Choking students out of school is never acceptable
Brutality does not teach accountability, on camera or off
W ORLEANS — Only people who believe that children are uneducable or not even children would slam, choke, jail and expel their non-compliance. When you believe all children can learn, you search for lessons that incite changes in thought processes and behaviors.
This national difference of opinion has drawn attention, and New Orleans is no exception. Last week, a parent told the Times Picayuneshe filed a complaint with the state Education Department after viewing a recording of Wilfred Wright, KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy’s dean of students, putting her daughter in a chokehold and dragging her down the street. A school incident report says a staff member, who it would not identify, was breaking up a fight between two girls. The parent doesn’t have a copy of the video, but a screenshot of the video shows a staffer with his arm around a girl’s neck. The staffer was put on leave pending an investigation.
Let’s be clear. Slamming and choking students does not teach them how to be accountable; it teaches them how to slam and choke. But as this case unfolds, there will undoubtedly be people who will blame the student and her behaviors for the choking. That’s because videos that often corroborate students’ accounts of inappropriate restraints are often used to shame student victims in other situations.
The backlash aimed at the abused student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina is so strong that it partially helped old video regain traction. In this years-old video recorded in a Chicago Vocational Career Academy classroom in 2011, a student verbally harasses and physically threatens a substitute teacher while the class laughs wildly. People are posting this and similar videos as evidence why uncontrollable students get the abuse they deserve.
Blaming students for classroom behavior reveals how little regard we have for black children as well as the teaching profession; people literally want black folk to disappear. Noted charter school advocate and leader Eva Moskowitz recently had to defend the use of a “got to go” list in one of her schools. For years, education rivals accused Moskowitz and other charter leaders of counseling or “pushing out” students in the name of creating a school culture of ‘no excuses’ and academic excellence. But harsh disciplinary practices aren’t confined to charter schools. As the South Carolina case shows, traditional schools will even use police tactics to rid themselves of blacks. Nevertheless, people don’t disappear. We can’t expel or slam our way to success.
But schools keep trying. The Council of State Governments Justice Center found disabled students, minority students and LGBT students are disproportionately suspended and expelled from school. What the data won’t show are the abuses that push students out of school without a suspension. It would be understandable if the KIPP student left the school after the choking. Maybe it’s our systems and not the people that are the problems.
Admissions Quota Proposed in Brooklyn School Rezoning
Responding to concerns that a plan to redraw two Brooklyn school zoneswould fill an elementary school with affluent white children that currently serves mostly low-income minority children, Education Department staff members said on Monday that students receiving free or reduced-price lunches would be given admissions priority for half the seats in each class at the school.
The department has said it wants to rezone the Dumbo and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods, where apartments sell for millions of dollars, so that children now zoned for Public School 8 in Brooklyn Heights, which is overcrowded and has a mostly white student body, would be zoned for Public School 307, which serves a public-housing project, educates mostly black and Hispanic children and has room to spare.
The proposal to set aside half the school’s seats came during a presentation of the rezoning plan to the community education council covering P.S. 307, the locally elected body responsible for voting on zone lines. Some parents at the school had asked the department for such set-asides to prevent the school population from becoming largely white.
Whether preserving a portion of seats for students with lower incomes ultimately accomplishes those parents’ goal would depend on how many students in the redrawn zone want to attend P.S. 307. Families living in the zone would have priority over students from outside the zone, even those who qualified for subsidized lunch.
The Education Department said its current projections assume that the school would eventually have enough capacity for 30 percent of its students to come from outside the zone. The department also said that, though its plans call for the rezoning to take effect in 2016, it would not put the admissions plan in place until at least the following year, so as not to risk violating the terms of a federal grant.
Faraji Hannah-Jones, co-president of the P.S. 307 parent-teacher association, expressed displeasure with the department’s proposal. (Mr. Hannah-Jones’s wife, Nikole Hannah-Jones, is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine.)
“When we said 50 percent, we didn’t say 50 percent with conditions,” he said. “We said 50 percent, period.”
He added: “We don’t want P.S. 307 to become P.S. 8.”
The rezoning plan has drawn objections from current P.S. 307 parents, as well as parents who would fall into the expanded P.S. 307 zone. The Education Department originally planned to meet with the P.S. 307 council in September, but held off in order to hold a series of meetings with parents, teachers and neighborhood organizations. After hearing the department’s presentation on Monday, the council has 45 days to vote on it. The council will vote only on the proposed new zone lines, not on the idea of setting aside half the school’s seats for low-income families.
