Fuzzy fundamental

Tampa’s high-scoring “fundamental” schools are being copied by a neighboring county — in a watered-down version that may be effective. The St. Pete Times reports:

The elementary school with the top student test scores in the state, located in Tarpon Springs, uses a strict approach. Parents must be involved. Students must behave.

If parents and students don’t play by the rules at Tarpon Springs Fundamental School, children can be transferred out.

As Kimberly Swygert points out, even parents must abide by the dress code on campus.

Hillsborough County is turning three low-achieving elementary schools into kinder, gentler fundamentals. The curriculum will be the same but expectations will be higher, officials say.

Each school will emphasize a back-to-basics structure. Students will be required to wear uniforms, behave and do their homework. Parents are asked to participate.

Parents, teachers and students have to sign an agreement saying they will follow the rules. “The goal is for each student to reach their highest potential academically, socially and emotionally. For this to occur, the school, home and community must work together,” the contract says.

And if the parents fail to make it to teacher conferences or if students get into too many fights?

Haines said there’s a “possibility” those children will be transferred to other schools – a less strict stance than at Pinellas fundamental schools.

If the agreement is broken at a Hillsborough fundamental school, “then we’ll try to look at the reasons why,” Haines said. “But we’re in the business of meeting students’ needs, not saying, “This is the line in the sand.’ We haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

The fundamentals in Pinellas, once the worst schools in the county, are schools of choice with waiting lists to get in, so the threat of transfer is very real. Parents must provide their own transportation, screening out the unmotivated. With less parental buy-in from the start, fuzzier rules and weak enforcement, plus the same curriculum, it’s not likely the neo-fundamentals will make dramatic gains.

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  1. It is a simple matter to create an outstanding elementary school if you can get rid of students who will not conform to the educational process, students who come from dysfunctional families and students whose parents will not support the school when there are problems. All you need then is a rigorous curriculum. Teachers will line up to work in such and environment.

    You can also get excellent results with much larger class sizes in such a school. This cuts costs and perhaps students and their familties should see some of the savings.