As many are aware by now, The Chicago Board of Education plans to close Collins High School. Austin High School has already closed and was swallowed up into Mayor Daley’s Renaissance 2010 school restructuring program. Austin will open with one small school this fall. Both are feeder high schools for students in North Lawndale, East and West Garfield Park and Austin.
Michele Clark High School remains the sole survivor of the proposed closings, only accepting students on a selective basis. Collins’ enrollment is 869 students, 250 of whom just started their freshman year.
Since the announcement was made about Collins, many people in the community -who should have been accepting part of the blame rather than allocating it ?” held protests and press conferences to speak of the real culprit in this startling turn of events: bad teaching, a lack of funding, the federal “No Child Left Behind,” and my personal favorite: questionable study habits from the students.
As much as I disagree with the ethics and fairness behind “No Child,” the fact is that if teachers, parents and faculty know the consequences of not raising test scores in schools, and the schools fail to meet the requirements, everyone involved should take a look in the mirror. If I tell you don’t drive down Lake Street because there’s a hole in the street and you do anyway and lose your exhaust system, who’s to blame ?” Lake Street or you?
Nevertheless, more than 100 protesters gathered at the steps of City Hall and rallied outside Mayor Daley’s office last Wednesday, arguing that the closings will not solve the problem of low test scores at the schools, and the idea that their next schools will be comparatively better is not substantiated.
This is actually quite true, as stated by Collins High parent Jeanette Darroughs. Darroughs contends Collins’ scores took a bad tumble after CPS sent in kids from another closed school in 2004, including those from Austin.
“When you send children from one failing school to another failing school, you compound the problem,” she told the associated press.
Clearly, shoehorning these children in already overcrowded schools is not the answer. Teachers can only do so much, and telling him or her to teach a class of between 30-45 students, then saying “make them pass or else” is unfair and blind to the reality of effective teaching.
It also hurts the students because it makes for a highly uptight learning environment. Teachers are afraid that if their students don’t meet the required testing scores they may be fired. And students are thinking that if they don’t pass they will single-handedly cause the downfall of their own school. There’s a self-esteem builder for you.
But while I can sympathize with the fact that parents on the West Side have infinitelydifferent issues to deal with than their counter-parts just a few towns over, I can’t help but ask: where were they when their children were receiving the grades that doomed their school and what was their response? What was the response of the teachers writing the red ink scores?
They are outside protesting, but a bit too late.