Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2039 Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:33:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) A Solution in New York City School Turnaround is Simpler Than We Think https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8482-a-solution-in-new-york-city-school-turnaround-is-simpler-than-we-think https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8482-a-solution-in-new-york-city-school-turnaround-is-simpler-than-we-think mbdb chancellor

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


Recently, amid a debate about a jarring lack of diversity in New York City’s specialized schools, jaw-dropping news broke. A RAND Corporation Report, commissioned by the Department of Education, showed that despite roughly $750 million spent on fewer than 100 “Renewal Schools,” the needle fundamentally failed to move on student outcomes.

Extraordinary resources were expended. Real results never materialized.

Now, questions abound as to how the city should move forward to improve struggling schools. Was the problem rooted in faulty bureaucratic execution and implementation that hampered the Renewal program from the beginning? Do we begin closing more schools and reopening them anew?

We need answers as tens of thousands of children of color live in poverty, more than 100,000 students were homeless last year, and countless others don’t know where their next meal is coming from. History has shown that complex social issues often yield equally complex – and exceptionally expensive – solutions, and policymakers seem to be focused on finding the sweeping, systemic “special sauce” for delivering meaningful student gains.

But the reality is that sometimes the most vexing issues can have simple answers. And what’s so often overlooked is an elegant, bread-and-butter approach to setting our kids up for success: an adult mentor.

An adult outside of the home and classroom who cares for the student and asks for nothing in return. An adult who regularly checks in with the student, offers guidance, and believes in and encourages him or her. This makes a huge difference to young students. Offering mentoring programs for students in need is comparatively very cheap and replicable, and serves as a poverty-fighting tool.

And it’s something that doesn’t exist at scale right now.

We know all of this because our organization, Student Sponsor Partners, pairs students entering high school and in extreme need with professional adults who work with them. A full 100% of kids in our program have average to below-average test scores coming into high school, 100% live below the poverty line, and 76% live in one- or no-parent households. Yet, we couple robust mentoring with scholarships to private high schools, and our kids have an 85% on-time graduation rate and 92% college attendance rate.

And beyond the numbers are the stories that prove mentorship works. I am an example of just that. By the age of 12, I had been in and out of foster homes. That’s when I met Peter Flanigan, founder of Student Sponsor Partners, who became my mentor and changed my life forever. He saw potential in me, and him believing in me and pushing me to be my best self helped me get to where I am today.

From NYPD officers to executives at Fortune 500 companies, mentors make a huge difference by committing to our program and guiding students in their spare time. Often, these relationships last through high school, college, and for the rest of their lives.

A citywide mentoring program can be an anti-poverty tactic – and a tool to help diversify top public schools. Every year, our program serves nearly 1,200 students across New York City.  

But the sheer shortage of adults caring for students outside the classroom in our public schools is concerning. For every 1,000 students, there are only 4.9 support workers, far fewer than comparable cities. Nationwide, the average student-to-school-counselor ratio is a shocking 482-to-1. Our city’s “single shepherd” program, aimed to address the lack of guidance counselors, came with a $50 million price tag yet officials are unable to say if it’s made an impact.

Guidance counselors and school staff are doing what they can, but it’s virtually impossible to give children and their parents personalized attention when a support worker is responsible for hundreds of cases.

It’s no wonder that educational gaps persist.

So, as we have a citywide conversation about how to achieve equity and success, and give every student a fair shot at a great education, we may not want to search for a panacea. Instead, policymakers would do well to start by focusing on the basics.

The conversation about how to move forward after the Renewal Schools failure cannot just focus on how to achieve the right outcomes through a handful of schools or through an expensive policy. It also must focus on how we prevent a generation of children, who are deeply in need, from falling permanently behind, and how we give students most in need the academic tools to succeed long-term.

The city can start by launching a comprehensive mentoring program, linking adult New Yorkers who want to give back with kids who need support most.

It can make a world of difference to an individual child – and be game-changing across our school system.

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Debra De Jesus-Vizzi is the executive director of Student Sponsor Partners in New York City. On Twitter @DebraVizzi & @sspnewyork.

