Waiting & Wondering at Wister


What’s going on with the staff at Wister? For Robin Lowry, it’s like Sitting in Limbo… 

Welp. We don’t know where we’ll be next year. Wister? A new school? Quit? Go into Forestry?  (That’s what I dream of on a bad day.)

The District walked back it’s decision to keep Wister “District controlled.” Mastery now gets to put in an application.  Only Mastery even bid — no surprise to anyone living in Germantown.  Parents on the Evaluation Committee didn’t like what they saw on the Mastery Tour other than what money could buy: shiny new everything. Parents keep asking why Wister can’t have those resources NOW?  Good question.

EastFallslocal Wister Facebook collage 8 x 10

Mastery hired canvassers, lobbied the neighborhood, and posted videos of  parents meeting with district officials and complaining about Wister. They’ve corralled a handful of parents out of 380 students — they and the District spin it like Wister parents wants the change.

Then why not take a vote?  Or at least a show of hands at Back to School Night.

But no — Mastery has unleashed a PR campaign we can’t compete with. That’s the “market” price of Market-based Ed Reform.

How does the staff feel?  Sad. Mad. Worried.  Hurt by all the “bad test scores” the shaming. The whole “Bad School” rap.  Disrespected by the district, our employer. Job uncertainty.

A Timeline?  Maybe we’ll know this month. Or April, maybe May? We teachers are wondering, “Should I buy a case of paper or supplies I could store over the summer or move all my classroom stuff out by June?”

I’m stressed by PE equipment I’ve gotten from grants, brought with me from Gratz when it closed, my money, donations. The foam Balance Beam I was psyched to get, although it came from Fulton School that closed.  I DO NOT WANT TO SCHLEPP ANY MORE STUFF!

School staff members develop relationships with students  — it’s an intimate & beautiful part of schools. It helps learning happen. Building a culture of trust is essential in school.  

New education alliances are being formed AS WE SPEAK as privatizers try to sway the public into thinking only market-based reforms can close achievement gaps. Is ASCD even neutral? Gone Corporate Ed?

You have to verify almost everything you read, even Ed News.When I research Ed Reform I always double-check with Diane Ravitch — I trust her, there isn’t money leading back to her.  Jeb Bush’s contribution to the Ed Reform Industry? Communication Boot Camp.

Follow the money. Haven’t seen the The Big Short yet — read the book — (could the movie top the The Enron Movie?) Privatization happened quietly in prisons. Small towns revitalized by the new cash influx.

Wister connection?  When I asked Wister’s Counselor how many Wister kids have an incarcerated parent, the response: “Too many to count.”  Does that affect test scores?  Oh, sorry, that sounds like an excuse for poor students not achieving.

Here’s my take on Education Reform today:  speculators mining education ostensibly for children, blaming public school teachers, union contracts, test scores, while looking for the new Financial Bubble.

That’s the narrative.  It’s laughable. Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walmart Heirs, Scott Gordon —  a long list pretending to care about poor kids more than teachers who work in schools everyday. We buy them coats, pencils; dole out hand sanitizer because bathrooms don’t have soap; implore them to take tests that are mind-numbing, biased and inaccurate — standardized tests S.U.C.K.

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This is what it’s come to:  using tests to sort kids and teachers like a sledgehammer, to berate kids who aren’t achieving and teachers who aren’t doing the impossible. Do a Google Search for “Wister students failing” and see what you find.

Thinking about my students makes me cry. I’ve had most since Kindergarten, patting them on the back, having lunch with them in my classroom, listening to their stories and woes, helping them improve their One-Arm Cartwheels!  Phys Ed ROCKS!

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Teachers could stay if the District dumps us by applying to Mastery. They will have a rough time.  Teacher “churn and burn” is a reality. Some Charters are starting to realize turnover and burnout are bad for children. A happy, healthy staff is good for children: veteran teachers and principals know this already.

The School District of Philadelphia is working clandestinely to dump experienced teachers. It’s getting harder for new and veteran teachers to stay in teaching. And with the SDP acting like their charter accomplices by among other things attempting to cancel our contract in a secret meeting and gain the ability to hire and fire at will, we are losing the stability that both students and communities need.

Some Reformers think seniority rights affect poor children because experienced teachers with tenure, when they get the chance to choose, go to an “easier assignment.” Is that wrong? Would you?

There are plenty of teachers, myself included, who stay in and choose difficult schools — those with challenging students. I came to teaching to work with poor kids and help them on the path to a healthy adulthood and overcome the negative health consequences of poverty. I also live in Germantown and want to work at a school in my neighborhood because that is what a neighborhood is.  Am I’m the problem?

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Two underlying purposes of Education Reform are 1. use data to hold schools and teachers accountable and 2. give parents a”Choice” of “high quality seats.” Tracking students yearly in grades 3 – 8 and 11th to assure no child falls through the gaps was the point of No Child Will Be Left Behind.  Testing will inform the public if schools and teachers are doing their job, so the theory goes.

After 15 years of No Child Left Behind, the basic goals are abandoned and some of the punitive consequences have been pushed to the states.

A 2015 survey suggests the public thinks charters should have more oversight, better qualified teachers, and should not not expand.  The survey also found 63% had positive views of their public schools — even with all the attacks on teachers. What was it before? 90+%

Stop humiliating teachers!

Blaming teachers for the Achievement Gap is unfair — such negative feedback leaves teachers feeling disrespected and humiliated. Pedro Noguera addresses factors and successes that link to achievement disparities: parent education level; family income; preparation; allocation; parenting; teacher-student; performance; Black-White; race and class; discipline; and attainment. Whew!

EastFallsLocal 8 x 10 help help teacher px

School funding disparities make it impossible to close these gaps. Instead of addressing inequality and poverty and the basic set-up of poor neighborhoods to have poor schools, Reformers say with straight faces that addressing the Achievement Gap is the civil rights issue of our time. They imply teachers and unions are the problem. Noguera points out that these champions of the poor have done little to address these other gaps. Their only suggestion is to close schools, fire “bad” teachers, and turn schools over to charters.

I went to see Exit Strategy — someone gave me a ticket.  It was kind of like when friends say watch The Wire and I say “No, it sounds like work.” Well this play was depressing just like teaching at Wister right now. Right down to the line about handing out little wads of TP.  I’ll tell that side of Education another day.

A fictional high school in Chicago is about to be shut down (Chicago:  where Rahm Emanual closed 50 schools in 1 day ). Spoiler Alert:  a veteran teacher commits suicide; staff fights the closure; school ends up bulldozed to make way for gentrification.  Kind of like West Philly High turned into apartments by a Brooklyn developer.

I found one line hokey at first: “A separation must be made.”  But going through my week at Wister, I found myself pulling back, using not saving supplies, didn’t invite any students to lunch, not working on any grants… This is the 1st year for that, btw. The writing is on the wall, I guess?

The Wister fight is for our community.  If Germantown gets Brooklyn-ified, Wister could get bulldozed too  If the public has no say in this now, who will have a say then? Who’ll make money on the sale? Mastery? A developer like the one that bought Germantown High School? The District?

dont let mastery make wister history

Who Wins?  Who Loses? Sounds like Corporate Education Reform.



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