Set Up To Fail

While I still believe that my principal did an incredible job of pulling the best group of people together to staff our school, there’s a growing feeling amongst us that we are being screwed over by somebody on high. Everybody at FAST was fired up about being a part of the vanguard of the revolution in education in Baltimore City. Our CEO of schools and a number of city hall dignitaries were on hand for our first day of school. Reinventing Canton Middle as one of the city’s top schools was supposed to be one of the CEO’s pet projects. And yet it feels like we are being sabotaged.

Our extended day is supposed to be one of our big levers for increasing student achievement. In theory, we should be providing more instruction than the average school. Why then are our 9th graders only receiving 110 minutes of math every 2 days, when the concensus is that they really need 90 minutes a day? Our hour-long intervention piece still hasn’t materialized. We are supposed to have tutors in the building working with the students and taking some of the load off of us teachers. Apparently, the tutors are ready to roll, but our funding from the city has been held up until mid-November. These kids need intervention now!

As students transfer schools (or get expelled), we have to keep our enrollment numbers stable in order to keep all of our funding. Word on the street was that since we aren’t hitting our enrollment targets, the district wanted to take one of our teachers, when we don’t have enough as it is! Fortunately, our principal successfully fought that, but the fact that it even came up makes me very nervous.

I don’t know who decides what students attend this school, but whoever it is, they’re putting an incredible amount on our plates. Out of about 95 students in the 9th grade, over 20 have IEP’s and require special ed accomodations. For privacy reasons, I don’t want to get very specific, but almost every new student we have received has major documented educational issues. We were supposed to be a model school for the inclusion model of special ed teaching, where a content teacher and a special educator teach side-by-side, using various strategies to make sure all of the kids are being served. The way it is now, our overworked special educator is bogged down in the paperwork for her enormous caseload, and is also in charge of teaching our ever-increasing population of students whose IEP’s require them, by law, to separated from the general education setting. For weeks, we have been waiting for another special educator, but at this point, no one is holding their breath.

We have 5 ELL students but no real ELL program. They get 70 minutes of time with the ELL teacher a day, which happens right smack in the middle of one of their classes. Supposedly the city says that we don’t have enough ELL students to merit a full-time ELL teacher to travel with them, but right now, they are not getting the equal opportunities they deserve.

Apparently, the district has also been letting go of custodians, because our formerly ever-present custodial crew has been dwindling. Most days, I show up to find that no one has come by to pick up the trash or clean the hallway floors. It might not seem so, but I really think a big part of being an elite school is looking like one.

I could go on and on about the unfulfilled promises and obligations, but I’m going to leave it there. Everybody is stretched so thin, and overall frustration is increasing. I work day and night, and yet there’s not one person in the school that I feel has got it any better. No one said it was gonna be easy, but man, it sure doesn’t feel like we’ve got a lot of friends out there.

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