Not a true turnaround effort – Worcester Tech

Not a true turnaround effort – Worcester Tech

I’ve been meaning to write about my thoughts on Worcester Tech in Worcester, MA since last year when Obama gave the commencement speech. This month, an interview with the principal of Worcester Tech came across my twitter feed.  Here’s my thoughts on her interview, the school and what she didn’t say (or that the report did not print).

It’s a very cool school that has an incredible balance between academics and technical experience. Each week students rotate through academic and tech weeks for 90 tech days and 90 academic days. This model actual helps to demonstrate that my theory that you could have elective based classes instead of Math, Science, English, Social Studies and still teach the standards, concepts and skills. They have a great way of introducing students to all the tech disciplines and empowering them to make choices. There is virtually nothing like that in traditional schools. The school is a great opportunity to get a head start and build a great college application.
worcester tech logo


The principal says that the school used to be focused towards strictly students going into the workforce after high school. The test scores where falling and they were going to shut down the school. Instead they turned it around. There is just one item missing from this interview that brings more light to this situation.

Worcester Tech now has an application process. Here is the Application  and the Admission guidelines for the school.  I know this predicament well because I was a middle school guidance intern at a middle school in Worcester. The application requires data regarding grades, attendance, and behavior record. So who do you think is attending Worcester Tech?

In the past the admission requirements were probably weak if at all. That probably wasn’t the right method. But is this the correct method?

Let’s assume that a majority of non college attending kids went to the old school. They probably didn’t have good grades, or good attendance records, or  good behavior records. Those facts probably lead to the decline of the school. So when the “turned around” the school…..where did those students go?

They didn’t turnaround the school. They literally built a brand new different school. And it’s a great school. My two issues are these:

What happens to all the students who used to attend Worcester Tech? The only school in the city that could prepare them for a career after HS is only open to students with good grades, good attendance and good behavior. Basically, the kids who need a great school like this, likely are not getting admitted. This actually sounds like what most people think charter schools do – they selectively choose students and by doing so eliminate “unworthy” students. Most charter schools, through their choice of attendance zones operate in under served communities and through a lottery serve at risk students. But, I will ask again, What happens to the students who used to attend Worcester Tech?

Did you know that only 1/4th of Worcester HS graduating seniors attend a 4 year university? Another 1/4th go to local community colleges (which I hear is where students are pushed towards due to their lack of success) and 50% go directly into the workforce, or at least not to any college directly after school.

So if 95% of Worcester Tech grads go to college – those students are not likely any of the 50% going directly into the workforce.

All of a sudden does Worcester Tech seem a bit exclusive? I’d say so.

Now, I think the school is great. Students who do well in school deserve a chance to get ahead, build their tech skills to get into the best colleges, and learn in an empowering school environment. But on the backs of the students who need that school environment?

Which brings me to my second point, this type of school should be available to all students who wish to attend. There should be enough campuses to accommodate every student who need this opportunity. We should be incorporating more of their school culture and style into traditional public schools. We need more Worcester Tech’s.

But please don’t laud them as turning around a school – when the students who were there to begin with are not there. And we are still not serving those students who need us. Because of the admission reqs, its very likely that the 95% college going graduates would have also gone to college from their sending school. Worcester Tech may not actually be increasing Worcester’s graduation rate. Just moving the numbers around.


AEA spews lies in response to “School Choice” March

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

 The Alabama Education Association (AEA) supports the efforts of all parents everywhere seeking the best possible education for their children, be it in public, private, religious, or home schools. However, AEA must stand against those that seek to divert scarce public education resources into ideas that have been shown not to improve student achievement and, instead, foster fraud and waste of taxpayer funds.

Funds for traditional public school may be scarce, but you have to understand that your traditional public schools have not shown the success students need and changes are necessary. Standing in the way of reform is supporting the status quo – which from this last post, indicates that African American boys are graduating at a rate of 54%. How can the AEA support such a low graduation rate? “Foster fraud and waste taxpayer money”? That sounds like fear mongering – and the only one wasting taxpayer dollars are the schools who are not providing quality education to all students. 

