Increasing student achievement has been the benchmark of educators for centuries. The (CSR) Comprehensive School Reform initiative was developed to make sure that all children meet academic content and achievement standards as outlined by the Department of Education. The premise of the (CSR) is to address basic academics and to include parental involvement. In order for a school district to participate in the CSR, it must provide certain resources. These resources have been identified as crucial elements to continued success of the program.
Resources can present themselves in many manners. Resources may be physical as well as mental entities. For example, a baseball team has both physical and mental resources. The bats and balls are physical resources that can be bought or touched, while a player’s passion and positive attitude may be considered mental resources of a team. A successful baseball team requires both these physical and mental resources to perform at a competitive level.
The resources for a school district include both physical and mental items. Physical resources include books, computers, paper, pencils, bulletin boards, curriculum, transportation, staff, and community. Mental resources include teacher collaboration, teacher training, professional development, positive reinforcement, leadership, teamwork, and establishing realistic goals and objectives.
In order to facilitate an effective (CSR), there needs to be a healthy balance between the physical resources and the mental resources. For example, a school district can possess all the physical resources available yet if the faculty does not believe in the (CSR) it will not succeed. Justly, if a school district possesses all the mental resources (which most do already), but lack the physical resources, it will not succeed.
The school that I currently work at is South Junior High School, located in Brockton, Massachusetts. Brockton is the equivalent to Boston, and it is considered an inner-city school. Brockton’s test scores have been relatively low in minority population. Additionally, birth rates and dropouts have increased over the last five years. A new measure instituted by the present Republican governor, Mitt Romney, has required all potential high school graduates to pass a standardized test (MCAS). This standardized test is given to the student in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. If the student does not pass the exam before graduation, he/she will not receive a diploma. Instead, the student will receive a (COA) certificate of attendance.
Under a Republican governor, the state of Massachusetts has lost millions of educational funding. The hardest hit area has been after school enrichment programs. The Brockton School system has hired several new staff members whose only responsibility is to locate grants for local aid. The purpose of these grants is to provide the resources that were once available five years ago.
In my opinion I think it is difficult to provide these resources because the money is not there to support it. It is common acceptance that teachers do not earn the amount of money they deserve and most schools in America are not fully equipped with computers. Teachers at my school still live with their parents because it is too expensive to purchase a home on their salary. Additionally, teachers are required to achieve their Masters degree in education in order to receive state teaching licensure. Teachers have to pay for their education. In Brockton, the school system does not reimburse its teachers for tuition. Teachers do not have the time or motivation to possess the mental resources to initiate an effective (CSR). Teachers have more than one job and must go to these jobs right after school. Also, there is a clear distinction between new teachers and seasoned veterans. Seasoned veterans are scared of computers and refuse to use them. These same veteran teachers still calculate student averages on paper. Most new teachers use calculators or purchase computer software. New teachers possess more energy and motivation and still believe in the good of education. Many seasoned teachers have experienced “lay-offs” in the past and hold no loyalty to any school system. For them, teaching is a means to pay the mortgage until it is time to retire.
I think it is important for the principal to foster motivation. The principal is the coach of the team and it should be his/her responsibility to make sure all faculty members are on the same page. In order for (CSR) to be effective, the members of the team must believe in it’s worth and understand that the supportive resources will be made available.
Personally, I have never been a proponent of professional development when the school system requires it. The reason is because most teachers do not treat the professional development seriously. For them, they treat it as though they have the day off and would rather listen to lectures all day then stay at school. Professional development should be voluntary. It reminds me of the saying that “you can take a teacher to development, but you can’t force them to listen”. In many ways the teachers are as apathetic as the students they teach.
School reform requires resources. These resources are both mental and physical items. Both are equal in importance. Mental resource is having the drive and passion for change while physical resource is to have the funding and support. In order to increase student achievement the school must be part of the community and the community must be part of the school. Like my first analogy, the (CSR) is like a baseball team and the team must have all the resources to win. Of course, the real winner is the student. Most will assume the school district is the winner but we must remember that school superintendents are single persons with extensions of support (teachers, administrators, schools) and it is the children that are the future. In school reform we sometimes forget why we are initiating change in the first place.