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A Solution in New York City School Turnaround is Simpler Than We Think Mon, 06 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Lessons from ‘Renewal’ and Beyond: What It Takes to Turn Around Our Lowest-Achieving Schools https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8401-lessons-from-renewal-and-beyond-what-it-takes-to-turn-around-our-lowest-achieving-schools https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8401-lessons-from-renewal-and-beyond-what-it-takes-to-turn-around-our-lowest-achieving-schools maybdbchancellorencarra

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


For decades, school and district leaders across the country have struggled to answer a fundamental question: how to turn the tide for our nation’s lowest-achieving schools. Some have resorted to school closures, choosing to start anew and relocate those students to better-performing options. Others have tried to “turn around” underperforming schools, in the hopes that an influx of resources, a greater emphasis on data, and strong leadership could spur improvements in student achievement.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Renewal program, in particular, highlighted the promise of that alternative to school districts across the country. Rather than shutter 94 poorly performing schools across New York City, he provided a slew of targeted supports that included additional teacher training, new curricula, extra mental health counseling, and resources from community-based organizations. These additional services came with the conditions that schools set clear goals and remain accountable for sustained improvement.

Over the course of four years, Renewal reflected a clear commitment to supports over school closures and a systems-wide approach; important ingredients of a successful turnaround effort. However, the initiative failed to incorporate input from practitioners and community members, creating a disconnect between policies and ideals—and the actual work of teaching and learning within their classrooms.

Earlier this month, Mayor de Blasio had no choice but to end his $773 million school turnaround experiment, facing scrutiny over not only a lack of local engagement, but the nearly 75 percent of Renewal schools that failed to exhibit significant improvement over four years.

In the wake of this latest setback, district leaders and policymakers across the country are still searching for the answer to this fundamental question. Atlanta Public Schools has shifted to a broader, system-wide effort to elevate all 89 schools in the district. Rhode Island continues to grapple with the ongoing struggles of its turnaround schools, even amid promising practices like common planning time for teachers, culturally responsive curricula, and concerted family engagement efforts. And Tennessee is experimenting with approaches that range from state-run school districts to innovation zones that offer extra resources and charter-like autonomy.

School turnaround remains one of the greatest challenges in education today. Yet, in response to this challenge, we are not using tools and strategies that have actually proven to increase student achievement. Research that my colleague and I conducted last fall shows that only 11 percent of service providers supporting the work of school turnaround have demonstrated evidence of impact.

While some providers may not have been evaluated yet, and others offer consultations or services that are more difficult to measure, the key take-away here is that states and districts are prioritizing partnerships with providers that have never demonstrated evidence their turnaround tools work.

For an issue as intractable as school turnaround, shouldn’t we put our best strategies forward?

First and foremost, we need to recognize that school turnaround begs a system-wide approach, a tenet that Renewal did take to heart. New York City Department of Education officials strove to leverage an ecosystem of partners to support students’ academic, psychological, social-emotional, and basic needs. Renewal’s successor, the Comprehensive School Support initiative, will offer a similar, system-wide approach, leveraging a data-driven system to surface the resources and supports that all students need.

What is still missing from this picture is deep engagement of stakeholders across the school building and broader community. In a system-wide approach, district officials must work side-by-side with principals, educators, school support staff, health providers, out-of-school time providers, and community leaders to establish an overarching change vision for each school.

They must investigate the traditional causes of decline and failure, ranging from significant teacher and leader turnover to chronic budget cuts and a lack of community engagement. And they must take on the role of offering the evidence-based, capacity-building tools and resources that this ecosystem of partners needs to successfully off-set those root causes.   

Most importantly, they must accept that effective school turnaround is a long-term effort, not to be achieved in just three years.

Over time, we have worked with Gallup-McKinley County Schools in New Mexico, one of the largest and poorest districts in the state, which has recorded substantial, enduring increases in student proficiency. And in Ohio, a network of 20 turnaround schools demonstrated significant gains in student achievement.

Undoubtedly, school turnaround will remain one of education’s most difficult challenges. However, we now know it can be done with an attention to system-wide stakeholder engagement, evidence-based tools, and the right supports from our school districts.

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza should take note as they make their next attempt at turning around New York City’s struggling schools.

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Coby Meyers is associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development and Chief of Research for the UVA Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education, an initiative that has supported effective school turnaround efforts in New Mexico, Ohio, and districts across the country.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Lessons from ‘Renewal’ and Beyond: What It Takes to Turn Around Our Lowest-Achieving Schools Mon, 01 Apr 2019 04:00:00 +0000
A Strategy That’s Working in New York School Turnaround https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8231-a-strategy-that-s-working-in-new-york-school-turnaround https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8231-a-strategy-that-s-working-in-new-york-school-turnaround mayorchancellor eng

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


For decades, decisions about education policy in New York have been filtered through state and local conflicts. Indeed, politics often dominates, divides, and obscures the conversation, causing many to lose sight of the most fundamental question for anyone who cares about education reform: how do students learn?

