It turns our poverty and dysfunctional families do matter

From Ed Notes On-Line

by Norm

“A teacher who works in a community like this and thinks that these children can leave their issues at the door and come in and perform is dreaming.” NY Times, Nov. 15, 2011
This statement by Dr. Pamela Cantor the non-profit Turnaround for Children, is a dagger to the heart of the Teach for America and general ed deform “no excuses- the classroom teacher hero just needs better lesson plans – if a child disrupts it is YOUR fault” concept.

My principal used to claim that in a school with 15 regular ed and 15 special ed classes, 40% of her time was taken up by maybe 10-15 kids.

Anna Philips’ piece in today’s NY Times, “Calming Schools by Focusing on Well-Being of Troubled Students” about schools dealing with the most difficult students, students that you won’t find in charter schools, has some interesting nuggets.

In focusing on students’ psychological and emotional well-being, in addition to academics, Turnaround occupies a middle ground between the educators and politicians who believe schools should be more like community centers, and the education-reform movement, with its no-excuses mantra. Over the past decade, the movement has argued that schools should concentrate on what high-quality, well-trained teachers can achieve in classrooms, rather than on the sociological challenges beyond their doors.

For schools in tough neighborhoods where many principals say they can barely see their teachers’ work through the fog of students’ extreme behavior, Turnaround offers a whole-child model that requires the hiring of social workers and the training of teachers in how to respond to outbursts in ways other than sending children to the principal’s office.

Turnaround’s approach is based on the premise that teaching can be made easier if schools confront the 5 percent of students who behave the worst. When they do not, Dr. Cantor said, those 5 percent often pull down the next 10 percent to 15 percent of troublesome students in an academic riptide.

At a panel discussion in New York City last month, James Shelton, the federal Education Department’s assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, said programs like Turnaround were often overlooked as “so much kumbaya.”

“The research for what Pam is doing is significant and growing,” he said, “and for us to ignore that is not only at our peril, it’s just stupid.”

So, poverty and dysfunctional families does make a difference.

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