For years the union has been decrying high schools with high class size, a lack of guidance services: schools were kids are treated as anonymous OSIS numbers. We go through the September/February ritual of filing class size grievances and the DOE fights the grievance and shuffles kids around for weeks, sometimes months. The “average” high school teacher has a teaching load of at least 150 students a week. Maybe, just maybe, you can carefully mark a set or two of papers each night and “create” that wonderful and marvelous performance that works for your kids and satisfies the bosses. No wonder that kids drop by the wayside. With all the issues associated with poverty and the streets coupled with an unfeeling, aloof school bureaucracy too many kids simply give-up.
The DOE, in its wisdom, has decided that attendance and dropout rates are unacceptable. They have created a “Multiple Pathways” program, alternatives to the traditional path through school. We used to have a rich, varied set of alternative high schools, and some still exist. The Tweed “brain trust” decided that alternative schools and programs did not have “good data,” gee!! What a surprise!! Alternative transfer high schools, literacy centers, GED programs have been eliminated or slashed.
Average daily attendance in large high schools is appalling, in many schools a third of the kids are absent every day, cutting classes is commonplace and schools exert enormous energy on security issues. The core of the “Multiple Pathways” effort is an expansion of the YABC program (Young Adult Borough Centers) – students who are seventeen with more than seventeen credits attend school in a night school-like configuration with counseling and a jobs program. The program has been around for a long time and expanding it is an excellent idea. Why wait until the kid is halfway “out the door”? Patterns of below standard achievement, poor behavior in school and poor attendance begin in elementary schools and accelerate throughout middle school. It is no surprise that failure rates in the initial high school year, the 9th grade, are astronomic.
It is not the classroom teachers who are dysfunctional; it is the leadership of a school system that continues to try “quick fixes.” As long as the scions at Tweed see the UFT as the” enemy” and teachers as idea-less automatons they will continue to create pathways to oblivion: and it is the kids who are the victims.