In looking for an answer, we found a school improvement framework that has the potential to unite all sides of the debate.

Our research team from Teachers College at Columbia University examined the implementation of a train-the-trainer model called Strategic Inquiry that was introduced in Renewal Schools, a Mayor Bill de Blasio administration initiative that included providing struggling schools with additional funding and support from the New York City Department of Education in an effort to improve student outcomes.

We found substantial improvements in student performance and school culture measures – at a low implementation cost and in a relatively short time-frame. Notably, these improvements were mostly achieved in schools with underperforming students and English language learners, two groups that have been traditionally hard to reach.

So how did this model work where others have failed?

Among other things, customization and buy-in from school leaders were key. Strategic Inquiry established a process that empowered teacher teams to identify specific students who have been historically underperforming. These teams then diagnosed and implemented what is needed to improve performance for those particular students. This, in turn, led to the improvement of school and district systems that have systematically contributed to those students’ challenges.

What also worked was Strategic Inquiry’s process of “getting small” by focusing on the precise things that evidence suggested students needed, rather than large areas dictated by accountability measurements. In other words, teachers and administrators identified breakdowns in learning and fixed them in real time as opposed to following an impersonalized reform plan dictated from above.

This study found several indicators of improvement in student achievement. After controlling for various factors, students in schools that adopted Strategic Inquiry principles were almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be on track to graduate and less than half as likely to be off track to graduate, compared to students in schools without this approach. Surprisingly, we observed these results despite the fact that the sample schools were only in the third year of implementation of a program designed to last five years.

In addition, teacher participation on inquiry teams was high, principal support for the program was strong, and educators reported extremely positive feedback about the support they received from Strategic Inquiry representatives.

There were no shortcuts. Investments in deep training of district and school-based leaders required the full engagement of educators. Teachers worked in partnership to study how students were struggling to learn. They designed and tested interventions, and applied what was working to improve the systems that had constrained students’ success. Engaged – and empowered – educators taught colleagues to do the same and spread the best practices across each building. This cycle worked to shift school culture and improve student achievement.

Strategic Inquiry shows that investing in the learning of educators can deliver real results in the learning of students. It offers optimism in achieving the highly-coveted, but often elusive outcome of improved student performance results in a relatively low-cost, minimally resource-intensive manner. It’s also worth noting that the program generated these positive outcomes while targeting some of the most difficult-to-reach student populations.

Without rendering judgment on the totality of Mayor de Blasio’s Renewal program, our study shows promising results for this model. It’s clear that there are some valuable components that succeeded and are worth pursuing and adopting elsewhere. Regardless of what type of school you prefer, Strategic Inquiry’s train-the-trainer approach ought to be part of the education reform toolbox for educators, policymakers, and parents alike.

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Dr. Priscilla Wohlstetter is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Education & Social Analysis and co-author of a new report from Teachers College at Columbia University.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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A Strategy That’s Working in New York School Turnaround Thu, 24 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Bridging the Achievement Gap Through Real Renewal https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8036-bridging-the-achievement-gap-through-real-renewal https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8036-bridging-the-achievement-gap-through-real-renewal nycmayorsoffice 1st dayschool

(Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


When the New York State Board of Regents met last month, the mood was despondent. “The needle hasn’t moved for minority children in decades,” said Regent Kathy Cashin, decrying the racial achievement gap on the newly-released 2018 state exam scores for students in grades 3-8. The reaction of the Regents ran the usual gamut of hand-wringing, blaming the tests, and calling for more dilatory “analysis.”

And then came the damning report in The New York Times on the failure of New York City’s Renewal schools program. After investing $755 million—nearly the entire annual budget of the San Francisco Unified School District—in the academic improvement of the 94 lowest performing schools, the needle has barely moved there either.

Why the hand-wringing, and why the wasteful investment in programs doomed to fail, when the achievement gap can be closed—for this generation, and with current resources?

Charter schools are dramatically outperforming traditional district schools in the city. In school year 2017-18, New York City public charter schools, enrolling 91% percent children of color, vastly outperformed the rest of the state in both English Language Arts (ELA) and math proficiency, 57 percent to 45 percent and 60 percent to 45 percent, respectively.

