Why My Boys Are Enrolled in a “High-Support” School…Intentionally
I am a teacher. More importantly, i am a mother, too. The Education of my 3 boys (ages 6,7,8/grades K2, 1, &3) is my top priority, and enrolling them in any school has never come without extensive deliberation and careful planning.
Which is why, when people hear about the school I ultimately chose for them, they’re stunned. They’re stunned because not only have i opted to put my boys in an underperforming, “High Support” school, but one which is halfway across the city. Surely I could’ve found a closer, better school for them, I’ve been told many times by my bewildered friends. Couldn’t I?
The answer is that while Of course i could’ve found a closer school, the reason why I didn’t is because I’m confident that I couldn’t have found a better one.
“But look at the test scores!! Schools with test scores like that are schools that everyone KNOWS to stay away from. Parents are even being told they can pull their kids out no problem because the scores are so low. Obviously the teachers aren’t all that competent or qualified to be producing scores like that. What’s wrong with you? Why would you ever do that to your boys?”
& then I let them in on a little secret:
GOOD TEACHERS DO NOT PRODUCE GOOD TEST SCORES. Good STUDENTS produce good test scores*. & good students typically come from homes where education is VALUED, school is a child & his parents’ TOP PRIORITY, discipline is taught & ENFORCED, and parents are GOOD ROLE MODELS.
The James F Condon Elementary is located smack next to the D Street Projects in Southie, a stone’s throw from Old Colony, where Michael Patrick MacDonald’s biographical masterpiece is set.- Read it if you haven’t; doing so will give you an idea of the culture most of my boys’ peers. Hardly one in which having a “print-rich” home is a common standard. & actually one in which having a “print-less” home isn’t UNcommon, sadly.
So contrary to the media’s reporting, & contrary to what the world is being TOLD is wrong with our public schools, & especially the teachers within them, the reason a school’s individual test scores are what they are lies WITHIN THE HOMES OF THE STUDENTS TAKING THE TESTS. Which is EXACTLY WHY the scores in schools like the Condon – located in the poverty-riddled neighborhoods in the largest cities – are deplorable. Which is why they (&it) become identified as “underperforming”, & if years pass with continued failure to make “AYP” even with mandated interventions, shut down. Or fire the staff within it and hire a brand new, “better” crop of teachers & administrators to “turn the school around.”
Yet those teachers at the James F Condon, under the exceptional leadership of Principal Ann Garofalo, CHOOSE TO CONTINUE TO TEACH THE VERY CHILDREN WHO ARE PUTTING THEIR JOBS ON THE LINE. Bc they KNOW the problem doesn’t lie with them & their presumed lack of teaching skills, regardless of what their evaluations may say this year forward. Nor does it lie with the administration, regardless of whatever related professional ramifications they may face going on. Nor does it lie within the walls of the school, regardless of what DESE may say, as they shut down yet another school or many.
Those exceptional teachers, too, are CHOOSING to remain in those classroomsaEz, teaching those children who are putting their jobs on the line, because they know they CAN…& they are dedicated to teaching those children who come in with the added challenges of living in a “disadvantaged” neighborhood, children who know 1010 Mass Ave as well as mine know Coast Guard Beach.
The problem causing these children to fail their high-stakes tests (here, MCAS), lies with in the neighborhood streets SURROUNDING THE SCHOOL, & most especially lie within the WALLS OF THE HOMES (aka projects/triple-deckers/Section8s) that line the streets of that neighborhood.
The students causing these schools to fail are being forced to do so by the PARENTS RUNNING THOSE HOMES. Parents who-for a myriad of reasons ranging from horribly unfortunate to despicable – don’t value education whatsoever. Parents who don’t read to their kids. Ever. Ask a Boston kindergarten teacher how many students she’s had on the first day of kindergarten DIDNT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH A BOOK.
Mrs DiMaggio could tell you…I’ll have Braeden ask her tomorrow, but Ms Petrucelli & certainly the newly retired Mrs Fulgione could tell you many more. They are just some of the kindergarten teachers at the Condon; teachers like the rest of the staff, who are second to none at what they do. Teachers who know “their children” as more than a score; teachers who nurture and foster their students’ strengths, & intervene and worry about their weaknesses; teachers who truly strive hard each day to TEACH these children, even while prepping them for this highest-stakes test they know they really have no control over.
These are the teachers I want teaching my children. I dont care what the scores say or how the school’s been “identified”. But what do I know? I’m only a teacher.