Jun 14, 2015

No Teacher Left Behind: The Story of Ballou Senior High Reconstitution

Created by Ballou HS Students @ Teacher Sit-In
By Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Ballou teachers stage a sit-in in the cafeteria with their students in protest of their schools reconstitution on Monday-June 15th. Follow
updates @TheWashTeacher - hashtag #TeachersMatter, #BallouTeachersMatter

In a letter to Ballou Senior High staff, dated May 21, 2015, DC Public Schools Deputy Chief of Human Resources, Crystal Jefferson announced the restructuring of the high school.

The Deputy Chief cited poor performance and the desire for the district to improve student outcomes as the reason to begin restructuring the school.

Staff were called into the school's auditorium at the end of the school day with only a day's prior notice. A "Frequently Asked Questions" fact sheet on Reconstitution was distributed. Instructional Superintendent (IS), Daniel Shea cited No Child Left Behind Act as the authority under which restructuring process will begin.

While NCLB allows any school district multiple options for restructuring, IS Shea and Ballou's principal, Yetunde Reeves said that all staff will have to re-apply for their jobs and only 50% would be selected to remain. Of course the schools principal will not be among those heading for the exit door.

Principal Reeves shared a PowerPoint presentation of her new vision for the next school year. Much like other principals before her, you couldn't help but think - here we go again!

Among the 65 teachers currently at the school, Latisha Chisolm, teacher and WTU Building Representative said only twenty-two teachers were chosen to remain next year. Chisolm says she was not selected to remain at Ballou.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was enacted to improve education through a system of accountability for schools and school districts. Schools who fail to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for five years in a row must undergo a series of five restructuring options.

These options include: [1] reopening the school as a public charter; [2] replacing all or most school staff relevant to AYP failure; [3] collaborating with an external partner; [4] submitting to a State takeover; or [5] developing another major restructuring effort.

This is the second time Ballou has been reconstituted in five years. The last time was 2010. At that time Ballou had a 30 percent proficiency rating in reading and 26 percent in math for high school sophomores on the 2010 D.C. CAS. Three years prior (in 2008), Ballou's test scores were in the single digits.

Despite a reconstitution in 2010, Ballou's scores have declined even further to a 16 percent proficiency rating in reading and a 15 percent in math.

% ProficientBallou High SchoolDC


% ProficientBallou High SchoolDC


The bottom line: this NCLB strategy doesn’t work.

Ballou, also commonly referred to as a "drop out factory' has a 63 percent attendance rate with a 50 per cent drop-out rate which is lower than the city wide average.

Wouldn't it be wise to consider less drastic measures and try another approach?  After all playing musical chairs with teachers and administrators hasn't yielded better outcomes for our students. This is the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results.

There are five things that schools have to do to rapidly improve their end-of-the-year test scores according to the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. They found five essential supports that matter for student success and school improvement.

The first support is shared leadership in the building. Next, there is the instructional process that occurs in every classroom. There is improving the professional capacity of the teachers and principal. There is engaging parents in what is happening at school.

For example, parents in this study learned the Illinois standards so they were prepared to help with homework. And the last of the essential supports is the climate for learning. These schools have to have a culture and climate where people increasingly trust each other and are able to work together to create these rapid increases in results.

We know NCLB does more harm than good. "It is time to pull the plug on No Child Left Behind. It has had adequate time to prove itself. It has failed. ..... there is no reason to believe that the results of NCLB will get dramatically better. Now is the time for fundamental rethinking of the federal role in education," says Diane Ravitch, research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

Ravitch previously served as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, so I believe she knows that NCLB has not worked in urban schools in high poverty neighborhoods.

© Candi Peterson 2015

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems as though DCPS is beginning another revolution.
When M. Rhee arrived she purged headquarters and then came after principals and teachers with a vengeance through re-constituton of schools, IMPACT and excessing.
It feels like the same thing again with the purging of Central Office. re-constitution of Ballou and more IMPACTing.
There has been so much turnover in DCPS I wonder how and when things will improve.

We can't solve the social ills of students but better teacher training might,