Sunday, May 17, 2009

Homewood children's zone envisioned

From last week's PG:

As PURE Reform noted in last November's public hearing, federal funding for children's zones modedled on the well-know Harlem Children's Zone is expected to be made available for funding in 20 locations.


Questioner said...

The president of NYC's Federation of Teachers is proposing this variation on the theme of addressing "conditions in children's lives that make it harder for them to learn":

“And what I am also suggesting is that the neighborhood school become a one-stop source for health and human services and, at the same time, ensure that children arrive in class ready to learn.”

In addition to the educational offerings and the broad health and human services available to community schools, the proposed turnaround model would combine other components of strategies that have proven successful in raising student achievement, including school-based Teacher Centers providing support and training for educators, Lead Teacher and school-wide bonus programs.

Weingarten said schools in the network would choose to participate by a vote of school leadership teams and staff. The schools would be open into the evenings and on weekends for children and their families, too, she said. After-school tutoring and enrichment programs would be closely aligned with the instructional day, but the schools would also include opportunities for exercise, sports, arts and culture and community service, she said. Child care, pre-school, English as a Second Language (ESL), GED and vocational classes also would be available for families and members of the community.

“The school community, as the school-based option clause in our contract first envisioned, would do all this in ways they themselves determine based on a shared vision for the school they themselves develop,” Weingarten said. “That vision would be built by an empowered School Leadership Team in accordance with the needs and priorities of the students, parents and staff.

“And once and for all, teachers would be allowed to unleash their amazing creativity,” she said.

The schools would also be a locus for health and mental health services either through the location of clinics, mobile clinics or partnerships with local providers and hospitals, Weingarten said. Other services in her proposal could include referrals for housing issues, employment opportunities, immigration issues and legal problems.

“Imagine what a welcoming place for kids and family members such a school would be,” Weingarten said. “And here are some other benefits: By addressing health, mental health and family issues, student absenteeism – a major cause of poor school performance – would plummet and parent involvement would soar as visiting their children’s teachers would no longer be so daunting for parents already familiar with the building.”

Weingarten said she anticipates criticism from skeptics who might say her approach would have schools doing everything but teaching.

“That is so far from the truth,” she said. “There is no conflict between emphasizing academics and tending to children’s broader needs. Just look at the Harlem Children’s Zone. For our most disadvantaged kids, our schools can and must do both. In fact, I would argue that addressing the family, personal and health issues that so many of our students face enables the classroom teacher to focus on teaching and our children to concentrate on learning.”

Throughout her speech, Weingarten noted the union’s commitment to establishing the connection between public schools and parents to develop a partnership ensuring that education is seen as a community value.

“As a union, we have worked hard to forge bonds with the community,” Weingarten said, “And we’ve been able to do that because we all share a simple goal: to help our children succeed. All our children, of course, but especially those that need us the most.”

Mark Rauterkus said...

Perhaps this would work better if it was throughout the entire school district. All the students / familes get A, B, C services. Not just some. And, if you go to a magnet -- you're out of luck. Goofy.

But, it is not anything that can be rolled out throughout the entire PPS district.

So, let's take part of Pittsburgh, perhaps Westinghouse area -- and -- combine it with Wilkinsburg, perhaps, and then make a new school district that equals the size of the childrens zone.

I've felt for some time that PPS is too big to do somethings and it might best advance if it was split into smaller sized districts. That would get more volunteers into the mix and cut down the risks of failure.

I think it is hard, if not impossible, to roll out something that is so specialized for only part of a district. Equity seems to be a big factor and yardstick to measure programs.

PS: I want to get a Pgh version of the Harlem Boys Choir too!

PS2: And, how about a Pgh version of the Harlem Globetrotters? But, we'd play water polo, not basketball.

Questioner said...

While it would be a bad idea to try to roll out anything for the whole city at once, the NYC plan seems to envision multiple locations for services, based at neighborhood schools. If the ratio of magnets to neighborhood schools is not too large, students attending magnets could receive services at their neighborhood schools. But it might be necessary to keep a few more schools open than might be "cost-effective," if "costs" were measured only in easily calculated dollars and cents rather than considering costs and benefits more broadly to take into account student and community well being (and, most likely, achievement).

Mark Rauterkus said...

How big are these Children Neighborhood Zones? Scope?
B.O. proposed, original, ideal.

I guess they want to launch 20 additional in US via stimulus spending.

# of people
# of kids
# of miles

# of $
# of services
# of increases
# of employees

# of votes
# of schools