The kids nobody wants

The Kids Nobody Wants are the ones guaranteed to pull down test scores and graduation rates, writes teacher Arthur Goldstein on GothamSchools.

Queens Collegiate is a shiny new school on the third floor of closure-slated Jamaica High School. Jamaica’s UFT chapter leader, James Eterno, told me that when Queens Collegiate got a special education/ESL student it wasn’t equipped to handle, they sent the kid right back downstairs to Jamaica.

Some schools, like mine (Francis Lewis High School) take kids we know won’t graduate — they’re on track for “alternate assessment” instead of academic diplomas. And every one of these kids — about 2 percent of our total population — is counted against us when they fail to achieve a traditional graduation. You might say they are dropouts on the day they enroll.

When these teens go on to job training programs, that’s considered worthless by the district’s school evaluation system, Goldstein writes.

Immigrants may need five years in high school to learn English and earn a diploma. Is that a sign of failure?

When California’s school evaluation system started — years before No Child Left Behind — high schools created “opportunity” schools for “at-risk” students. “Opportunity” students’ very low scores were reported separately, even if they were taking classes on their old campus.

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Comments

  1. Immigrants may need five years in high school to learn English and earn a diploma. Is that a sign of failure?

    According to NCLB, yes.

  2. I work with kids no one wants. It’s sad that the teachers at my school will be punished financially (pay for test scores is coming to my state soon) because we want to help these kids. Who will be left to teach them when we all have to leave because we can’t afford to stay?

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    Teach? – I think you and your fellow teachers should have a higher base pay for being willing to work with these kids “that no one wants”. I have never understood why educators get the same amount of pay regardless of their training, other experiences, willingness to teach the hard to teach kids, etc. Thank you for working with the kids you do!! Best of luck to you and your fellow teachers!

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    Is pay for test scores based on *increase* in test scores? Because, seems to me if teach? gets some kid who is scoring in the third percentile on some test, and s/he brings that kid all the way up to the eighth percentile, s/he should be getting the merit pay, whereas Mrs. Lucky, who gets kids scoring in the 80th percentile and sends them off at the end of the year in the 70th percentile, shouldn’t be picking up those merit paychecks.

    Teachers should be getting hazard pay too, for teaching where no one else wants to teach.

  5. “Immigrants may need five years in high school to learn English and earn a diploma. Is that a sign of failure?”
    According to Thomas Sowell, schools in some US communities provided all instruction in German, until WWI. Why complicate Math, Biology, History, and Literature instruction by providing it is a language students do not understand? Why cannot Vietnamese parents send their children which provides all instrction in Vietnamese? Why cannot Latino parents send their kids to a school where Spanish (or Latin, for that matter) is the language of instruction? Kids will learn the language of the dominant culture outside of school.

    We cripple kids for life so that the dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel may inflict instruction in the teachers’ language.

  6. Math Teacher says:

    Mr. Kirkpatrick:
    I think the vast majority of thoughtful teachers agree with you: primary language instruction, (instruction in one’s native language) is best for English learners, especially when they are beginning readers & writers. There is enormous research to support your thinking. It is very difficult to learn to read in a foreign language, and for older students, difficult to learn content in a foreign language. It also takes special knowledge and skills on the part of teachers to make instruction in English comprehensible to students who are not themselves English speakers.

    However, it was not the dues-paying members of the NEA that abolished bilingual education in California. That was done by the voters with proposition 227, known as the Unz Initiative, passed in 1998. Unfortunately, voters at large seemed to agree that the “sink or swim” alternative of being kerplunked into classrooms where only the teacher’s language was spoken would be acceptable. English for all… no matter what.

    For your interest, here’s an article published regarding that election:
    http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/humnet/linguistics/people/grads/macswan/unz.htm

    In my small district, my union representatives negotiate our salaries, work schedule, health benefits, and perhaps one other thing per year related to work conditions. We do not negotiate over curriculum policies, textbook selection, language of instruction, testing mandates, class size reduction, number of librarians, number of teaching aides, methods of fundraising, allocations of categorical funds, etc. etc. All of that and more is mandated from above via district, state and federal policies completely beyond my, or my immediate colleague’s control, and subject to politics and profit-making.

    Blaming teacher’s associations (unions, as many refer to them) for widespread dysfunction in public education is far too simple, and simple-minded.

  7. Unfortunately, voters at large seemed to agree that the “sink or swim” alternative of being kerplunked into classrooms where only the teacher’s language was spoken would be acceptable. English for all… no matter what.

    Not only did they agree. They were right.

    English immersion does as well or better as bilingual education, according to every study I’ve read.

    What we really need is a revisiting of Plyler vs. Doe.

    And “special needs” kids are one thing. What about kids with low IQs?

