Every time school rankings are announced, some schools breathe a huge sigh of relief while others realize with dismay that they have been placed on a performance watch list. Unless they can prove they have made attempts to correct performance levels before the next school ranking list is announced, they risk being labeled a failure and even being shut down altogether. At the Newton Street School of Humanities, one of the city’s oldest schools with a predominantly African American and Hispanic student body, that time is now. Faced with a continuous slide down the school rankings since 1998, the school is putting together a series of drastic measures in a last ditch attempt to revive school rankings.
Aiming for A’s and Other Measures to Boost School Rankings
According to the New York Times, the Newton school, plagued by consistently low school rankings, has engaged the services of the Newark Teacher’s Union and Seton Hall University to chart out a daring experiment to boost its school rankings. So unusual are the steps that it’s being heralded as a new wave of education reform. The school formed a committee that gave the teacher’s union and Seton Hall University the powers to approve its operations.
Every measure that impacts school rankings, from hiring and training teachers to school budget, was brought under the purview of this committee. With the approval of this committee Newton has replaced 6 of its 44 teachers with others who were more experienced in teaching a particular subject or were just plain more receptive to the changing times. In another measure to boost school rankings, the school has lengthened the school day by an hour. More than 100,000 dollars have been committed for supplies and field trips, teacher’s training materials etc. Teacher, principals and even the mayor (whenever he stops by) extol the students to aim for straight A’s. C’s are just not enough. It’s all part of an overall strategy to raise school rankings – raise expectation, improve learning conditions by training teachers, investing in extra curricular activities and so on.
Although progress has been made, there hasn’t been a very significant rise in Newton’s latest school rankings. Parents and teachers who share a high opinion of the school are frustrated at the low school rankings. One reason could be the demographics of the school. At least 98 percent of the school’s population is on free or reduced price lunches. Many of the children are from foster care homes, some are from families on welfare, and still others are homeless. One teacher reported having a child in her class who couldn’t concentrate because of the gunfire outside his house all night long. With obstacles like these to overcome, it remains to be seen if all of Newton’s well intentioned efforts will come to fruition. For the children’s sake at least, let’s hope so.