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Looking busy vs. creating positive change

October 29, 2010
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**Be sure to check out this article & video at EdNews Colorado: Montbello Students Speak Up

I’ve been talking a lot about the problems with the process and approach Denver Public Schools has proposed to “turn around” six Far Northeast Denver schools. People are justifiably apprehensive about the impact the changes will have on long-standing school-community relationships. And many of the community members’ questions have gone unanswered by district representatives, especially this one (which resonates nationwide):

You’ve been changing everything all the time, every year. Has anything been given a chance to work, and why should we believe THIS will?

Each time this question emerges, in some form or other, district representatives utter some kind of assurance that they “hear those concerns,” and then they proceed to repeat how bad the test scores are, and have been for years. After completely NOT answering the question, they finish by repeating one of my favorite phrases: “We have to do something.”

Ah, yes. Do something. As if all somethings are created equal, and effective.

They’re not. There’s really no evidence that these students will be better off under this new plan than they are now, and at two public meetings so far, the district has never actually revealed any evidence that would suggest otherwise. Absent such evidence, what we have is an attempt to look as though these problems are being taken seriously, even if they have no idea what to do (or are doing this for reasons other than what have been stated…). The language of, “Well, we have to do something…” implies that there is no alternative to what they’re proposing. It’s either this, or leave things exactly as they are. That’s not true.

In addition to the alternative plans presented Tuesday night, DeFENSE Denver has started amassing a collection of research and case studies on features of successful schools, and successful school turnaround efforts. You can find that link here, or by clicking on “What Works” in our collection of links under “Forward Progress”. The most common theme that emerges is this: creating positive change requires that all stakeholders be engaged in a thoughtful, inclusive process whereby each school community identifies its particular needs, and develops solutions that are responsive to those needs. No shortcuts, no dog-and-pony shows, just local actors pooling their expertise and gathering the resources necessary to do what’s right for children.

Nearly all of the schools in question were already in the process of figuring out how to make comprehensive improvements, and several community groups have been working on trying to get more resources and support into the schools, and throughout the community. Now, they’re talking with each other as they try to keep their schools and community intact. What virtue is there in preventing this from happening?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. markfriedman1 permalink
    October 29, 2010 6:36 pm

    “creating positive change requires that all stakeholders be engaged in a thoughtful, inclusive process whereby each school community identifies its particular needs, and develops solutions that are responsive to those needs. No shortcuts, no dog-and-pony shows, just local actors pooling their expertise and gathering the resources necessary to do what’s right for children.”

    Absolutely 100% agree. The critical importance in all this is realizing WHEN there is a deceptive appearance of this approach but nothing real backing it up. The other challenge is building authentic involvement from multiple stakeholders while reaching out to the people best prepared to be serious and real about these school reform efforts. I’m learning day by day as the struggle continues…

Trackbacks

  1. Noticings and Wonderings from the Fringe « Failing Schools
  2. Far Northeast Round-Up « Failing Schools
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  4. “There ain’t no right way to do wrong.” « Failing Schools
  5. When is enough, really enough? (Updated) « Failing Schools

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