AEA Associate Executive Secretary Dr. Greg Graves said, “Just as with the oral argument before the Alabama Supreme Court on AAA, while public school educators and students went about the tasks of teaching and learning, children were taken out of the classroom to be used as pawns and set decoration by those who seek to dismantle and destroy public education. The numbers from AAA show that it is predominantly being used to subsidize parents who already send their children to private school and those in school systems without a ‘failing school.’ Studies have shown conclusively that students in charter schools perform no better, and often worse, than students in public schools and that charter schools are rife with fraud and abuse of taxpayer funds. Instead of investing in strategies that we know improve teaching and learning, such as smaller class sizes, better training and professional development of teachers, and additional resources for students with challenges, we are only looking at ideas that divert money from public schools into private hands. ”

Ah Dr. Graves – how long have AL public schools been on the current path? They haven’t gotten it right yet and you are asking for more money to continue on the same inadequate path? There are just as many studies that show smaller class sizes at a certain number don’t impact learning. Better training and Professional development of teachers? I think part of that is the role of your Schools of Education to prepare adequate teachers…and how long has it been since a majority of your teachers attended a school of education? I hope that to determine the professional development needs of your teachers you are administering an effective teacher evaluation to pinpoint their exact areas needed of improvement. Diverting money from public schools to private hands…you what really strikes me about that? Parents who send their kids to a non public school are still paying their fare share of the taxes to support public schools their kids are not attending. That’s like saying, “Oh, I gave you a defective car? Oh I’m sorry, but you need to finish paying for that car and buy a new one, there is just nothing else I can do if you want to have a car to drive.” While not all charter schools are successful, plenty of them are. Parents clearly want choices. But remember, Dr. Graves exclusively represents teachers – not parents, not students, not the community. His only job is to look out for teachers. 

Graves added, “Despite the rhetoric from those who are looking to divert public school funding, parents have always had a choice between public schools, private schools, and home schooling. For the last decade under No Child Left Behind, most parents in what are now called “failing schools” also had the choice to transfer to other public schools in the same district. What is being presented as “choice” is nothing but a way to starve public education and make charter and private school operators rich.”

Yes, parents have had the choice between sending their child to the failing school their tax dollars pay for, or shelling out the own extra money to pay for private school. Great options! Oh, so I don’t have to send my child to my failing school, but I am responsible for transportation to and from another school in the district that I choose that is not failing? Why can’t parents have a choice of school, choice of public schools within their own attendance zone? The only people getting rich are union staffers –  nearly 600 staffers at the NEA and AFT are raking in six-figure salaries, and of course, Randi Weingarten makes $557,875



Alabama Educators Association helping or hurting students?

In reading about Alabama’s move towards public charter schools, I’ve come across the same paradigm I see in many other places.

Even Duncan E. Kirkwood, the Alabama state director for BAEO, is surprised by his allies in the legislature. “You would think that the Democrats, the black legislators, would be the ones to lead the charge on this social justice movement for poor people, for black people,” he said. “Our graduation rate for black boys in Alabama is 54 percent.”

Graduation rate for black boys in Alabama is at 54%!?! And Democrats, of all people are opposing strategies that could help these students?

So far, he said, a handful of black Democrats expressed tentative willingness to support a charter bill, compared to dozens of GOP lawmakers who are fully on board.

Mr. Kirkwood said the pro-charter coalition has been in overdrive to convince state residents that charter schools could help improve the grim graduation rates for African-American students, and help empower parents to make schooling choices for their children. They’ve been lobbying legislators, holding town hall meetings, and taking parents and community leaders to visit charters in Georgia and Tennessee.

The group is hoping to outflank the organizing prowess of the statewide teachers’ union, which has helped block previous efforts to pass charter legislation.

Ahh, so “Democrats” strictly speaking aren’t the opposition, its the teachers union. Of course, what else would I expect? But what you have to understand is that education for kids in Alabama doesn’t appear to be good, or doing any better? How can the teachers union in AL stand back and fight reform that can actually help students? This is what I mean when I say unions stand for the status quo. What have the unions been doing to improve education in AL? Because whatever it is, it hasn’t been enough. Standing in the way of reform that can help, is supporting the status quo.

The Alabama Educators Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, doesn’t have collective-bargaining rights, but wields considerable political influence. The AEA has opposed previous charter bills—among other things, it spent millions in the state primary to unseat Republican lawmakers—especially in the face of reductions to the state’s budget for K-12 schools in recent years.”We find it hard to expect children to excel at the same rate of other states when you continue to chip away at the funding source,” said Gregory T. Graves, the AEA’s associate executive secretary. “Charter schools have been shown to resegregate, discriminate, and they have been shown to put financial restraints on the existing public schools.”

And the union doesn’t even have collective bargaining power! Yet they spend their time and money to unseat Republicans (by the way how is that going?) who are chipping away at the school budget. Well, it is hard to advocate for more education funding when you have such sub par results from your students. We’re not against more money, we just need to see results worthy of spending the money needed. I don’t know why this is such a hard concept for unions to understand.