Tuesday, June 7, 2011

ASD's New Program Leaves Youngest Students Behind

Today I read the sad news that one of the schools where I substitute teach, Midway Manor Early Childhood Center, has become a victim of Dr.Z's experimental "Pathways to Success" (?) curriculum overhaul program. The school will now be transformed into the "Newcomer Academy" for 1st year high school students who are new to the United States. Read about it here: http://www.allentownsed.org/allentownsd/cwp/view.asp?A=3&Q=281165

I cannot understand how the elimination of early childhood programs, and the drastic reduction in art, music, phys ed, and library programs at the elementary level can be called a "pathway to success" for children growing up in poverty? Can someone please explain?

When I was a full time art teacher in the ASD, in the 90's, I taught at Midway Manor. My recent subbing experience has given me the opportunity to reconnect with some of the dedicated professionals I used to work with, and to meet some great new teachers. Midway Manor has 3 Pre-K classrooms, and the current program is necessary, successful, and valuable. It provides important services for needy kids and gets them ready for Kindergarten. Early childhood ed. is crucial because when children learn basic skills in a caring and nurturing environment at a very young age, they are more likely to stay in school and graduate. And children growing up in poverty need these services so they don't fall behind. I believe the district is focusing too much on college readiness, and should be focusing on early childhood. Cutting Pre-K will have disastrous results. With so much focus on test scores, competition, and racing to the top, the ASD administration is ignoring who these kids are RIGHT NOW, and that they are humans with immediate needs. Low student achievement is a result of the high child poverty rate in Allentown. Address poverty, and create living wage jobs for poor people, and students will succeed.

According to the ASD website, there are approximately 320 students currently enrolled at Midway Manor, and there are 130 immigrant HS students in the district. The Kindergarten students who would be attending MM will now be assigned to buildings closer to their home schools. This could result in overcrowding. Class sizes are already too big with up to 25 Kindergarten students in a classroom, and only one teacher. And what about the high number of special needs kids?

The MM building will have to be completely renovated to accommodate HS students. This will cost a lot of extra money. Why can't the immigrant students continue to be part of the existing ESOL programs at the high schools? How about after school tutoring programs for those students? The ASD just hired a new administrator, after school program coordinator Joyce Marin, at a salary of 85K a year (As 265 teachers get their pink slips). To create a new experimental school and call it an "Academy" sounds elitist and does not make any sense, but I guess it does make the high paid administrators look good. And why should these students be segregated from the general population? How does that help them socialize and learn to speak English? Where's the data Dr. Z? I have a lot of questions about this, and have not had a chance to speak with teachers yet, but I hope those dedicated professionals at Midway Manor do not lose their important jobs. It is the students, families, and the community that will suffer from this bad decision.

Student work, Pre-K, Torn Paper Landscape