That's what I voted for on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

You assume that the current board had children's success in mind with the current policies. They didn't - they had SCHOOL SUCCESS in mind, to satisfy the business interests that bankrolled the campaigns of the status quo candidates (check out the hastily formed Friends of Diversity photo in on, for instance) I would agree with the current policies if I was convinced it was helping the kids - however, the ED kids are shuffled like pawns to ensure they don't drag down a school. We have example after example of reassignments done for no other reason than to hide the lower performing nodes. The result of this is an ED graduation rate of 54% - how can you be satisfied with this? Don't believe the fearmongering - the new board is committed to the success of every child! Notice their focus on EDUCATION - the status quo candidates rarely mentioned that.

Husband of the blogger said...

I would like to thank those who have commented (both agreeing and disagreeing with my beautiful wife) so far.

Open discourse is a wonderful tool. I hope that the comments will continue to be cordial, even those that are disagreeing.

Jennifer Mansfield said...

I am wondering if you teach at a magnet school. Your Friday Family events sound great, but how many low income families could make it so such an event if their kids were being shipped 18 miles to Green Hope or 12 miles to Leesville? (actual distances for some kids).

Also, I question the 3% statistic because its not clear how WCPSS arrived at it. When the 22 schools were converted to MYR, WCPSS didn't count those kids as reassigned when they had to go back to their converted base. WCPSS says that only x% of kids are reassigned primarily because of diversity. That most moves are because of growth first and foremost. Do they consider the low income kids from downtown/SE Raleigh who get moved to a new school like Laurel Park to be moved for growth or diversity? My guess is that they categorize it as growth when that's really not the case. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for allowing us to comment here.

Occum_Sharpe said...

Many profess to follow him, but like Peter, they will deny his teachings when pressured by the masses.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

For(A) I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you(B) gave me drink,(C) I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36(D) I was naked and you clothed me,(E) I was sick and you(F) visited me,(G) I was in prison and you came to me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40And(H) the King will answer them,(I) 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these(J) my brothers,[a] you did it to me.' 41"Then he will say to those on his left,(K) 'Depart from me, you(L) cursed, into(M) the eternal fire prepared for(N) the devil and his angels. 42For(O) I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' 45Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these,(P) you did not do it to me.' 46And these will go away(Q) into eternal punishment, but the righteous(R) into eternal life."

Anonymous said...

Please look around Wake County. There are many poor schools (over 40% F&R, several over 60%). The students in those schools are punished by the diversity policy. First by being denied equal access to magnet programs (applicants from these schools are only eligible for the final round) and secondly by money being spent on diesel fuel that could be spent in classrooms. You will never teach a child in Wendell to read by busing kids from Raleigh to Cary. All Wake County children deserve a good education, and current policies are not working. I look forward to a Board of Education that will look for solutions for all students.

Mom de Guerre said...

Afraid you're going to have to teach poor kids? Don't worry, some of them are really smart.

Anonymous said...

The Cold Within

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood--
Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
But the first one held hers back,
For, of the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next one looked cross the way
Saw one not of his church,
And could not bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of wealth he had in store,
And keeping all that he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For he saw in his stick of wood
A chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain,
Giving just to those who gave
Was how he played the game,

Their sticks held tight in death's stilled hands
Was proof enough of sin;
They did not die from cold without--
They died from cold within.

-- James Patrick Kinney

Anonymous said...

Thank you for caring about our children in the classroom. I have lived in the same house in Wake County for 15 years. I thought the whole diversity experiment had some validity, but personally I think they have lost touch with reality and especially with families. My two boys, 7 and 10, attend two different elementary schools. They start hours apart. One is year round and one is traditional. Once the 10 year old is in middle school my two older children will attend two different middle schools. I thought I had been able to avoid this issue since she attends a magnet school. NO, the 10 year old won't be able to attend this same school. The magnet areas have been changed in the interests of keeping the schools numbers correct.

We are sentenced to a dual schedule for the next 8 years that all my children will be at home with us. Every teacher workday is different, every early release day is different. It's ridiculous. I can't imagine how a low income family would manage this sort of schedule. It's almost a full time job dealing with it.
It makes it so hard for me to volunteer my time in the classroom also. I'm worry about the low income kids who are the only ones who are bused long distances.
I think the innovative minds of Wake County can come up with a better solution than the current policy. I think we are better than this.

Thank you for letting me share - I just wanted to give you a parent suggestion.

dom said...

Mom de Guerre-Actually, I'm scared that my poor kids won't be part of my classroom anymore.

Jeremy & Erin Morin said...

Mom De Guerre: You obviously did not read my friend's post accurately. That was rude and not sharp. Try reading before you comment so harshly.

Dom, thank you for voicing your opinion as a young teacher with goals and aspirations for her classroom. Your passion for teaching ALL types of children and enstilling in them the same acceptance that I've seen in you for the past 5 or 6 years is inspiring. Yes, do more research, but I'm glad you stick with your beliefs since you are in the trenches each and every day dealing with things that even the best parents cannot experience unless they have taught.