A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, August 06, 2007

Another chance for drop-outs in Tulsa

Tulsa Public Schools have opened up a new alternative program in town for those who are close to graduation:
On Saturday, the [Tulsa Public Schools] district held a grand opening for its new high school credit recovery program, called Tulsa Learning Academy, as well as a Back to School Rally, where student groups from schools across Tulsa performed.

High school students or dropouts needing fewer than 12 credit hours can earn their high school diplomas through TLA, which offers 4-hour morning or afternoon sessions.

Two of the first students to apply for admission said they learned about TLA when they were hired by a temp agency to move furniture into the program's newly leased space at Tulsa Promenade.

Jerrod Grayson and Elizha Whitney said they recently completed their senior years at East Central High School lacking two half-credits and one half-credit, respectively.

"I was going to try to find another way to earn my diploma because I didn't want to go back to East Central and do seven classes when all I need is a half-credit," Whitney said.

Grayson and Whitney were accompanied at the TLA grand opening by Carolyn Duhart, the lead supervisor for furniture and labor in the TPS maintenance department, who told them about the program.

"I found out how close they are to graduating and I just stayed on them," Duhart said. "I want everybody's child to earn a high school diploma. The world is changing so much, you've got to have this."

Duhart vowed to keep encouraging the young men while they're completing their credits at TLA.

"The best thing will be when they get that piece of paper (at graduation) in December," she said.

At the grand opening ceremony, Richard Palazzo, the director of alternative programs and social services for TPS, called TLA a unique and innovative program.

"This program is precisely what we need," Palazzo said. "Our phone is ringing off the wall with people asking how they can get into this program."

There's more to the story, too.

This could be a wonderful program.

IF substantive learning is expected. IF discipline is addressed so that kids who want another chance can concentrate on learning. IF it is an accelerated program. IF earning a diploma means EARNING the diploma.

When I was a kid, TPS had Street School, and one of my friends went to it and did very well for herself. I have often pondered moving to a model in which school attendance is not mandatory and what the effects of that would be. Perhaps kids who don't value education and disrupt the learning environment would then try living in the big world for a while. When they finally realized the value of an education, they could choose to come to programs like this one, and be more focused and dedicated. It could be win-win for everyone. We could actually have real standards for behavior and academics in US public schools. Kids could find out whether or not education is really important for themselves, since we all know kids who don't believe teachers or other adults when WE tell them an education is vital for success.

When you're sixteen years old, you may think that eight to ten bucks an hour is perfectly fine. But I have had former students of mine try that route and then suddenly have that epiphany that maybe mean old Ms. Cornelius wasn't kidding. Sometimes this has happened when they have aged out of attendance at a public school, and so they have had to pay for classes at a community college or prep work for the GED. For those that AREN'T too old, programs like the Tulsa Learning Academy seem like they could be just the ticket.

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At 8/6/07, 2:25 PM, Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

Our district is setting up something similar here for the kids who either don't fit into the traditional public school setting, are working full time, or need to come back and finish.

Dennis Fermoyle, who has a blog and wrote a book called "In The Trenches" is a high school teacher in Minnesota who suggests that if we didn't do mandatory attendance, we'd see a lot more learning going on as the disruptive kids, the disaffected kids, would be out of our classrooms. I think he's on to something, as are you. None of these kids believe a thing an adult tells them, so let them go out and enter the real world, but give them opportunities to finish their High School education (should they chose to do so) as well. I've seen kids be total slackers in class, but turn out to be great workers out in the real world. It's what's best for the kid, I guess.

At 8/6/07, 3:44 PM, Blogger Rita said...

We have a brand new alternative school within our high school for kids at-risk for dropping out. They have some computer classes, some small classes with the two certified teachers who staff it, and offer modified schedules. It really serves the kids who just don't fit in. They take some regular classes, but might have a modified schedule in which they don't come in for the first few hours (maybe they're at risk because that's their attendance pattern), but do a computer course after school. The program also takes some kids who should have, but didn't graduate, so they can come back and finish. So far it has been very successful. I've taught (or tried to teach) many of the kids in the program, so I know the hard work the staff is doing. I haven't seen sequencing problems come up, and some of the kids have said the course taught in the center is harder than the regular course because the smallness means they must participate. So far it has been pretty successful in boosting graduation, even though our rates were good to begin with.

Sometimes I think about models in which kids can choose to come to school, etc... but there's always some of those real PITAs that end up needing us the most. Under such a program, they'd disappear.

At 8/7/07, 12:28 AM, Blogger DrPezz said...

One retiring teacher this year recommended halting compulsory attendance.

He also had another idea: charging students for repeating a course. He said they should be given the opportunity to succeed with the first course and them forced to pay the second time because it costs money to staff repeat courses (and there are so many).

Interesting ideas. However, both fundamentally alter the current base notions about education.

At 8/7/07, 10:23 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yeah Dennis and I have discussed his ideas, and I am, like most of us, torn. I believe that one of his fundamental ideas is that teachers should have the power to remove disruptive students from the classroom, and of course mandatory attendance laws interfere with that (at least that's one of the things he and I have discussed).

We have to acknowledge the fact tat our culture emphasizes celebrity over competence. Society denigrates the educated as "nerds" as well, at the very least, and at the worst as elitist.


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