Friday, June 30, 2006

Latchkey Marty and Middle School Basketball

Feudal Prince Marty (FPM) Chavez is doing a bang-up job of running Albuquerque Public Schools in a dress rehearsal this summer. Amy Miller has a Journal story about the Mayor holding up School Year 2006-2007 after-school program funds to APS until Marty's "Education Council" can develop some criteria to evaluate the programs. Unfortunately, there isn't any criteria yet.

Marty, his "education coordinator" Paul Broome and their "education council" are holding up programs like middle school basketball to ascertain whether these programs are helping raise the APS graduation rate. Again, they have no criteria established to evaluate how middle school basketball and other programs help kids graduate.

Despite having no criteria, there is a purpose to the "education council" delay. The story notes Broome saying (not in quotes) that;

The council wants to make sure after-school programs offer more than social and recreational benefits. They should be academically rigorous enough to improve the school district's graduation rate, Broome said.

What a misguided crock of steaming crap. Using this criteria-less criteria, one must ask the following questions:

  1. Is middle school basketball "academically rigorous" (AR)?
  2. If middle school basketball isn't "AR", does that automatically mean it isn't helping to raise the graduation rate?
  3. If I run an after-school tutoring program profoundly ladled with heavy academic rigor and one kid shows up, is that better than a AR-less middle school basketball program with 25 kids participating?
  4. What exactly does help raise the graduation rate?
  5. Does the APS graduation problem have more to do with being AR, or with kids ceasing to attend school?
Okay, that last question was even stupider than the ones preceding it. Holding up after-school program funds shows how bassackwards FPM and his merriless band of education councilors are about the graduation problem, and why politicians and government officials often make lousy salespeople.

The assumption from FPM, et. al. is that students (customers) drop out of school because they are either:
  1. not academically challenged
  2. unable to do high school academics because they weren't in an academically rigorous program from the start.
That line of thinking is like trying to sell truffels at Godiva Chocolates based on the anti-oxidants properties of chocolate. What the hell does academic rigor have to do with kids dropping out of school? Yes, as a Teacher o' Gifted kids I can tell you that a small number of gifted students drop out of school because it's so academically unrigorous. I'm sure there are a few others who do the same who are considered "gifted". But is academic rigor the biggest cause of kids dropping out?

Okay, maybe the assumption is that kids are dropping out because they can't do the work. True in some cases, but the assumption there seems to be that learning during the school day isn't enough for these students and that after-school programs will help provide needed additional learning.

Well, we have after-school tutoring programs now, and, at least at my school, they are well-attended. Well attended by kids who have just about zero ZERO chance of not graduating. After-school tutoring is full of kids dedicated enough to not only learn during the school day but beyond. They also have parents who expect and demand academic rigor.

Of course these kids and parents are not the problem when it comes to graduation rates. The problem is that the kids who desperately need after-school tutoring don't attend. They also don't attend school regularly during the school day. They also have parents who, for whatever reason, do not instill the necessary academic rigor in their children.

And now back to middle school basketball, because it's being held hostage because Feudal Prince Marty and his "education council" can't really address the real causes of low graduation rates. If they could, we'd have REQUIRED after-school tutoring with strict penalties for parents who don't comply with having their children tutored. That ain't happening so the "education council" can hem and haw all they want, create or not create criteria to their bureaucratic "fact-finding blue ribbon committee" content.

But I keep losing the dribble with middle school basketball...just as bureaucrats seem to be losing the salesperson's touch with selling public schools. In selling "academic rigor" over all else FPM and his henchmen demonstrate that their perceived customer is not the kids but old people who read about low graduation rates in the paper and wonder what the heck is going on.

Kids want to be more plugged into their school community, IF programs are in place to provide them with activities of interest to them. For instance, carloads of students head off to soccer practice after school, in part because we don't have a soccer team at my school. Some APS schools have created soccer teams, despite no leadership from APS on the issue, because their students can't afford AYSO and other public leagues. These soccer programs are in many cases the strongest link between school and at-risk students.

The same goes with basketball, I just happen to mention soccer in detail because I served as "coach" (and I use the term very loosely) for a middle school team a few years back. These soccer and basketball programs are some of the best sales tools we have in keeping highly at-risk students on school grounds with school expectations (including grade checks in their academics).

Let's face it, many of these kid athletes and their parents are not motivated by the things that lead to graduation. And, of course, they would never think of attending a purely academic after-school program. But the role of after-school athletic programs in motivating students to stay on school grounds and maintain decent grades through grade checks is way too important to be played by some "education council" for politics and show.

Quit dicking around with us, Marty. And whomever thinks the City of Albuquerque would run the public schools better than APS (which admittedly has a hell of a time doing it) is just insane enough to get rid of middle school basketball. I can hardly wait for the City's next foray into school administration policy....hey, Marty, music and art aren't really "academically rigorous"...let's get rid of them, too.

No comments: