February 13, 2011

What is their expertise?

According to the Wilmington News Journal, "a group of ministers wants to make unannounced visits to Wilmington's public schools to make sure students are getting the education they need to avoid lives of crime."

Members of Interdenominational Ministers Action Council said they will be speaking to principals in the coming weeks to develop plans that would give them access to classrooms so they can monitor teachers, administrators and overall school performance.

"We can't interrupt. We can't go in there and teach the lesson," said the Rev. Christopher T. Curry, chair of the council's education unit. "But we come in unannounced, we sit, we listen. We watch how the classroom discipline is, how the instructors are motivating our young people ...

"If we see that it is not happening, we certainly would want to have this conversation with the principals who are involved. But if there is a rejection at that point, then we need to talk to the Department of Education."

Thankfully, the state teachers union is against this silly idea. Unfortunately, the state secretary of education, Dr. Lillian Lowery, doesn't see a problem with it: "It sounds right on," Lowery said. "These are good people with good intentions."

As you might expect (because, after all, it's not like you would the News Journal to actually focus on this aspect), many of the commenters to the article think the idea is ludicrous -- and think instead these ministers should make unannounced visits to the homes of these children to monitor how their parents are parenting:

-- Or maybe these Ministers can "sit" in the houses these students come from and observe the root of their violent and defiant nature. Then they can see for themselves that schools are not the reason for street violence, nor will schools be the end to street violence.

-- Question: Are they also going to monitor the homes of the children in their 'adopted' schools?

-- Since it appears to be a well-known fact that many of the problems at school are as a result of lack of parenting at home, why aren't these ministers going to the heart of the problem? Perhaps conducting 'parenting classes' at their places of worship. Perhaps offering things to encourage parents to take an interest in their kids. Perhaps sharing with their communities the fact that out-of-wedlock children are not as likely to succeed as those from two-parent families.

-- I want to know what the Ministers are going to do with the parents that are not sending their kids to school. The problem is not the school. It's the parents that are not raising their kids.

-- Instead of walking into classrooms, why don't they walk into peoples homes and make sure they are being good parents.

I was wondering what precisely these ministers would be looking for in terms of what is motivating children and in terms of discipline. And did these ministers wonder what sort of artificial effect their mere presence would have on a classroom during their visit? In other words, kids tend to behave better when they see other "official" adults in a classroom. Do these ministers have degrees in the subject of the classroom they'll be visiting? Are they familiar with the teaching methods for that subject? Are they familiar with what the state test requires for that subject? Are they aware of how/what disciplinary measures are permitted for the school and/or district?

If, as I suspect, the answer to most or all of these questions is "no," then these ministers have no business "reporting" on anything from a classroom to a principal ... or anyone else. Personally, I don't have an issue with them visiting classrooms to make generalized observations -- as a public institution any member of the public should be so permitted (of course, with the usual school/child protection measures in place, i.e. administration chaperones, etc.) -- but the moment any sense of "officiality" about their observations becomes apparent, teachers (and their appropriate representatives) should speak up and have this practice cease.

Further, this idea wiffs somewhat of the aborted Consent Decree that city representatives wanted enacted during the battle to have the federal desegregation order lifted from county schools in the mid-90s. Included in that agreement were items such as the following:

  • The requirement of teachers to "fill out numerous forms" and "attend several conferences" before any suspension of a disruptive student could take place.
  • Suspensions in the primary grades are to be used "only as a last resort and only after and in consultation with the District Supervisor."
  • Teachers are urged to "develop greater sensitivity" to the "supposedly different cultural styles of troublesome students." Sounds an awful lot like what's going on in Seattle public schools right now.
  • Special -- "culturally sensitive" -- exams for minority students.
  • An "integrated assessment system" that provides "culturally sensitive assessments," "alternative assessments," and "performance-based assessments" that "allow students to demonstrate proficiency in different ways."
  • All teachers should develop "nonconfrontational" methods for resolving conflicts with students.
  • As an incentive for teachers to "revise their tests and approaches to teaching and discipline," a provision for a "Parent/Student Advocate" (at $175,000 per year) whose office is to be in Wilmington city limits.
  • $220,000 for "intervention specialists" whose purpose is to "support youths who come into conflict with authorities at their schools."
  • Establishment of a benchmark of "reducing by 10% the number of minority students who drop out of school."
  • Recommendation of $58,000 be spent each year for a Future Educators of America club in each middle and high school with "at least one minority teacher" as an advisor.

Unlike others noted in the article and in the comments, I've little issue with their presence from a religious angle. But as they claim, their mission is merely "evaluation," what sort of "remedies" would they offer?

But even though Curry said this would be an "unofficial" evaluation, they would go to the district and education department if they find the school is not performing within the parameters they've set up.

What parameters exactly? Why weren't these laid out in the article so we'd all know precisely what these ministers would be looking for? Would [some of] their solutions resemble those from above from the mid-90s -- those that were soundly rejected by the state legislature?

I certainly hope not.

Posted by Felix at February 13, 2011 06:12 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I wonder if these dopes are going to start visiting doctors' offices to make sure that they are properly caring for our inner-city children.

This is a f-in disgrace on so many levels, yet Lowry and other admins will line up for these visits.

Just one more thing teachers are expected to bend over and take!

Posted by: Digby at February 13, 2011 07:02 PM

It might not be that bad, if they would go about it the right way. A lot of these kids could benefit from somebody that might be able to act like a counselor to them, or even a tutor. If they approached it from that angle, they might actually do some good, provided they didn't act too pushy about it. Most people don't have the time or wherewithal to do volunteer work in schools, so if these people are willing to invest their time, then that's great, so long as they observe proper boundaries.

Posted by: ThePaganTemple at February 13, 2011 11:14 PM

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