Houston schools try charter ideas

Houston’s Apollo 20 experiment is trying to improve low-performing schools by  using successful charter schools’ tactics, reports the New York Times.

Five policies are common to successful charters, says Roland Fryer, an economist and head of Harvard’s EdLabs, who advised Houston.

. . . longer days and years; more rigorous and selective hiring of principals and teachers; frequent quizzes whose results determine what needs to be retaught; what he calls “high-dosage tutoring”; and a “no excuses” culture.

The Apollo schools have a longer school day and year, though not as long as KIPP schools.

Lee High School hired 50 full-time math tutors, who are paid $20,000 a year — under $14 an hour — plus benefits and possible bonuses if their students do well.

Lee High’s new principal, Xochitl Rodríguez-Dávila, described a torrent of challenges, including the exhaustive review of transcripts and test results to organize class schedules and tutoring for 1,600 students; persuading parents to sign KIPP-style contracts pledging that they will help raise achievement; and replacing about a third of Lee’s 100 teachers.

“Teachers by far have been the biggest struggle,” said Ms. Rodriguez-Davila, 39, who previously had been a middle school principal.

In faculty meetings, she said, some people insisted that Lee’s immigrant students would never master biology or physics. Other veterans, though, told the complainers to stop belly-aching and get on with the turnaround.

Lee High’s gains pushed the school into the “acceptable” category after years in “unacceptable.”  Overall, five of the nine Apollo schools moved up.

 

About that longer school year

Starting school before Labor Day is all the rage, writes Curmudgeon. But it’s hot.

It’s at this time of year, when the temperature in the building is above 90° and the only fans are ones the teachers bring in from home, that you begin to understand why school leaders in the 1800s decided to take the summer off. It is also about this time — although late June is also hot around here — that I really wish the reformers would shut the hell up.

Teaching Now asks: Can someone fix the A/C? Epiphany in Baltimore is trying to teach in a sauna.

It hit 93 in my classroom today, and that, coupled with the humidity and a room chock full of kids, just doesn’t make for a good learning environment. I do my best, but it’s hard not think it’s pretty inhumane not to offer a/c in every school when it gets this hot. . . . Kids were ornery and/or sluggish.

A New Hampshire school district canceled classes because of temperatures in the 90s.