For years, I've been angry about Pickett Elementary being in academic emergency. Now I'm OUTRAGED and I want to know - why aren't YOU!?!
First, let's get some facts out of the way. I'm a proud graduate of Woodward High School, Point Place Junior High (no longer in existence) and Edgewater Elementary.
I had terrific teachers, caring and competent administrators and I believe I received a good education. It wasn't the best in the world, as I found when I started college and realized that many of my classmates were ahead in their learning, but it was good and it taught me not just facts and figures, but "how" to learn. And that has served me well throughout my life so far.
So this is not a criticism of public schools, but of a public school system that so completely and totally fails in its mission to educate kids.
Back to Pickett...
Here is a link to their 2010-2011 school report card, the most recent available at the Ohio Department of Education website.
It shows some very scary statistics, especially when you consider we're talking about children.
For instance, the 4th and 5th grade scores actually decreased in both reading and math compared to the 2009-10 school year.
And this is despite paying Susan Koester, principal, $87,893.00 - the 11th highest paid employee in the entire school district!
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2001, there were supposed to be consequences when schools did not meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards, as Wikipedia explains:
* Schools that miss AYP for a second consecutive year are publicly labeled as being "in need of improvement" and are required to develop a two-year improvement plan for the subject that the school is not teaching well. Students are given the option to transfer to a better school within the school district, if any exists.
* Missing AYP in the third year forces the school to offer free tutoring and other supplemental education services to struggling students.
* If a school misses its AYP target for a fourth consecutive year, the school is labelled as requiring "corrective action," which might involve wholesale replacement of staff, introduction of a new curriculum, or extending the amount of time students spend in class.
* A fifth year of failure results in planning to restructure the entire school; the plan is implemented if the school fails to hit its AYP targets for the sixth year in a row. Common options include closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly.
Koester was part of the replacement of the staff required under NCLB, rather than the other options of reopening as a charter school, contracting with someone else to run the school, or allowing the state to take over.
But note that this wholesale change should have happened after four years of failing to meet AYP.
The Toledo Public School Board waiting until eight years had passed before they made this change!
So Koester took over in the 2008-09 school year and while the school did meet the AYP 'participation' indicators, they did not meet their 'proficiency' indicators.
Basically, they got credit for showing up.
Here's what she had to say just before she started in her position as principal:
"I'm tired of people saying it can't be done," said Susan Koester, Pickett's new principal, who sought the job. "Wherever they are when they come here, we're going to get them where they need to be."
In most of the tested categories, reading and math for third, fourth and fifth grades, only 1/3 of the students are testing proficient.
In the 2010-11 tests, 59.6% of third graders managed to score proficient in math. That's great for the individual student, but that's still a failing grade overall. At least, it was when I was in school where a 60% was definitely an F.
The preliminary data for the 2011-12 is no better.
It shows that Picket AGAIN! failed to meet AYP and met zero of the performance indicators.
That's right: zero, zilch, nada!
This is not just unbelievable - it's a tragedy and a disgrace!
Are you outraged yet???
Somewhere along the way, the name of the school was changed to Pickett Academy and Koester is out and Martha Jude is in. The school has also been included in the new United Way Community Hub initiative.
The hub concept bring together multiple types of services - not just for kids - at the schools, including such things as
* Activities before and after school
* Tutoring and mentoring
* Medical, dental, and mental health services
* College-prep, GED, and adult education
* Free tax preparation
* Budgeting and saving classes
* Employment and housing resources
depending on the needs and desires of the community.
But is this enough to help the current students achieve success?
And what about the last 12 years of kids they've sent on to Scott High School, which only met the performance indicators in four of 10 tested areas (reading and writing in the 10th and 11th grade Ohio Graduation Test) in the 2010-11 school year.
For 2011-12, Jesup W. Scott High School met zero performance indicators and failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress.
It's no wonder when the high school is getting kids from Pickett!
To it's credit, the Toledo Federation of Teachers had offered to try a new type of education plan at Pickett. It would have been a teacher-led school, but the board had to reject it because there wouldn't have been a principal in the school structure and that would have violated the contract TPS has with the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, the union representing principals. (And why do the principals even need a union?!?)
I have no idea if it would have worked or not, but it seems like a pretty lame excuse to let kids continue to fail. (Tell me again how politicians and unions are all about helping the kids and not themselves?)
This is not the fault of the kids. And it's probably not entirely the fault of the teachers and parents, though I'm sure there is some blame for them to share.
This is the fault of the system, the administration, the unions, and the elected school board members, all five of whom are Democrats.
It's also the fault of people like our Toledo City Council and the editorial board at The Blade who continually push school levies, including the new 4.9 mill, 10-year levy that is on the November ballot, in spite of the gross and sickening failure of Pickett to actually provide an education to an entire generation of kids.
And yes, the community bears some blame as well for allowing this to continue.
Well, you have a chance on November 6th to make a difference. Tell TPS 'NO' on their levy request. Tell them you want to see significant improvement at Pickett and all the other schools before they get any more money.
In this case, it really is 'for the children.'