Saturday, April 28, 2007

How We Are Changed I: The POY Moves On

After five years and 210 API points, the POY will be leaving our school. Next year will find him at the helm of the lowest achieving high school in the 408 -- once again engaging the process of structural and instructional reform. If you're of the betting persuasion, go get some action on the meteoric rise of student achievement at the base of the Eastside foothills.

When he told the staff, wearing that tight-lipped smile, you had your choice of reaction: weteyes, or the thousand-yard stare.

The hows and whys of departure wash upon the unbloggables, but the guy leaves a legacy. His plan and vision is literally nothing less than a blueprint for how truly public, uncharted schools can bring about high achievement in high-needs communities. The combination of anti-tracking ability grouping, extended school day, curricular reform and supplementation, site-specific teacher development, and the cultivation of academically focused, student driven school culture exists as a vibrant counter-argument to the sky-is-falling privatizing barbarians -- although that was never the point. And while this model of school reform and sustainable growth failed to take hold in our own District, the ideas are out there, spread through the various conference going and site-visitations that continue on an almost monthly basis.

I can only begin to reflect on his impact on my own development as a teacher and educator. I'm sure there will be time for that, time for a hundred visions and revisions, time for me to stumble through my own thank yous for opportunity, for the gifts of conversation and perspective, for the teaching and learning that typically occurred in a cluttered office, after the kids went home. Time for that, but for now, the questions push out the rest. What will happen? Who will be the next principal? What does the future hold for the Vice-POY? Will we keep our extended day? Will we keep our fantastic scheduling methods?

And what all these questions ask, without always saying the words, what all these thoughts, the ones that are shared by an entire school community, what they keep coming back to is the question that hits at the not-so hidden fear that comes from watching the ebb and flow of schools like ours, in districts like ours, the question that comes from seeing what happens when schools that are defined more by their challenges than their advantages lose key personnel: Can we continue to grow, or will we crash, like Icarus, a casualty of trying to fly too high?

7 Comments:

Blogger posthipchick said...

Hmm. I'm curious if he's headed to G-- or P--. Or somewhere else?

7:32 PM  
Blogger H. said...

Your school hardly seems like one whose wings are held together with wax. Unlike a certain other school that comes to mind, your school's success is not a thin gloss on the outside, but a result of hard work and changed habits, and surely it is not that fragile?

I can't help feeling a bit happy for that high school. Best of wishes for your principal search, though!

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been at your school and have spoken often with your poy. With that said I know that the work he has done this year to prepare for the future along with what I know exists at the site will result in the schools continued success. That is power of what has been done and the manner that in which it has been done. What others might say are the specidal conditions for its success are not detractions but affirmations of what other schools must do to equal your gains. congratulations for what has been done and for what will occur. You are part of that, young man, and you will be part of the continued legacy of the site.

1:32 AM  
Blogger posthipchick said...

The HIGH school. Not G or P, duh.

That is great news. That high school is a diamond in the rough, with a community that really wants it to change. I predict much success.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...

Sorry, but what is "anti-tracking ability grouping"?

Note: the question is serious.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Onyx said...

I'll bet the good teachers will keep the vision going and fight for what works, the others we won't talk about

8:50 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Rory,

Sorry for the delay.

Traditional tracking is generally based on a single assessment, not reocurring, that results in a no-exit placement on a high, medium, or low track. It is rare to impossible to move within tracks, and placement in tracks is generally done to keep the slow kids from bringing down the smart kids.

We don't have three groups; we have 18-23. Placement is done at the start of every year, from a triangulation of test data: CST, CELDT, and local assessment. Students are constantly assessed, and reassessed, and when performance warrants, move up or down into different groups. Our greatest differentiation occurs in the lowest levels, where learning is truly difficult, and reducing the range of differentiation truly critical.

3:44 PM  

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