Our practices vary, and we don’t always agree on policies. But collectively we are offering a brighter future to 100,000 city students.

Students who attend Ascend Public Charter Schools—a network of 12 schools in central Brooklyn’s most challenged communities—are proving what’s possible.

Brownsville, where we operate five schools, is a community of tremendous potential, but blighted by failed schools. The incarceration rate is the second-highest in the city and a mere 26% of students were found proficient in English. Yet our 5,000 students, 96 percent of whom are black or Latino and 83 percent of whom are from low-income families, not only closed but reversed the achievement gap. Ascend’s African-American students outperformed white students statewide by 7 percentage points in ELA and 2 points in math.

Eschewing the harsh disciplinary practices of “no excuses” schools, Ascend schools offer a rich liberal arts education in a supportive and joyful environment. As our results have climbed, suspension rates have plummeted, down 40% in our lower schools in four years and 28% percent in middle schools.

We commit to making every child feel welcome and cherished. We don’t select students on the way in, nor on the way out. Some, including those affected by homelessness and other traumas, are afforded individual attention for years, and then blossom.

Our schools accomplish all this while holding true to our deepest commitment: to operate truly public schools that enroll all students and operate at district funding levels. All students are enrolled strictly by lottery, we charge no tuition or fees, and most important, we fill every vacant seat through grade 9.

We are but one example of successful charter education. Other networks are posting results as exciting. We are not stuck in the transformational “ice age” that Regent Luis Reyes bemoaned at the recent Regents meeting. Our students—New Yorkers’ students—are not consigned to lives where promise is crushed.

Our education officials are staring a solution in the face.

Yet charter growth may soon stall because of an artificial statutory cap on the number of new charters; only a handful now remain to be awarded statewide. Why not lift the cap? Why not have charters run even half of the Renewal schools to test our methods? Why limit our children’s potential?

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Steven Wilson is founder and chief executive officer of Ascend Charter Schools.

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Bridging the Achievement Gap Through Real Renewal Wed, 31 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Failure of 'Renewal Schools' https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7497-the-failure-of-renewal-schools https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7497-the-failure-of-renewal-schools de Blasio school visit

Mayor de Blasio on a school visit (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


My daughter is a third-grader in one of Mayor de Blasio’s so-called Renewal Schools in Harlem. When I first heard about the program, I was hopeful: P.S. 149 needed attention and change to become the kind of school I wanted for my daughter. But, as a parent, I have not seen much renewal.

Since the program started, enrollment at P.S. 149 has dropped 25 percent. For the kids who have stayed, scores haven’t improved much – students passing the English Language Arts exam has gone from 5 percent in 2014 to 13 percent in 2017. The math pass rate has dropped from 8 percent to 5 percent over the same time. So despite all the resources the Department of Education claims to have pumped into our school, fewer students are doing math at grade level.

When Mayor de Blasio announced his Renewal Schools program, he promised that his “bold new plan” would be the key to turning around chronically-struggling public schools like my daughter’s. Four years and $600 million later, there is little to show for it. None of the schools have come close to any sort of “renewal” and the mayor has been forced to close nine of them and merge others. Just a handful of the original 94 Renewal Schools have seen real improvement.

For me, this broken promise means a lot more than just numbers on a state test. My daughter is struggling in reading and math, and nothing the mayor has done these past few years has helped her school improve.

When I realized my daughter needed extra help, I reached out to the school’s parent coordinator – I’m not about to give up on my child. The coordinator promised to look for outside resources that might offer her the support she needs. I appreciate the effort, but why do we need outside resources when our school is supposed to be part of the mayor’s major project? If his program were of high quality, my daughter’s school would be able to provide a good education for kids inside the classroom, and parents like me wouldn’t be scrambling.

I am so discouraged with the state of the district schools in my neighborhood. The system is failing communities like mine all over the city – the same communities that elected this mayor. At the end of the day, it’s becoming clear that we can’t depend on Mayor de Blasio to improve struggling schools for children of color.

That’s why I’m trying to get my daughter a spot in a charter school, where kids like her have a shot to catch up. It’s really her only hope.

The problem is that there aren’t enough spaces at charter schools. I guess the mayor knows that if parents like me had a choice, we’d leave, just like a quarter of our school already has.

