Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Video: Bushwick Community HS Teacher Khalilah Brann Defends Her School

[Corrected -- Michael Powell wrote both NY Times pieces].

This Is Arguably the Most Disgusting Failure of Metric-Driven Education ‘Reform’: The Triumph of the Assholes  --- Mike the Biologist on the closing of Bushwick Community HS (read entire blog here).

Judged a Failure by the Data, a School Succeeds Where It Counts -- Michael Powell (here)

Another Passionate Plea to Save Bushwick High from Ernie Logan
Bushwick Community High School's threatened closing is creating howls of outrage. The school serves the highest needs students. At the "Teacher Evaluation Nightmare" forum on April 17, 2012, BCHS teacher Khalilah Brann made a powerful statement regarding her school which is slated for closure at the PEP vote this Thursday. The edited videos are up on Vimeo. The event was sponsored by Grassroots Education Movement, Class Size Matters, Parents Across America. Here is her presentation (sorry, I left the last n off her name in the video). She is introduced by moderator Julie Cavanagh.
Video at http://vimeo.com/40758701 and below.

See videos of other speakers posted on the GEM Vimeo channel: Carol Burris, Leonie Haimson and Gary Rubinstein, along with the Q and A. I will post them here as the week goes by.

Michael Powell in today's NY Times (see below) has a poignant story about the school and offers some hope based on a statement by Shael Polakow-Surransky. Powell also did a story about the school a few weeks ago.

Actually, it would hard to imagine Walcott will still close the school after all the hubbub but Bloomberg is so out of control it just may happen. If it does that is another nail for us in the mayoral control debate.

A Brooklyn School Saved Lives, and Some Now Try to Return the Favor

I was 18 years old with a baby and three high school credits. I was a gangbanger. I was shot and left for dead.
My life was a pane of glass fractured into a thousand shards.
And this place saved me.
To sit in the audience at Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn last Wednesday evening, to watch as young black and Latino women and men walked to a microphone and, with anger and tears and eloquence, pleaded with officials of New York City’s Department of Education to keep their school open, was to feel privileged.
It is rare in education and in life to hear love put so passionately into words.
“Where would I be without this school family? I would be in jail. I would be dead,” said Iran Rosario, a tall bear of a man who wandered in here as a lost 18-year-old and now returned 14 years later as a teacher. “Friends tell you what you want to hear; family tells you what you need to hear.
“They did that for me, and saved my life.”
New York City has many mysteries, some romantic, some frightening, some simply maddening. The uncertain fate of Bushwick Community High School falls into that last category. It is a last-chance place for last-chance kids. Its teachers and staff members search out 17- and 18-year-olds, many with fewer than 10 credits of the 44 needed for a Regents diploma, and wage an unremitting struggle to turn these children into graduates and adults.
Few who venture to this corner of Bushwick walk away unmoved. Members of the state Board of Regents sing its praises, as have visitors from across the city.
But that could all come to an end on Thursday night. The Education Department has recommended that the Panel for Education Policy, which is controlled by the mayor, vote to lay off the principal and half the staff. Give department officials credit: they don’t really try to argue their indictment on the merits, but on the metrics — that is, test scores and graduation rates.
A majority of the students fail to graduate within six years, which is one of the city’s inviolate metrics. Right-o. If a young man wanders into this high school at 18 with five credits to his name, the odds are strikingly good that he will not graduate within six years of his freshman year.
The Panel for Education Policy could vote to let the school remain untouched. That’s unlikely. Mayor Bloomberg’s education officials have recommended shutting down 140 schools, and this panel has voted in the mayor’s favor 140 times.
They make the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles look like independence-minded bleeding hearts.
We live in an era of educational mantras become dogma; we are convinced that everything within a school’s walls is measurable. An art teacher teaching pottery; an English teacher on the joys of Maya Angelou? All can be reduced profitably to a number.
Shael Polakow-Suransky, the department’s chief academic officer, came of professional age in several of the city’s more innovative public schools. But he is a firm convert to the scientism of metrics. As he noted not long ago: “If I’m a teacher, I’m going to look closely at what that exam is measuring and key my curriculum and my work to passing that exam. That is the reality of what high-stakes exams are designed to do.”
But last year department officials administered the high school’s annual “quality review.” It is perhaps worth noting what officials saw with their own eyes, as opposed to what they can reduce to a row of numbers on paper. Bushwick Community High School is “effective,” teachers demonstrate genuine “expertise” and the “pedagogy is aligned to schoolwide goals.”
“A clear sense of the vision and mission of the school is pervasive throughout the building,” the city concluded.
MR. POLAKOW-SURANSKY came to this high school for the hearing last week. He sat, stoically, through nearly three hours of tearful speeches and boisterous cheers. At the end, in a voice soft, almost sad, he spoke.
“This is a school that looks at the whole child,” he said to a hushed auditorium. “This is a school that gives students second chances. It’s a place of redemption. It’s a family. It saves lives.”
“I want you to know I will take these stories back and share them with our chancellor, Dennis Walcott,” he continued. “Whatever gets decided as a result of this process, there’s something very powerful here.”
The sound was of a man caught between bureaucratic imperative and the evidence offered by his eyes and ears.
E-mail: powellm@nytimes.com

1 comment:

Michael Fiorillo said...

Regarding Polakow-Suransky's feigned humanity at the meeting: isn't it incredible, the advances made in robotics, artificial intelligence and computer-generated language?

Why, you'd almost think he was a human being!