State of Affairs in Buffalo Public Schools

By Hannya Boulos – Buffalo ReformED:
 
After initial turnaround plans to receive School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding were denied by the New York State Education Department, The Buffalo Public School District has been given until August 31st to submit improvement plans or SURR plans for 7 of its persistently lowest achieving schools.
 
Although the district has until January 1 to submit plans to be considered for state funding, the district MUST submit to the state a school improvement plan by August 31st, regardless of the financial incentive. It is expected that the SURR plans will identify ways that the district will make a stronger application for the School Improvement Grant.
 
The district and its administration have gravely mishandled the turnaround process for failing schools, switching their proposed plans to the Educational Partner Organization model at the last minute, making for the submission of incomplete and ineffective plans.
 
Students at these 7 persistently low achieving schools will be faced with a subpar education for another year, rather than benefit from the improved programs and additional funding that could have been implemented in the upcoming school year had the turnaround plans been sound and submitted on time.
 
Commissioner John King has expressed disappointment with the failings of the adults in the district to provide a plan to improve our worst schools.  These failings are made evident in the case of Lafayette High School, for which the district received a 300,000 year long planning grant, and still did not present adequate turnaround plans.
 
The district is responsible for delivering the educational programs that were designed by the state or the federal government, yet it blames the state only when those programs fail to work, while simultaneously accepting the majority of its budget from State funding. With less than a month until the start of the new year, the district can no longer delay the turnaround process, and the State can longer push back deadlines. Adults continue to let outside interests dominate, leaving parents and students hanging in the balance.
 
There is an immediate need for strong leadership, unity, and direct action to effectively implement federal turnaround models. Every student can learn, every school can be improved, and Buffalo can be a high performing district. 

About the author  ⁄ buffalorising

28 comments
Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

We all have our agendas but lets consider the motives of those on the right versus those on the left. Most on the right advocate for the wealthy and powerful and work towards protecting and increasing their disproportionate share of America's wealth. Most on the right celebrate materialism while seeking to limit personal freedom in the areas of religion, sexuality, and civil rights. The basic philosophy of the right seems to be about personal gain without responsibility to the greater community. At least this has been the case for the past 30 years.

Most on the left advocate for the poor and powerless and work towards fairness, equality, and justice. Most on the left celebrate diversity and seek to expand the opportunities for those in need. The basic philosophy of the left is more altruistic and inclusive while recognizing their responsibility to the greater community.

The two sides may both exaggerate and cherry pick but their motives are quite different. To claim these opposing philosophy's as equal in merit and both worthy of the same respect is naive in my opinion. Everything I learned as a child in Sunday School is contrary to the agenda of the right and my life experience has continued to validate that conviction.

jtrzewitcowski
jtrzewitcowski

why dont we just switch to all charter schools. Im sick of paying soooo much tax and teachers are really just babsitters ANYHOW!!!! Most of these city kids are not going anywhere anyhow rite? they should have more plumbing, electriacal, garbage man type of schools. charters are probably the best way to go to cut costs

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

I agree completely. The only reason I commented on your link is because I had just posted about Barbara Ehrenreich in a response to Blackrocklifer.

Do you believe that genetics plays a role in poverty?

JSmith
JSmith

OK, but all of that is an ad hominem argument. I posted that article merely to illustrate how the causes and perpetuation of poverty are far more complicated than just "bad genes".

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

I am not suggesting anything of the sort. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter use a lot of facts in their writing too. I am more concerned about the agenda and the political slant that she adds to her writings. She delicately picks her facts and testaments to align with her political and economic philosophy. There is nothing wrong with that when taken in context. You cannot divorce her personal perspective or agenda from her writing, anymore than you can for Limbaugh or Coulter.

I posted the correct link, it looks like the blog is down for maintenance. Look up Barbara Ehrenreich philosphy on google when the site comes back up.

I enjoy reading most of her works, but usually balance her books and articles with more authors who have other viewpoints. I find that she tells her story from only one side with very little positive acknowledgement of opposing perspectives.

