Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another ICE'er in the Times

One of the best things about being associated with ICE have been the phenomenal people I've had the chance to work with. It is no accident that so many ICE'ers have appeared in the news over the years based on engaging in activities in their schools related to improving the educational environment for their colleagues and their students.

Jeff Kaufman was punished for assisting an incarcerated student at Riker Island with getting his college credits. Maria Colon for exposing changes in Regent scores by the administration of Kennedy HS. Today, James Eterno is quoted in the Metro section of the Times condemning Jamaica High School's being named an Impact School by the DOE. Another Surge by the DOE.

John Lawhead also appeared in Sam Freedman's column in today's Times. Unfortunately, little of what I am sure John told Freedman about the closing of large schools appeared in the article. (As I've written before, hanging out with John after I met him through Ed. Notes, made the idea of getting a group of similar people together. ICE was the result.)

While Freedman makes some very valid points, the article leaves out so much. John (who has had the most impact on the positions we in ICE have taken on the large school controversy) has been on the small schools/large schools issue for many years, having experienced the closing of Bushwich HS and now Tilden. He wrote an article on the issue for Education Notes as far back as 2002.

The quote used below -- the only one from John in the article --

“Education involves trade-offs; it always does,” said John Lawhead, who has taught English as a Second Language at Tilden for three years. “But those trade-offs, in breaking up the big high schools, should be discussed publicly so you know what’s being lost as well as what’s being gained.”

leaves out all the great stuff John has to say about these tradeoffs. John as part of SOS Tilden is trying to save the school and there is not a hint of that signficant movement in the article. With so many immigrant students who will now have to float around as nomads there will be a massive impact the closing of these schools will have on whatever large schools are left in the area, the DOE version of the domino theory.

Basically, the article endoses the small school policy but is crtical of the way they are going about it. If the DOE hadn't put Roholff in as principal of lafayette and supported her through gaffe after gaffe, the school might have been changed.

Why can't there be a system where Steve Chung could have set up a program within the structure of Lafayette? The DOE (and unfortunately the UFT which basically endorsed the closing of the school and is miffed that the DOE which was supposdly working with them to set up the small schools, reneged) has control of these schools but gets away with saying "we can't fix what we control and the only way to fix it is to destroy it."

The answer is the DOE feels they have to empty out the teaching staff and the students and start all over. It's like old construction where you have to work around things vs tearing it down. It is difficult but doable. (It wan't fun when I had a new kitchen installed but I didn't tear down my house and new people move in.) The DOE doesn't want to do the hard stuff -- only things they can show as PR.

I was in Clinton HS recently - vastly overcrowded and supposedly they are doing small learning communities there now. These are unadvertized options. Small can be good but it can be done in the context of large. I don't see them breaking up Stuvesant and I bet these kids would also benefit from smaller environements.

Some stuff on John on this blog which also includes information from George Schmidt on the Chicago experience with mayoral control and small schools - useful stuff in seeing the big picture -- it's not just BloomKlein but a national movement.

NYC Educator, as usual, hits the nail on the head: Mr. Bloomberg Vs. the Aliens

Leonie Haimson also makes some great points on the article in a much more coherent manner than I do. I am posting them on the blog I set up to archive some of the work being done on her listserv.

Why use such a large picture when so little of what John has to say is part of the article. John comes out looking great but I would have used part of the space to use more of what he had to say. Style over substance.

Tilden has John's back in this photo

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