Education

Sucky School Asked to Suck Less Please, Given $6 Million

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it doesn't look scary

Regular readers may recall that, statistically speaking, my high school sucked. After years of failing to meet the standards set out in No Child Left Behind and being classified as a "persistently lowest-achieving" school last spring, T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, chose the least dramatic option available to satisfy the feds that it was serious about reform:

After it made Virginia's list of lowest-achieving schools, Alexandria officials had four options: close it down; bring in new management, such as a charter operator; replace the principal and at least half the teachers; or replace the principal and make an array of improvements.

As a reward for doing a pretty terrible job educating many categories of students and the promising to "make an array of improvements," T.C. Williams received $6 million in federal aid.

According to a Washington Post story on how reforms are going so far, the school spent much of that money on additional personnel:

With the federal aid, T.C. Williams got 4 1/2 new counseling positions and an assistant counseling director to help with student achievement plans. There are also nine new math and English teachers, as well as consultants to help in such areas as teacher training.

Many of the other reforms seem to center on enforcing existing rules:

The school's ban on iPods, cellphones and hats was newly and strictly enforced, even during lunch. Students were not allowed to wander the halls, and classes were to be taught "from bell to bell."

The fact that The Washington Post published a long feature on these relatively minor changes shows how limited the will or resources to reform failing schools really are in the educational establishment. A new principal and fewer iPods in class is not enough to make a school like T.C. into a success story. They're not even newsworthy, except for the fact that it's more than most schools bother to try.

And the problem isn't money: The school is located in a safe neighborhood and housed in swank new building. Nonetheless, the feds kicks in more money, guidance counselors are hired, well-intentioned people try to do their best in a broken system, and the can clatters down the road. 

Read a tale of more substantial reform efforts here. Warning: The story has a sad ending. To read about a radical fix for our education woes, go here.

NEXT: The Coming Health Care Battle

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  1. OT: You see what I have to put up with?

    You don’t want a functioning government, you want individual anarchist collectives. Ayn Rand is dead, and the Austrian School is Fascist. Somaila is what you end up with, but you never take it to it’s logical end.

    Grow up, and do your own vaild research that is readily available. You really are living in the Menses world….

    Not nice talking to you.

    1. Debate for many has been reduced to a Power Point presentation. With one bullet per slide.

    2. Remember Polio and TB? Well, if the budget stands you are likely to see their likes again.

      This is why you should never, ever read a newspaper’s online comments, sage. The commenters at them may possibly be stupider than YouTube commenters. Yes, I said YouTube.

    3. Wow…. just wow??!!

    4. You were arguing with a parody, right sage? I’m not going to click that link to find out. No no no no no.

    5. So are you “unregistered user” or “sage_commander”? Or both!

      Nothing is worse than Youtube comments.
      (They can be amusing though I saw a online catfight break out in the comments on a late 70s punk/newwave clip among women who were present at the actual show and had 30+ year ago relationships with one of the musicians.)

      1. I’m sage_commander. And when it comes to spreading libertarianism, I’m doing God’s work in America’s toughest neighborhoods.

        It’s a TEAM BLUE echo chamber. And it’s fun to stir the crap there.

    6. So, you get to use North Korea every time they use Somalia, right?

  2. better fix that defense Yost

  3. It appears as if that turd still doesn’t realize that he got his pseudo intellectual ass kicked, point by point. Man, progressivism is one fucked up disease… I would choose cancer.

    1. Progressivism is a cancer. And we are gamma rays.

  4. You don’t get it, Kate: The answer is always more money.

  5. I’m no fan of Nixon but he was right about throwing money at problems not solving them.

  6. My sister is a kindergarten teacher here in OKC. Last winter, or the one before, they had to close school for a week because of inadequate heating. At Thanksgiving she related a story about getting a video call from another teacher and how that when her students crowded around her school supplied lap-top to watch, she put it on the “smart board”. Yep, not enough heat, but high tech blackboards.

    I love my sister and all, but I am starting to think that a hot, cleansing fire is the only solution.

    1. That’s OK that you love your sister. Just be sure to invite her on a trip out of town the week of the cleansing fire.

      Because, seriously, no school at all is better than most public schools in America.

      I got the breakdown from a fellow who was born in Britain and educated in New Zealand and Canada. Apparently the British are appalled at the state of Australian education, the Australians laugh at the Kiwis, the Kiwis are appalled at what passes as Canadian education, and the Canadians don’t even pretend that the USA has education.

      Keeping in mind how dumb the British are, and that all of the above prejudices are justified, what does that say about the USA?

      1. And yet all the genius commentators on H&R somehow got educated.

  7. This reminds me that I have to rev up my campaign to legalize hats at my local school district.

  8. No one bothered to check out greatschools, check the demographics, solve the mystery?

  9. Katharine, I agree with you that TC is a miserable school, but this is just misleading:
    “The school is located in a safe neighborhood ”

    Yes, it is located in a safe neighborhood, not far from several other (private schools). However, you’re glossing over the fact that TC is the *ONLY* highschool in the city.

    It doesn’t matter where the school is located, if they’re busing in kids from all of the public housing projects.

    Also worth mentioning is the fact that Alexandria refuses to allow its students to participate in the region’s magnet schools, using the argument “if we let the smart kids leave TC, the test scores will fall even further!”

    This has led to a situation where anyone living in Alexandria who can afford to send their children to private school, does.

  10. Oops, just realized that I was being misleading. I meant to say that TC is the only *public* highschool in the city.

    There are several others, mostly parochial schools, like Bishop Ireton, Episcopal, St Stephens/St Agnes, etc.

    1. “High school” is two words, not one, dear.

  11. The school should fire the failing students and use the six million dollars to hire good students.

  12. Forget The Titans.

    1. you’re killing me Petey

  13. To read about a radical fix for our education woes, go here.

    None of the “reforms” and “fixes” actually work, do they? Nope.

    I guess that fantasizing about improving other peoples’ lives is kinda fun.

  14. Gee I can remember when TC Williams was supposed to be some kind of shining city on the hill for education. They had an English teacher from there who wrote a column in the Washington Post, I’m guessing (don’t remember) he had a liberal bent in education, whatever that would mean, since it was published in the Post. I’d say HA HA but of course it’s the kids who get screwed ultimately, not good.

  15. How can a city of 150,000 people have only one public high school? I live in a region of roughly that population with no fewer than five public high schools, plus two excellent public charters.

  16. OK, still knowing little about Alexandria, this is a story about a high school that sends 85 percent of its students to college and offers “the equivalent of a private education to high achievers.” Perhaps it’s not, actually, “sucky” and should not be shut down.

  17. Where is Yiwu? Yiwu market or Yiwu fair? China wholesale from Yiwu wholesale market.

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