  8. Of course “bilingual education” is bogus; it was never intended to be either bilingual or education. Given tax subsidies for pre-college schooling and compulsory attendance statutes, policies which impose a minimal definition of “education” (say, mathematical fluency and reading comprehension in any language) and which give to parents the power to determine which institution shall receive the taxpayers’ age 6-18 education subsidy would put control in the hands of people who best know each individual child’s interests and abilities and are most reliably concerned for their welfare.

  9. Michael E. Lopez, Esq. says:

    I have never understood why educators get the same amount of pay regardless of their training, other experiences, willingness to teach the hard to teach kids, etc.

    Two answers:

    (1) Union contracts.

    (2) Supply and demand.

    And they don’t, usually. Get the same amount of pay, that is. It’s just that the differences are based on distinctions that are more form than substance. Instead of “training” we get “seniority”.

    If you don’t *have* to pay the teachers who work with the kids no one wants any more money… why would you?

  10. Was talking to a colleague last week. Used to be a teacher at my school, went into administration and eventually ran one of the large high schools in inner-city Los Angeles. He had some really lousy teachers and some pretty good ones. Said one young math teacher was really special–regular algebra classes scored much higher than any of the other algebra classes. When he observed her he could see why–her passion, her mastery, her energy, attention to detail in planning. He said there has got to be a way to figure out how to reward a teacher like that, make it worth her while, make others who are capable think they ought to go to the trouble.

    And we ought to be able to come up with a formula for how to measure student progress. Measure teachers by how much each individual student progresses while she or he is in our class. Not just measure their test scores in isolation.

    How can people with advanced degrees not see that student data must be organized in a way that it means something?

    Is it laziness? Cynicism?

  11. (Math Teacher): “We do not negotiate over curriculum policies, textbook selection, language of instruction, testing mandates, class size reduction, number of librarians, number of teaching aides, methods of fundraising, allocations of categorical funds, etc. etc. All of that and more is mandated from above via district, state and federal policies completely beyond my, or my immediate colleague’s control, and subject to politics and profit-making.”

    The public-sector unions dominate the legislatures in most US States. The NEA/AFSCME creature COPE coordinates lobbying against tuition vouchers and tuition tax credits. By eliminating the options which a competitive market in education services would provide, the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel guarantees that a winner-(i.e., them)-takes-all political process determines “curriculum policies, textbook selection, language of instruction, testing mandates, class size reduction, number of librarians, number of teaching aides” etc.

  12. Math Teacher says:

    As I previously stated, at our local level, none of the aforementioned items (see comment above) are negotiated and we are subject to state & federal mandates, like them or not; agree with them or not. It appears to me that corporate textbook publishers carry more influence at the state level than do teachers’ associations. And as for the funding of basics like librarians and teaching aides, these are decided by budget constraints at the district level, which is in turn limited by local revenue. And to repeat, the voters determined language of instruction, at least in California schools, and that was in spite of CTA campaigns.

    Furthermore, I believe many voucher initiatives have been soundly defeated at the ballot box as well, though you will undoubtedly suggest those results are due to campaign lobbying. However there is a lot of money behind privatization right now, coming from pockets far deeper than those of teachers’ associations, so I have a feeling that you will soon get your wish for the end of public education.

    As for broader curriculum/testing policies, Arne Duncan is calling all the shots, and he is not a member of any union, so far as I know. I believe Mr. Kirkpatrick, that you over-estimate the power of teachers’ associations, and I tend to think that in most public arenas, and very soon in education as well, it is large corporations that dominate legislative process above and beyond all else. But perhaps that is okay with you. And I think it will be interesting to see just how that particular paradigm plays itself out.

  13. George Larson says:

    If the teachers and their unions feel school management is the problem and they cannot negotiate these issues, why don’t the unions start their own charter schools and make the school boards look like fools? It would vindicate teachers and their unions.

  14. Few pockets are deeper than those of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, with it’s annual billion+ dues-generated revenue stream and access to the entire 500 billion+ tax-generated K-12-dedicated revenue stream. Publishers lobby textbook selection committees, but those State or district textbook selection committees owe their existence to the policy which restricts parents’ options for the use of the taxpayers’ K-12 education subsidy to schools operated by the cartel.

    Arne Duncan does what his boss says, and as Jay Greene observed, the US DOE sat on the DC voucher study prior to the Congressional vote on its future (and the Secretary’s assistant misrepresented it’s findings when he spoke in Hawaii), while the DOE ploughs ahead with the useless Head Start program. Their priority is public-sector employment, not system performance.

  15. Malcolm doesn’t know that there are right-to-work states.

  16. Good point, George.
    Actually, the LA Unified School District has invited proposals for various groups to run some of the newly constructed campuses as charters and I’ve heard that some groups of teachers and parents are making bids. It is certainly one way to get teachers beyond the civil servant mentality.