Monday, July 11, 2011

Harlem Success Academy 3

The Times reports on a charter school allegedly counseling out a young student whose behavior was a problem in class.

After reading the article, I would really like to see the message the principal sent to the parent that the parent "took as a veiled message to leave."  With all of the email quotes in the article, you would think at least a few lines from that message would be included.  Readers should be able to judge for themselves the tone of the email (which may make the author's point more compelling).  And to be perfectly honest, I'm just interested in seeing what one of those messages actually looks like.

The second page explains, using data, how charter schools serve fewer special education students and English language learners than traditional schools.  Based on percentages, Success 3 (the charter being discussed) has approximately half the percentage of special education and ELL students a comparable traditional public school has.  Which is certainly interesting, but those figures themselves can mean a variety of things.  While the article implies students in those categories are counseled out, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that fewer of those students actually enrolled in the charter.  Many of my students at a previous school were ELL students, and I know the unique challenges in working with that population.  I know of schools where there are no school officials who can communicate with parents in their native language, which means they have no way to communicate with those parents.  Needless to say, few of those children end up at such schools.  In a major city, the language barrier shouldn't shut children out of schools.  Nor should a lack of understanding of school options or a fear of drawing attention to one's family (which is often the case when someone in the family is undocumented).

It seems odd that the student discussed in the article left his school so quickly.  I support the mindset present at the top of the article's second page, where it's emphasized that both behavioral and academic skills are retaught to students.  Helping a student learn how to fit into a school's behavior system sets them up for success.  It can often be a long, tiresome process with each individual student.  And it seems like the school he was enrolled in worked to find him a new school rather quickly.  A school that was truly having success should be able to explain to parents the process of reteaching behavioral expectations and point to successes throughout their school.  And assuming, for the sake of argument, that a school did try to separate from students who weren't a fit, it should be an absolute last option to explore if and only if all other options have been pursued and given sufficient time to take effect.

Lastly, a few readers have reached out to me via comment or email.  I hope to follow up with a few of them this week.  If you have a blog, link me to it so I can read it and add it to the list of pages I keep up with.  You can also follow me on Twitter at NYCteacher99.

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