Thursday, January 15, 2009

What are DCPS’ priorities?

Right before the holiday break I received an e-mail inviting me to be a teacher in this year’s 2009 Saturday Scholars program. After looking at the details provided, it seems like the program is going to be a huge investment—hundreds of teachers will be paid $30/hour for 5 ½ hours each Saturday, January 24--April 18, 2009 (with a few exceptions like Easter weekend).

With so many students in DCPS behind academically, it would make sense to invest so much money, time and manpower in such a program, right?

Wrong! Once I read the rest of the details, I realized it was a case of the short-sighted and misguided priorities of DCPS.

As stated in the e-mail, the program’s focus is to help, “…DCPS students prepare for the spring 2009 DC-CAS.” As a teacher who continues to witness DC schools still lacking in so many areas—resources, supplies, enrichment activities, teachers—it is extremely frustrating to see more money and programs focusing on "teaching to the test".

To make matters worse, “The Saturday Scholars program is an intervention strategy for students who are on the cusp of proficiency for Reading and Math on the DC-CAS.”

Targeting those on the “cusp of proficiency” makes me wonder if it is only about improving test scores. Where are the programs for the students who are at below basic? What about the students in my World History class who are reading at a 4th grade level? Or, the students who cannot pass Algebra because they don’t have basic math skills? So, not only are we teaching to the test, but we are choosing to ignore those that need help the most.

What are the priorities of DCPS? Is it really about children first? Or is it about making ourselves look good?

Could DCPS' focus on improving its measures of "student achievement" actually be in conflict with what's best for student learning?


Heather said...

I taught Saturday Scholars last year, and I didn't think it was a very good intervention. First of all, they do a very bad job of "targeting"students. My advanced students got invitations, which some parents rightfully balked at. Others wanted babysitting and dropped off their children.

Attendance was sporadic, so it was hard for lessons to impact achievement. I would have a different group of 10 kids every Saturday, and only about 4 regulars.

Additionally, the curriculum is too easy. It's a decent summer school curriculum, but it won't bring a basic child to proficiency - it's too easy for that, especially in reading. And the math was all arithmetic. It didn't match the tested standards very well at all.

Maybe other teachers had more success with it.

meaningful change said...

Last year at my school Saturday Scholars was also only targeting students on the cusp. There were several below basic students who I recommended attend, but the coordinator and the principal did not allow them to participate because the four students were not close to achieving proficiency and they had some behavior problems. Their behaviors were not serious and I felt had to do more with being embarrassed and frustrated with being so low academically. These students could also have greatly benefited from being in a positive, structured setting every Saturday because of their chaotic and dysfunctional home lives.

It definitely seems like Saturday Scholars is just about teaching to the test and improving test scores. It also is an example of how things can look great on paper but impact and outcomes are another story.

Ame in DC said...

I have seen this nonsense used to select/deselect children for reading and math resource classes too. That's right: regular, in-school services that every child has a right to. It's a crime.

Mary M said...

This "targeting" students on the cusp is a core problem of NCLB. A friend of mine who teaches in a public school in PA, refers to it as "No Child Gets Ahead." Under the mandates of NCLB the only place to put extra resources are those students who are at the cusp. Children who probably won't make proficient with the additional resources, and children who are doing well and will make proficient but could use extra challenges to excel well past proficient are ignored.

Keeno Mori said...

The curriculum for me is great. It entice students to study.

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Anonymous said...

I taught Saturday Scholars last year and I had a good experience. My students did very well in the test and I found Story Town great. The staff that organized it was very responsive.

I agree that attendance is an issue but I do not blame administration for that but the parents.

DCteacher said...

Meaningful change, maybe your experience was bad but mine is not. I am a Saturday Scholars teacher at Garrison and I love this program. We have two coordinators this year and both welcome any child to attend. I can see the progress of my students already and I think is because they are all on the cusp. I think is easier to move them along because their reading levels are similar. Most of my students have challenges with reading comprehension but at least I don't have children in my class that cannot read like I have during my day class. This helps me teach reading comprehension and writing. I feel that most of my days during the week are spent helping my below basic kids. On Saturdays I get to pay attention to the other kids. I am happy about that.

Sharia said...

I teach now and I love this program. I feel that on Saturdays I am actually "teaching"!

Teachers and the principal at my school work hard getting the right students to attend. We target basic students because they have the chance to move to proficiency before the test. I agree that alone this is not enough but at least is a smart way to move the kids that have the chance to succeed. Attendance is good because we give students incentives every Saturday. We also do pizza parties, ruffles and keep the kids motivated to come back. I go to the dollar store and buy small gifts that I give my students. So far my attendance is great. I am sorry others have bad experiences with this but I feel that is on the teacher and the school make these programs successful.

Jeff said...

I currently teach in the Saturday Scholars program and as I veteran educator, having worked in urban education for many years, I see this program as a huge benefit for the kids being served. The curriculum used is user friendly and my students love it. The staff from central office have been more than amazing in terms of ensuring that students and staff members working the programs have what they need to be successful.

As an educator one should know that it is difficult to get students to participate in academic programs that take place on the "WEEKEND". With this is mind, I commend and reward the students that have shown up each weekend and my numbers are constantly growing.

I am overall pleased with the current interventions and reform efforts being implemented within MY SCHOOL DISTRICT (DCPS). For far too long we have tried the same things over and over again only to get the same results. Let's now welcome this new change and produce positive results for our bottom line, THE CHILDREN of DCPS!!!!

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