Saturday, August 1, 2009

News video: Audit shows BR school takeover failing

Despite the good intentions of Advance Baton Rouge, the non-profit group chosen by the state Recovery School District to run Prescott Middle School as a charter, indications are that the experiment is failing.

WAFB-TV reporter Tyana Williams studied the RSD's own internal investigation before filing this story on Friday night's newscast (there's a short commercial before the report begins).

A three-member RSD team created the Prescott report, which included these damning revelations about the school:
  • Problems at the school range from Advance Baton Rouge's management to the behavior of the students themselves.
  • Students at Prescott still score below basic in math and reading
  • The school has had three principals since becoming a charter a year ago.
  • Of 33 teachers on staff, many are neither certified or highly qualified.
  • Twenty students were suspended in a four-day period.
  • Report cards were not sent out after one grading period due to lack of postage.
One direct quote from the investigation says the "current staff does not have the capacity to bring this school out of its current academic standing."

The CEO of Advance Baton Rouge, Henry Shepard, told reporter Williams that the "report is very accurate."

The school's new principal says he hopes to provide an "organizational structure conducive to learning," but that it may take three or four years to see results.

At the close of the report, WAFB anchor Donna Britt made a cogent statement: "The community has got to rally around Prescott."

That identifies the real problem with Prescott and many other so-called "failing schools." The schools are part of a larger community, and reflect the pathologies of the community at large.

Improving schools is part of the equation, but the answer lies in lifting up the whole community. Unless we take a bolder, broader approach that encompasses all the ills of impoverished communities, school takeovers and "reform" will not permanently improve student performance.

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