According to a recent report, "Here and Now," published by the Illinois Facilities Fund, there is not one public school in the Austin or Garfield area that is performing at or above national norms. Not one! According to the Chicago Public Schools website, 20 percent of students are performing at or about state performance measures.
The report also identifies the need for more high schools in this area. However, if all schools are underperforming, don't we need to create more performing schools? I am suggesting that we need good elementary schools to help children get ready for high schools.
An approach to the need for schools has been to create schools that start at sixth grade and run through 12th, creating a middle/high school experience for students. The logic is that the school has a better opportunity to prepare students for success if they can get them earlier. This is a beginning, but it is inadequate as an approach. Somewhere there should be an emphasis on developing schools that are providing early education and primary grade opportunities.
Of course, I think more should happen. Consider the following scenario: A group of parents get together. The group can be large or small. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not think we need a room full of folk to get something done. A few committed folks can get something accomplished.
My idea is simple; I think we, parents, should take over a neighborhood school.
In the process, they might want to hold a few people hostage, like, say, the principal and a few teachers. I am not advocating violence, so no one is going to be forced to do anything at gunpoint. The hostage-holding situation is really a one-way discussion, parents talking, schools listening to what the needs truly are.
Maybe the parents could hold a "teach-in" at the school. With a little planning, the teach-in could facilitate conversations about innovative school ideas and inform parents about choices. We know that the situation is limited; the key here is to give parents the information needed to fully understand the lack of progress in our school. We have to go beyond talking to the goal of operating a school.
I know that I am very frustrated by underperforming schools. I am also frustrated when the blame shifts from the school's performance to the student underperforming.
My daughter goes to one of the North Side tuition-based pre-schools run by Chicago Public Schools. She has been student-of-the-month twice. I receive glowing reports about her. I pay $170 per week for the privilege. A few weeks ago, my daughter started to say that she didn't want to go to school. Puzzled by this because she has always liked school, I started to ask her why. In her own words she was saying that she wanted something a little more to doâ€"more than nap in the afternoon. She wanted to dance, sing, etc.
I decided to call the school to see what exactly was going on. I talked to the assistant teacher and the lead teacher both. They told me that everything was fine. When I inquired about changes in routine, I was told that there were no changes, nothing was going on. Yet my daughter was refusing to go to the school.
I called the principal and left a message, which said that I would need to make some changes in my daughter's routine if I could not get a better idea about what was going on at the school.
The response was very interesting. I was told that my daughter was being challenged in the classroom, and she was not being as successful as she had been in the past. Now she was required to write her name, count and learn her colors, but she was not catching on. This could be the reason and perhaps that is why she now does not want to come to school. Well, that's interesting information but it raised another question in my mind.
Just when were they going to inform me that my daughter was not performing well in school? My daughter started the school when she was 3 years old. Over the past year and a half, she has been going to preschool Monday through Friday about 8-9 hours a day. That's a little more than 40 hours a week over 9 months, not including a short summer session. I know that it is not all instruction time, but I know that she spends more time in school than she does at home. Yet I am expected to believe that it is her fault or really my fault that she cannot write her name?
My husband and I are not buying the underperforming child in a stimulating and challenging environment scenario. Over the past week, my husband and I have taught my daughter how to write her name. Well, what am I paying those guys for? I am still scratching my head about that one. I honestly don't know. Babysitting, I suppose.
This is where I feel like I need to do more than take over a school. What Iâ€"what weâ€"all need to do is to let those folks have the school buildings. We need to take over the education of our children.