In Indianapolis, a new principal tries to take back the city’s worst middle school, a place of disorder, violence and rock-bottom expectations. He transfers 17-year-old seventh- and eighth-graders to alternative schools, suspended students for fighting and tries to enforce a dress code. The Indy Star reports:
Students … might be obeying, but teachers were another matter. (Principal Jeffery) White couldn’t persuade them to assign exciting projects, provoke students with controversial questions or teach hands-on lessons.
To a science teacher, White suggested dissecting frogs.
“You want me to put scalpels in their hands?” she responded. “That’s crazy.”
Teachers were afraid, outside evaluators told White. Afraid to step beyond the same old lesson plans. Afraid of their students.
And the students knew it.
The principal lets students hold a talent show in the long-abandoned auditorium. The show is a success — but a fight breaks out in the parking lot.
Three girls from Shortridge Middle School had jumped a John Marshall student leaving the show. Hundreds of children poured into the brawl.
White planted himself in front of the school, instinctively protecting the grounds even as he felt anger and disappointment.
“This is why you can’t let them do anything,” a teacher called out.
Still by mid-year, eighth-grade test scores are up, passing several other middle schools.