Tuesday, April 26, 2005

School Ramble

This started as a response to Covington a few posts below but looked like it went beyond HaloScan's limits:

I know this will never happen but the city has to raise taxes. Some of the schools are literally crumbling. I've heard the conservative argument that "Two plus two still equals four if the roof is leaking" but then again "The Bengals can still suck in a new stadium as well as a new one."

Peter Bronson has written a number of idiotic columns (and I swore there were enough blogs laying into Bronson) claiming that students are responsible for the damages. Unless the kids are climbing down heating vents to wreck the furnace or shrinking to subatomic size to warp support beams, he's out of his mind.

CPS Students do seem to commit more vandalism than what I've seen in Forest Hills (or they just take longer to clean it up) but that's not where the real costs come from. In the last few years, they seem to have made improvements by closing a few schools and building new ones but I don't have much confidence. One of the new schools is being built either on or very close to a floodplain (along Kellogg Avenue) and close enough to a sewage processing plant that you can smell it. I drive around that area fairly often and I can't believe that was the best place they could find to build the school.

I don't know how much faith you can put in Andrew Greenley but from what he's written, many small schools tend to work better than one big one. Of course, that would be too expensive and ruin too many sports programs.

Another problem is dealing with non-average students, either below or above. The special education programs in CPS are at least as good or better than Forest Hills and Walnut Hills and SCPA are still decent (not as good as they were but still better than many school systems in the suburbs).

From what I saw especially at Sands Montessori, classes are just lumped together with no regard to students' skill levels. Even where there's honor and AP classes, the range is so wide that the aboves are bored out of their minds and the belows are lost. Again the conversative line is "Two plus two equals four if you're in a big or small class," but smaller classes with students of similar levels would make a huge difference.

Sands was a magnet school and when it was finally moved from the West End to the old Eastern Hills School. Local West End students attended along with the rest of the district who were lucky enough to be picked by the registration lottery. When I worked on the school excercise video, every one of the local kids I worked with was sweet and a pleasure to be around. Still many of them were very far behind the rest of the students and many had severe discipline problems outside of special projects. It seemed every attempt to do something with "problem" students was blocked (partially by Rev. Lynch), sometimes because of race, sometimes just general.

Some school districts have a school where the "last strike" kids are sent. The Clark Academy used to do this for CPS but it was closed/restructured. I think that was one of the worst things to happen to CPS in a long time.

They also had a policy of allowing teachers with the most seniority to pick the school they taught. This meant the older teachers went to the easiest schools (why so many teachers at Walnut were old) and the young, inexperienced ones were sent to Taft. They were supposed to change this a while back but when my cousin went to teach at Clifton Elementary, as lowest on the totem pole, he got the "crack baby class." As a substitute, I got screwed by the Teachers Union but this is the only real area where the union caused a trouble (despite the Bronson line).

Another thing--once I volunteered at Vine Street Elementary with two other guys from college. One of them had red hair which for some reason made all the kids think we were from the Reds. It was like being Krusty the Clown for a day. The teachers were amazed--they told us that normally the kids just fought all recess; that was the best day they had in years.

Again, I don't know what to do (force the Reds really to show up?) but if CPS had more people to work with the kids and plan more special activities, behavior would improve dramatically. Despite what Bronson says, there are simple solutions to many of CPS's problems but they wouldn't come cheap. If Cincinnati really wanted to, CPS could be a top-notch district in a short time but I can't see residents raising taxes. Most districts are this short-sighted and greedy but in Cincinnati, they point out all the schools problems (most of which are caused by lack of funds) and justify cutting the budget even more.

"Throwing money at a problem only works if a sports team is involved."

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