Monday, May 11, 2009

Turning around struggling schools

I read this article with interest about schools being turned around.

"The basic theory is that middle-class kids enter adolescence with certain working models in their heads: what I can achieve; how to control impulses; how to work hard. Many kids from poorer, disorganized homes don’t have these internalized models. The schools create a disciplined, orderly and demanding counterculture to inculcate middle-class values."


To not provide strong behaviour models is to invite failure. The ethic that work = results = success is not inbred in these kids by their immediate environment. Developmental programmes for these kids are inappropriate as they do not have a drive to develop.. we must first create this drive.

"Basically, the no excuses schools pay meticulous attention to behavior and attitudes."

I like that.. "no excuses".. and it is so applicable to our public schools. In our society, everyone gets to have their say, anything can be rationalised as true and the time wasted unpacking excuses is.. well.. inexcusable.

"They teach students how to look at the person who is talking, how to shake hands. These schools are academically rigorous and college-focused."

Under the guise of political correctness and multiculturalism we accept a range of behaviours that interpreted under this model is inappropriate. Whether this is right or not is not a question I can easily answer but as a nation we need to decide what is acceptable behaviour and then teach it. Teaching a class of thirty under this model would require some bending of cultural mores in order to encourage a class environment of like behaved students rather than a group of individuals. To drive these kids towards developing the rigour for higher education would be fantastic.

"Promise Academy students who are performing below grade level spent twice as much time in school as other students in New York City. Students who are performing at grade level spend 50 percent more time in school."

I love the idea that those behind have to work extra hours.. how obvious.. if you're behind you need to do extra work to catch up, unlike our current policy of teach what you can in the time allowed which results in students that need more time to learn each topic falling further behind each and every day.

The sad fact is that creating a no excuse environment would take much commitment/courage and would create much heartache within the school community. I don't know if it could be done within the Perth environment with our inclusiveness of multiple cultures. It would be a move back towards creating "Australians" rather than a nation of multiple cultures. I don't think as a nation we have been driven to this yet.

If we could decide on minimum standards (minimum attendance requirements, obedience to teachers, zero aggression, completion of homework, minimum expectations of results before progression) perhaps it would be a small step to replicating the results found in Harlem.

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