Alabama Teacher of the Year Resigns: The Backstory, Part I
Ann Marie Corgill
On November 20, 2015, I drove from southern Louisiana to central Alabama in order to extensively interview Ann Marie Corgill, the 2014-15 Alabama Teacher of the Year who abruptly resigned on October 30, 2015.
The interview lasted over four hours. I decided to seek a face-to-face interview because I knew I would be asking some pointed questions, and I thought it best to do so in person.
Corgill has an intriguing story to tell, and in a series of posts, I intend to tell it, including information on Corgill’s professional history as a public school teacher in both Alabama and New York; her story about becoming Alabama’s Teacher of the Year, and the detailed circumstances surrounding her resignation, including the media attention.
For this first post, I focus on the how her story became national news.
Indeed, being the one to break the news of the sudden, unexpected departure of a state teacher of the year is quite a scoop.
Let me begin with October 31, 2015, the day that I first read about the abrupt resignation of Alabama’s 2014-15 Teacher of the Year, Ann Marie Corgill in the New York Daily News.
The Daily News article appeared to draw all of its information from this October 29, 2015, AL.com article that, in turn, draws most of its information from Corgill’s resignation letter.
Furthermore, the AL.com article also notes that Corgill “was not immediately available to comment Thursday morning [October 29, 2015].” Still, when I first read the article, I assumed that AL.com had been in touch with Corgill in order to receive a copy of the resignation from her. After all, it was Corgill’s resignation, so it seemed logical that if the media had been alerted and had a copy of the resignation letter, then it must have been Corgill who provided it.
“A lot of people thought it was fiction and this is all real stuff. I had visited my friends during the Thanksgiving break, Ray and Alice, who lived in this abandoned church. They were teachers at a high school I went to just down the road in the little town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
And a friend of mine and I decided to help them clean up their church, and because I had gone to school there, I was familiar with all of these little back roads and nook-and-cranny places. And I knew a place that local people were using to get rid of their stuff….
So it wasn’t like some pristine virgin forest that we’d–you know, were screwing around with. And our pile of garbage, well, we couldn’t tell the difference once we threw ours down. But there was someone who could and that happened to be the local chief of police, a guy named Bill Obanhein, who we called Officer Obie. And he confronted us that next morning after Thanksgiving with our crime…
And I turned it into a little story. And then, of course, I decided to stay out of school because the civil rights movement was going on, the ban the bomb, clean the water, fix that, do this, you know, I mean, all the world was changing and I wanted to be where that was happening.
And so I left school and, of course, that made me eligible as it were to, you know, join up and get sent over to Vietnam. And I didn’t really want to go and little did I realize that when I went down to the induction center that they–well, they found me ineligible, and I just couldn’t believe it. And so I turned it into a song. It took about a year to put together, and I’ve been telling it ever since just about…
In exchange for local flexibility, accountability plans will require work
I have a thought for school district staff, board members and others characterizing the process for developing Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) as too time-consuming, tedious and cumbersome.
Quit your belly-aching!
Districts and other local educational agencies have just been relieved of a slew of bureaucratic compliance mandates tied to dozens of old state categorical programs. Those mandates required hours of accounting, tracking, reporting and general “bean-counting” of dollars spent. They limited district spending to the multiple, mostly narrow confines of the various categoricals and carried, as well, the threat of losing funds because someone bean-counted wrongly. Now districts can meld the old pots together to spend the funds much more flexibly, free from the strict and multiple prerogatives of Sacramento. As a member of my local school board, I have seen firsthand how this can work better.
The deal – that many folks now seem to be conveniently forgetting – was that in exchange for dropping all of that work and for having all this new flexibility districts would be fully transparent around their spending and engage community stakeholders in spending decisions.
Guess what? That is going to take some real work, people.
From some who merely see it as “compliance” work, I sense a failure of imagination. The intent of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is that the LCAP serve as a living, breathing, continuously improving “comprehensive planning tool” (see LCAP template, page 1), developed and implemented with the school community. Ongoing, strategic planning and effective community engagement are two things districts have not historically been asked to do. Faced with these new expectations, it is easier to treat the LCAP as an exercise in filling in boxes and checking off stakeholder contact compliance. Instead, we ought to be figuring out how to make the deal work as intended.
For its part, if the state believes its new “local control” mantra, it will need to seriously invest in expanding both district and local stakeholder capacity to engage in the new strategic planning dialogue. That means the state will need to improve the quality of the planning, the depth and reach of the engagement, the readability of the LCAP and the ability of local communities to understand what they find there. The PTA is calling for a billion-dollar investment in parent engagement. That would be a start.
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