Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When I think back on all the crap I learned about high school -OR- Now or Later?

Back in July, during a brief lull in the non-stop Presidential race, I posted some backround about our local high school debacle. When I look for some constant in the universe, Proviso High Schools never disappoints. The most recent report cards are out revealing that only 2 of 10 students in the two main school campi meet or exceed standards. 80% Fail for NCLB measures, but the district still maintains a 75% graduation rate?

I can't say exactly when the stories stopped having an effect on me. I'd probably written a OED's worth, read another library wing's worth and talked enough to exceed an unlimited talk plan. Nothing seemed to matter. Nothing was going to change.

It was a problem. Everybody agreed on that. Paradox took over from there. High School district 209 was/is setting new standards in education. Across the board, they were a snapshot of failure. Within the institution the problems were blamed on the community at-large. In the community at-large, it was a problem within the schools.

As consequence, it repelled the students who make any high school "normal". Its average students disappeared and the district's attitude seemed to be "good riddance". By not having to contend with them, they could concentrate on remedial programs for lower performing students. Yet they still had to maintain the appearance of a "normal" high school. The cream was still the cream and performed as smart, motivated students do in any setting. So how bad could things be. The top of the class validated the institution as capable of providing quality.

If people chose not to take advantage of its offerings? That's their problem. It was seen as a racial problem, external to the schools, within the communities. The message to the community was "Go Away! We're in charge. Just keep giving us $70 MILLION every year and we'll keep the lights on."

The bright side? Four years ago the district dropped a $40 Million lifeboat in the form of a magnet high school. They will graduate their first class this year. So 100 kids in a district of 5000 avoided having to deal with the district's baggage and 5000 more students are apparently thriving in the area's private schools or in the public schools serving their new zip code.

The statistics are numbing. The situation intractable. The anecdotal evidence discouraging. The new superintendent is still studying the issues and potential solutions. Her jury is still out that 209's problems are unique stemming from institutional failure. She has started projecting blame out to the 10 communities.

I've seen that film before.

No comments: