kitchen table math, the sequel: cruelty + no imagination = NYC principal

Saturday, January 13, 2007

cruelty + no imagination = NYC principal

I found this story so ridiculous on the face of it I couldn't think of anything to say about it. How on earth does a principal tell a special education student (or any student) that he doesn't "have the brains" to accomplish something?" But my friend Schoolgal, who's actually endured experienced spelling bees, had this to say:

Why was it only one class participated in the bee? Usually the whole 5th grade does it in class and then we send 2 winners to compete in the grade contest (usually held in the auditorium).

Principals usually select a teacher to be in charge. The teacher then informs the grade to hold a spelling bee in class. Then their 2 top spellers compete in a grade competition usually held in the auditorium. In this case, this was not done at first. Only one teacher (the special ed teacher) did it, and that's when the principal realized she did not follow the procedure and held a grade contest.

By telling the first child he was not good enough I think she scared off the first and second place winners who backed out of the regional competition. I believe the child in question came in 3rd. (given that there were probably only 4 classes competing).

This principal was more about her image than anything else. The next level was the region, and many children would be eliminated on the first round, not just her school.

If this principal had any savvy, she would have gotten a coach for this kid and made a big fuss over the fact that this child is special ed--a missed opportunity to be proud of the achievement!

Instead she berated the kid and now denies the conversation took place.
I was very impressed with these comments. As cruel as I thought the principal had been, she turns out to have been blessed with a complete lack of foresight as well. No wonder she moved up so high in a system where people needed to ask permission before dialing 911.


Catherine Johnson said...

Hi NYC Educator!

Thanks for posting!

(Rory's in the middle of editing the template, so things might get a bit confusing.)

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm going to be in a spelling bee next weekend.

They want me to wear a costume.

Catherine Johnson said...

Perhaps a bag over my head.

Catherine Johnson said...

I just clicked on the story.

I'm not sure I can bear to read it all the way through.

Missed opportunities are a Constant Theme in my district, too.

LynnG said...

Here's an interesting question:

What % of kids in that school are labeled SPED?

Around here, if you are poor and ethnic, chances are you are going to get a label. In some schools, the % is quite high.

Catherine Johnson said...

As far as I can tell, in affluent districts nearly all black & Hispanic kids are classified special ed.

Christian is one of the smartest people I know, and one of the most knowledgeable for his age.

He's considered "dyslexic."

One of the first things Christian told me about himself when we met was that he'd been in special ed and had learning disabilities.

When he turned 18 his mom had VESID trying to place him in jobs.


They're the folks who will be trying to place Jimmy in supported employment a year from now.

These are the things that I can't let go.

The night our assistant superintendent of curriculum delicately blamed our lousy 8th grade ELA scores on kids "receiving services" who'd moved into the district has never left me.

When I put that up against the student population of the Phase 4 math class it gets my goat.

Ed pointed it out to me last fall.

You go to back to school night & the parents sitting in the Phase 4 class are the intellectual elite of the school. They're doctors, they're lawyers, they're college professors, they're Ivy League graduates.

I don't think there's a single black kid in all of Phase 4 math and there should be.

I don't know if there's one single child whose parents didn't graduate from college and there should be.

A lot of the Phase 4 kids are struggling. They've lost their affection for the subject; their knowledge is far behind what it should be; etc.

What's being done to them is wrong.

But what nobody sees, yet, is that what's being done to them - a "killer" course that washes out all but the hardiest & best-tutored - is also being done to the kids who could have learned the material if the school gave a fig.

KIPP kids are learning algebra in 8th grade.

Our kids aren't.

Nobody cares.

For me the Phase 4 issue has gone way past my own child. Christopher is out of the woods; he's turning into a straight A kid; he's a mess in math but sheer dogged persistence on his parents' part will turn that around one way or another.

My problems with the district are political.