The mayor shouldn’t be the only one with a say here. The New York City Council will be holding a hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 27 – and I hope Council members get to the bottom of this failed experiment. Our Council members live in our neighborhoods and they see what’s happening in our schools. They need to step up because our communities can’t wait another four years for Mayor de Blasio to figure things out.

As I keep fighting for my daughter, my son is getting ready for kindergarten. I am trying to do everything I can to make sure he’s on a better path. Knowing what I know now, I am fighting like hell to get him into a charter school right from the start. As a single mom, juggling two different schools will be hard, but I would do anything to get my kids a better education.

If Mayor de Blasio was really focused on turning around struggling schools, me and my kids wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now. The mayor’s “bold new plan” is nothing more than another broken promise.

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Aradany Vargas is a public school parent at P.S. 149 Sojourner Truth.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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The Failure of 'Renewal Schools' Mon, 26 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Education in De Blasio's Second Term https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7448-max-murphy-podcast-education-in-de-blasio-s-second-term https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7448-max-murphy-podcast-education-in-de-blasio-s-second-term mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


January 30, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Monica Disare of Chalkbeat-NY and Eliza Shapiro of Politico New York

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The day after he won reelection in November, Mayor de Blasio said, "We have to achieve 3-K in the next four years...We have to get our kids reading on grade level by third grade. We need the school system to look entirely different in the coming years. It’s come a long way but there’s much, much more to do. And that is the mission I will be most focused on. That will be the issue I put my greatest passion and energy into."

What does that all mean? What should we expect on education in term two? Who will be the next schools chancellor as de Blasio looks to replace the retiring Carmen Fariña? What will be the most controversial aspects of the mayor's education agenda over the next four years? To help us break it all down we were joined on the podcast by two extremely knowledgeable education reporters: Monica Disare of Chalkbeat-NY and Eliza Shapiro of Politico New York.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy, with guests @MonicaDisare and @ElizaShapiro. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Education in De Blasio's Second Term Tue, 30 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Celebrating ‘Renewal’ Success as We Acknowledge More Work To Do https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7408-celebrating-renewal-successes-as-we-acknowledge-more-work-to-do https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7408-celebrating-renewal-successes-as-we-acknowledge-more-work-to-do celebrating renew

Mayor de Blasio & Chancellor Fariña on a school visit (photo: Rob Bennett/Mayor's Office)


School is back in session after an eventful December and long break. As students returned to our community schools, so many were grateful to be back where supports and resources are in place. For many of our students, community schools provide additional support services; food pantries; mental health and social-emotional learning programs; and family support aligned to what’s happening in the classroom. In other words, they focus on educating the “whole child.”  

Coming back to school in the new year feels like a good time to recognize the commitment the city and many nonprofits like mine have made to creating community schools. And, three years into the Renewal School program— the largest school turnaround effort in New York City’s history, which has a two-pronged strategy: the infusion of a strong instructional core and the conversion of every school into a community school—it’s time to look at the results. Each Renewal School has a non-profit partner to lead its transformation into a community school; the goal is to bring together the expertise of educators and community partners to make improvements across all the areas schools need to succeed.

My organization, Partnership with Children, is a partner in nine Renewal Schools, and we are proud that two of them – Renaissance School of the Arts in East Harlem and P.S. 67 in Fort Greene – have made steady progress and will transition out of the Renewal program to become “Rise Schools.” As we evaluate the potential of the investments made in Renewal Schools, we need to recognize the success of these schools and others like them.

Renaissance School of the Arts is exemplary because it has the right people and resources in place, thanks in large part to its Renewal School status. The school leadership and faculty are strong and have implemented new cutting-edge teacher training. Partnership with Children’s social work team has provided counseling, a parent support group, and social-emotional learning workshops. By working together, Renaissance and Partnership with Children have established a flourishing school culture where a strong student voice is developing, both in and out of the classroom. You see it in an active student government, a student-run school store, and even the way students communicate and support their ideas when interacting with adults.

Attendance is at 95% so far this year, up from 89% for the 2013-14 school year. Since 2014, the percentage of students proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) has increased 17 points and the percentage of students proficient in math has increased 13 points. There is need for more improvement, but the model is working at Renaissance.

We also have an excellent partnership at P.S. 67 with the ambitious and impressive principal and her dedicated team. Partnership with Children staff are in the school building before, during, and after the school day – and on the weekends and during the summer – working side-by-side with the principal. Parents stay after drop-off and pick-up to meet with guidance counselors and social workers, teachers are eager and faculty retention is increasing, and student outcomes are improving. Proficiency in ELA has improved 20 percentage points; in math, 10 points. This is what happens when everyone in a school building puts their resources, experience, and heads together.

