Monday, July 18, 2011

Extraordinary Responses to School Failure: Teachers

As I mentioned yesterday, I taught at Locke High School in Los Angeles, and got to watch the masses of students drop out before the end of high school, or drop out of college if they got that far. This is a crucial issue: America has fallen from 1st to a tie for 14th in school life expectancy, according to the CIA World Factbook (2009). So while some of our best can attain a Structured Liberal Education at Stanford, for example, the average American student will get to college but not complete it, and most students in failing high schools won't get that far.

By the spring of 2007, the majority of the teachers at Locke High School had had enough. Principal Frank Wells, another teacher and I circulated a petition that used California's charter school laws to convert our traditionally failing public high school into a charter school in partnership with Green Dot Public Schools. A majority of tenured teachers had signed the petition by the second day, 8 May 2007, and although the Los Angeles Unified School District bureaucracy struck back to try to retain control over this campus and the revenues generated by its nearly 3000 students, it was unable to do so, and real change (and improvement) has come to Locke High School.

For the three of us who circulated that petition on 7-8 May 2007, the consequences afterwards have been gut-wrenching; but don't ever say that teachers don't care about failing schools.

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