Friday, February 19, 2010

Remarks to House Education Committee Concerning HB 301

During the early ‘80s, I was doing an internship in order to receive my principal license. I was matched with a veteran high school principal, and I started at the beginning of the school year. During the first few days, I walked along with him as he patrolled the halls. He told me that his job for the first two weeks was to single out 10 to 12 “drop-back-in” students. The purpose, he told me, was to get them out as quickly as possible.

Why? The students usually just dropped back in to see if the rules had changed, and when they found out nothing had changed, they then started creating problems for teachers. He said teachers really liked this visible show of support for a safe environment. I thought at the time – what about the kids? What happens to them?

When I became an assistant principal at the same school, I was determined to do something different for the drop-back-in students. That was when I started to really investigate alternative programs. I quickly figured out that the adults needed to change, rather than expecting the children to be something they were not able to be.

As with most things, I was probably a little ahead of my time, but when I became a superintendent in North Carolina, I had to meet with 16-year-olds who wanted to drop out of school. At most of these meetings, I was frustrated and the parents were frustrated. Why?

There was something terribly wrong with these scenarios – the 16-year-old students were making the decisions and telling the adults what they were going to do. A 16-year-old does not have the capacity to understand how a short-term decision is going to have such long-lasting ramifications on his/her life.

In my next superintendent position, I established a policy that would not allow students to get a waiver to drop out and get a GED. While this frustrated parents, students and teachers, it was the right thing to do. What happened as a result was that we created model programs that lowered the dropout rate from being the highest in North Carolina to one of the 10 best. The graduation rate moved from 58 percent to more than 80 percent.

We have the capacity to implement House Bill 301 in Kentucky. The Kentucky Board of Education strongly supports college- and career-ready graduates as being the number 1 goal for our agency. We have initiatives in place that already support this bill, and in March and April meetings, the Governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force will be looking at specific programs that can be implemented based on Section 2, Part 6 of this bill.

Many districts, like Warren County, Jessamine County and Fayette County, are already implementing initiatives that address the dropout rate. The adults can figure out how to address the needs of the children. While we could do this without the bill, the bill gives the adults the leverage we need to change what we do.

I encourage you to send a strong signal to students, parents and teachers - support this bill based on what is right for children and the future of Kentucky, not on what is convenient for adults.

1 comment:

  1. This is in response to Dr. Terry Holliday's blog, "Why charter schools." dated April 2, 2010. First, this author want to congratulate Dr. Holliday for the Senate passage of "the legislation along party lines this week" of the charter school laws in his state.
    The time has come when educators, policy makers and researcher must educate the larger community that charter schools are, also, public schools. The school board members, teacher organizations, and superintendents fear the establishment of charter schools in their districts because they lack knowledge of the functions and characteristics of charter schools. Historically people tend to fear the "unknown" in the absence of the knowledge of the unknown. Therefore, we must start to educate the public, as a whole, about charter schools. You stated, "I hope everyone will read the final version of the charter bill and find a very reasonable and practical approach to charters that will provide local boards and superintendents with full control." You are most likely to fail, with charter schools, if your intention is to provide local boards and superintendents with full control. You must realize that charter schools are only successful when giving the autonomy to operate within the law. You will agree with me that the intent of the charter school movement is to abolish the control of schools, and control of access to innovation by local boards, superintendents and school union bosses that have consistently failed our children in the traditional public schools.
    You stated that, " Also, charter legislation represents our best hope to obtain the points we need to receive up to $175 million in federal funds to implement many of the innovations that we hope to see." From your assertion, it seems that your only purpose for supporting charter school law is to receive the money to implement your old programs rather than provide parents and students a choice to transfer out from the traditional schools that have failed them for years. I am unsure if you actually read the conditions of the "Race to the Top" and the intent of the program. You must be honest in your intent. It is important that educational leaders, that actually care for the children of our nation, work to remove the hindrances that have prevented the establishment of charter schools in their districts.
    In regards to your existing program, you assets, " Charter schools that focus on dropouts, achievement gaps, early college, virtual learning and other possible innovations to help children achieve at higher levels will be possible. Of course, all of these are currently possible with SBDM councils and creative superintendents" but you failed to elaborate if your current SBDM councils and creative superintendents' programs have, if any, contributed to students' learning through their standardized test scores. This author thinks that it is time to allow new innovations and allow new charter schools in your district not just to support charter laws for the sole purpose of securing the federal money to continue the old programs that have failed the children of this nation for years. It is time for a paradigm shift, it is time for a change in the positive direction, it is time to narrow the achievement gap by authentically supporting new innovations through parental choice in the way their children are educated.
    John O. Alizor, is a PhD student at Capella university.