The students, faculty, staff and leaders at both of these schools are ambitious and aligned, and that is part of what helped them make gains that other Renewal Schools have struggled to make. They’ve broken down silos and gotten all the adults in the school community on the same page. Data absolutely drives their work.

In light of the news about the schools that are closing, I urge us not to overlook the success of schools like Renaissance and P.S. 67, and the others moving from Renewal to Rise Schools. It should inspire us to re-commit to this radical transformation of schools – not pull back from that call to action. The DOE has committed to continuing the Community Schools partnerships and investments in educating the whole child in the 21 new Rise Schools—those that have met their benchmarks, including Renaissance and P.S. 67.  And it is also responsibly making the difficult decision to close the schools that are farthest off their benchmarks.

Programs are always politicized, but let’s not let our children be. I applaud the commitment of the DOE, the City, and our fellow community-based organizations to take on the challenges of these schools – underperforming and under-resourced for decades – at an unprecedented scale.

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Margaret Crotty is the executive director of Partnership with Children. On Twitter @PWCNYC.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Celebrating ‘Renewal’ Success as We Acknowledge More Work To Do Mon, 08 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Taking the Wheel at Automotive High School https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6512-taking-the-wheel-at-automotive-high-school https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6512-taking-the-wheel-at-automotive-high-school KevinBryant1 800x658 

Kevin Bryant, the author


The challenges I’ve faced as both a teacher and a principal have not only shaped my approach to education, but they’ve defined my career and my accomplishments.

During my four years as the Principal of Frances Perkins Academy I always sought new ways to challenge myself, colleagues and staff, students, and their families. By setting high standards and pushing ourselves to meet them, our school realized our boundless potential to exceed our own expectations, and those laid out by others. This idea guided my tenure at Frances Perkins and it will continue to guide me as Master Principal of Automotive High School, where I’ll lead the day-to-day turnaround and still continue to support Frances Perkins. I’m at the point in my career where I know I can do this hard work.

Over the last two years Automotive High School has been under immense scrutiny as it was named one of the lowest performing schools in the city. As a principal on the same campus as Automotive, I’ve seen its staff and students in the hallways and in meetings. I’ve seen their strengths and the persistent challenges that exist. I see hope, promise, hard workers, and the tenacity to do better. I enter my new role clear-eyed, knowing full-well that the road to progress will not be easy, but that it starts with earning the trust of my new colleagues and students and setting specific goals that will challenge us as a school and help us strive toward excellence.

In setting these goals and benchmarks, we need to first acknowledge that economic, achievement, and opportunity gaps persist. These can only be bridged when our students, teachers, and parents have a safe and supportive environment that invites them to become active and willing partners in education.

At Frances Perkins, we implemented a program similar to an advisory, in which a student and teacher were paired and met regularly to discuss the student’s progress and address any issues the student might be facing, either in and out of the classroom. This program was rooted in trust and accountability: it offered a safe and consistent space where teachers expected their students to show up, and students expected teachers to be there for them. Ultimately, the program helped increase both student attendance and teacher retention. I also instituted an open-door policy for parents, ensuring they always had the opportunity to ask me questions, voice concerns, and remain up-to-date on their child’s progress.

At Automotive I again plan to address some of the school’s greatest challenges by strengthening the relationship between students and teachers, fostering greater collaboration with our community based organization, encouraging parents to play a greater role in our school.

I want staff and students to feel supported by the administration and by each other; I want parents to feel welcome in our school and invested in its success; and I want to instill in our school the idea that every student, regardless of their circumstances, is capable of excellence. I know from first-hand experience that these efforts will pave the way for stronger instruction, an increase in enrollment, higher teacher retention, and expanded career and technical education (CTE) programming—something Automotive has the tools and resources to truly excel in. These efforts will all address our shared goal of improved student performance, helping our young people open more doors for themselves in the future.

At times the tasks ahead will seem daunting and as the new principal of a Renewal School I expect scrutiny from our community and the media. However, I plan to use the attention we receive as an opportunity to challenge the perception of school turnaround and to highlight the change, progress, and growth that I know will take place at Automotive.

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Kevin Bryant is Master Principal of Automotive High School.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Taking the Wheel at Automotive High School Mon, 05 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000