Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Drawing The Joker

We discovered today that about a dozen kids are set to transfer into our school next week, because under NCLB they have that right. A dozen doesn't sound like many until you remember that we only have 220 students, so it's equivalent to adding 5% to our student body. We're getting kids in all grades.

It's a tough one. This is the post where I ramble, rationalize, feel guilty, ramble, rationalize some more... it might not be pretty.

My gut reaction was What the hell?

In part that's because in my first two years of teaching, mid-year transfers were almost always kids being traded from one school to another, basically, we'll take your incorrigibles if you'll take ours... After a couple dozen experiences like that, you tend to get a little suspicious of kids who show up in your classroom doorway in February.

In theory, I think public schools have to take all comers, and successful schools should not hoard that success for a few chosen children. My school is a screened program, and sometimes I feel a little guilty about that. If we're so great, shouldn't we be teaching everyone? We should. We should. And if kids are in a school that is not meeting their needs, a school that is failing them, why should they have to rot there, if there's space in another, better school not too far away? They shouldn't.

But... but... but. A HUGE part of our success, and something that we would insist upon even if we were NOT a screened program, is our orientation and the work we do with the kids early in the year, the work we do to "break them in" to how our school works, our academic expectations, our behavioral expectations, our school culture. Sure, every now and again a kid will move into the Region and the Region will send them to us. But that's maybe 1 or 2 kids a year. We lose very few kids - some move, 3 or 4 (or fewer) per year decide to find other schools, we've only "counseled out" one student in four years (and that was after working with him and his family for 2 1/2 years, multiple suspensions, and a custody change just when things had started looking up...). Getting this many kids mid-year feels like a real wildcard, and a little disrespectful to the groundwork that we laid and the relationships that we formed in the last 5 months.

It's also weird timing considering the testing schedule - these kids' scores will count in our numbers, even though we had absolutely nothing to do with their education prior to the ELA test, and only a few weeks prior to the Math test.

Then again - does it do those kids any good to sit in their old schools, not getting educated, for another four months, just so they can start with us at the beginning of a school year? Wouldn't it be better to start our work with them earlier? It would.

But - and this is where I'm going to come off as an elitist (if I haven't already) - whatever you might think of screened programs, that's what we are. And it seems a little unfair to the kids who went through the school choice process that other kids can skip it altogether, skip the extra week of school in August, and matriculate in February.

I'm sure it will be fine. I will welcome the new kids with arms as open as possible. Maybe we will come up with some way to "orient" them mid-year, like some colleges do for mid-year transfer students? One thing they have going for them is that they have parents with-it enough to know the law, complete the appropriate transfer paperwork, and seek out and find our school. That bodes well for the kids. It also highlights an irony of NCLB - those who will use the transfer option are, most likely, those already at some advantage; kids whose families are real disasters are likely to stay right where they are, having no one advocating for them.

The bottom line is, we'll see. It won't be a disaster: we're here to teach the kids, whoever they might be, however they might find us. But that doesn't mean we have to be happy about getting a whole bunch of new kids all at once in the middle of the year.

2 Comments:

Blogger TMAO said...

Apparently every testing regulation in your state is back-asswards. In California, October is the cut-off for having a kid's scores on the tests in May count. I double-taked when I heard that the first time because it just made so much sense.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

Ms. Frizzle:

Check my blog about why this happens

8:37 PM  

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