Thursday, March 26, 2009

Success and Consequences

What happens to students who need an environment where they can attempt to rectify past academic and social mistakes? If they're fortunate, they get transferred to an alternative school that will meet their needs. Many go on to catch up and graduate from one of these lifeboat schools.

The problem with success is that if those who make the big decisions don't know or understand what you're doing, you run the risk of being annihilated for arbitrary reasons, like money. Take my school.

Our test scores went up significantly. Our students completed more classes as a whole and per student than any other comparable school in our area. Two groups of students competed in a regional urban planning competition last year and one of the two groups went to the finals - the only alternative school to do so. We have a team in the competition again this year, and the students are working hard to get the win. The school won a grant to fund a student horticulture class and plant a vegetable and flower garden that would delight Alice Waters and the slow food movement.

Our reward? Almost certain closure. Students who failed spectacularly at their large high schools get stuffed back into the same school just as class sizes are set to increase - or they can drop out. Either way, they're expendable. How is that logical or even cost effective? How much will that unfulfilled potential end up costing society over time?

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