While it’s much easier to focus on the failures of certain schools soughWoodMiddleSchoolcough, when it comes to not meeting AYP numbers aka not meeting all the benchmarks to get out of Program Improvement probably because there is all this drama around the suggestion that the ACLC Charter School be relocated to the Wood campus. Less interesting, I suppose because I find it interesting and not just because it’s my neighborhood school, are the success of other schools that really make huge gains. For example both Paden (West End School) and Ruby Bridges (yay!) made huge strides on serving really hard to serve populations, but those accomplishments don’t get lauded, only the failures are the focus of attention.
Listening to the presentation on Title I programs in Alameda it is clear that each site receiving this money really do use these funds to help educate segments of their populations in order to help them succeed.
For example, the only subgroup that Ruby Bridges fell short on was for the “white” subgroup, what was interesting was that when the school drilled down on what that meant, it showed that students from the Middle East were sorted into that “white” category, even those that may have just immigrated to the US, and in fact, Ruby Bridges has a pretty large population of Middle Eastern students for whom English is their second language.
According to Ruby Bridges’ principal, they used Title I money to hire a paraprofessional that also spoke Arabic to help these students transition. Interesting anecdote which goes back to the whole problem with this testing in the first place because it never takes in consideration all the other “stuff” happening in the lives of the students that goes on outside of the school walls. The principal mentioned that some of the student have just immigrated to the United States from Iraq, so not only did they come in unfamiliar with the basics of English they also came from a country where corporal punishment was used within the schools and so the principal explained that they had some post-traumatic stress from that situation and she had to explain to those students, through an interpreter, that none of that would happen at Ruby Bridges.
Ruby Bridges’ principal was then asked what she would need to help boost achievement, she noted that having half time summer school with after school enrichment would go really far to help students retain the information learned through the summer break. Of course, right now, summer school is not offered on the Ruby Bridges campus which makes it difficult for students without transportation to get to summer schools sited at other schools.
There was some discussion on Tuesday night about the School District turning down the Title I money so that the No Child Left Behind Program Improvement issue doesn’t loom over the heads of certain sites. Here’s the thing. It’s all fine and good to talk about that in hindsight when we all have the perfect vision of knowing that certain schools wouldn’t be able to pull the school out of Program Improvement despite the additional funds. However, some schools don’t have the luxury that others do, because of the demographics of the school population, where they have PTAs that can raise insane amounts of money that essentially fund everything that Title I money goes towards funding.
In fact when School Board Member Mike McMahon suggested that they look at, hypothetically, what it would look like for the school site budgets if the District were to stop accepting Title I money and the Superintendent noted that the look on the faces of the teachers from the Title I schools was “terror” when it was suggested that the money no longer be available because it also involves categorical funding at the state level too.
It was interesting to read this tweet in light of the discussion about Title I funding:
Trustee Mike McMahon says he would have recommended district not take Title 1 funds had he known about the impact of strings attached—
Michele Ellson (@TheAlamedan) January 30, 2013
after watching the School Board meeting, because I literally watched School Board Member Mike McMahon’s comments three times to understand his comment in light of the summary tweet above. Because the tweet made it sound like Mike McMahon didn’t understand what the ramifications of taking Title I money was, which was weird, because the whole Title I discussion was raised when Chipman turned charter and less so but still part of the discussion when Washington turned into a magnet school as well. But when I watched the meeting it sounded like Mike McMahon was attempting to say that the School District needs to be careful moving forward with NCLB version 2 because there might be “poison pills” with in new version that would make it not worth taking the money. When he noted that he would have cautioned the community that the school district needed to wean itself off the Title I money — because the assumption was that the re-authorization of NCLB that was supposed to happen (with the intent to get rid of the performance measures), but didn’t — if he had known that “this was going to continue on.” The “this” in Mike McMahon’s comment is the on-going hold up with regards to re-authorizing NCLB and keeping in place the performance measures.
Anywho, I guess that was too much to put in a tweet, but arguably the larger article around the topic did little to provide context and clarity either.
But back to my original-ish point: it’s all find and dandy for folks to see with perfect hindsight that Title I money comes with these huge negatives particularly when attempting to reach these arbitrary benchmarks set by the federal government. However, those that are saying that we should just give up the money now coughtrishspencercough and the parcel tax will just make up for the loss of Title I AND categorical funding that comes with the Title I funds will probably be the first to complain about unequal distribution of parcel tax funds. Here’s the thing about the parcel tax money: it’s not an endless piggy bank. When folks like Trish Spencer get up and say, oh just throw more money at the problem and she gets applause for saying it, it completely neglects the reality that the money has to come from somewhere and most of the parcel tax money is already allotted for things like, oh, I don’t know, class size reductions and making sure that there are no more furlough days, you know, stuff like that. It costs nothing for Trish Spencer to makes sweeping proclamations like that, because in the end, it will be up to four other people to make the hard decisions and she can go on making pronouncements that get applause but makes no policy and does nothing in practice.