She irritates me in the same way that conservative writers irritate me. The world is filled with diverse perspectives that compliment and challenge each other, to say that one perspective is right while the other is wrong is myopic and incomplete. This goes for Ehrenreich, Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck, Zaitchik and many others.

JSmith
JSmith

Are you suggesting the facts and stories in that article are fabricated? I'm not interested in Ehrenreich's personal perspective or agenda so much as the actual issues and situations she describes.

By the way, did you mean to post a different link? That link just shows some posts on the messageboard of her website, none written by her.

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

This article was written by, you guessed it, Barbara Ehrenreich. See my earlier post concerning her political leanings and lack of objectivity. We might as well just post an article from Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter as a counter to this one and accomplish nothing. Let's look at poverty objectively and not from the far left (Jsmith and Blackrocklifer) or far right (skybot) perspectives.

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

With all due respect, Barbara Ehrenreich is about as objective as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. She writes from only the far left perspective and in her own words: http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/ehrenreich/forum/toast.asp?sub=show&action=posts&fid=2&tid=10166

She was also a leading figure in the Democratic Socialists of America for many years, and named her children after marxist figures in history. Her opinions are far left in orientation and her anti-capitalism agenda is apparent in everything she writes.

I enjoyed Nickel and Dimed and have never looked at cleaning ladies, waitresses, and hotel housekeeping quite the same way. Those sections were relatively open minded but the same cannot be said for her condemnation of Walmart. She failed to maintain objectivity or even stick to facts during this section of her book. I think her history with the Teamsters wins out over the corporation on this one.

I read This Land is Their Land and found it full of holes and absurdist assumptions. She takes a valid point then spins it to the point of absurdity with her sardonic editorial and cherry picked facts. This is what Rush Limbaugh does daily during his radio broadcasts.

She is a talented writer but she writes from a very far left perspective and I feel this takes away from the story she is trying to tell. She is just on the other side of the spectrum from Ann Coulter in her opinions and examples.

It might be best if everyone read from both sides of the argument to gain a balanced opinion of the extremes. We only hope the readers can balance the two extremes and find a common line of reality that exists somewhere in between.

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

@Blackrocklifer and Skybot: The gene pool comment isn't as far fetched as you may believe. There are some very credible studies that show that genetics may play as much of a factor in the success of a student as parental involvement, environmental conditions at home, and environmental conditions at school.

This article was published earlier this year:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110202172258.htm

The research behind this article reveals that genetic predisposition is nearly as important as environmental conditions in determining the relative success of children in cognitive and physical tasks, as well as in their success at school.

In this article, the author shows a correlation between poverty and genetics but is quick to dismiss any causality in the association. http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/health/Doomed-to-failure-by-poverty.2777252.jp

In my humble opinion, I believe that the child's modeling and impression of parents during the sensory motor and pre-operational periods of their development (ages 18 mos - 8 years) probably have more of a factor on future outcomes than the environment created by the school they attend. The activities and values learned through modeling and impression is probably as important as genetics and the school environment.

That being said, genetics plays an integral role in so much of life that it would be difficult to dismiss this as a factor outright. Genetics plays an integral role in the physical stature and anomalies of superior athletes like Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong. Both have a genetic composition that predisposes them to success at their respective sports; height, lung capacity, muscle density, muscle fiber composition, and a plethora of other factors. These are the positive aspects of genetic predisposition, on the other side are predisposition to alcoholism, drug addiction, susceptibility to violence, and illness. It would not be a stretch to consider predisposition to certain functions of the brain as being genetically determined.

The issue at hand is that genetics is an emerging science that is continually evolving. With that, genetics is also a very scary word for many who remember the impact of genetic testing during the Holocaust and for those who fear genetic discrimination or the implementation of eugenic policies that would discriminate against a particular group based on their genetic make-up.

To bring this back to point, genetics play a role in the educational outcomes of a student, but probably not as much as preoperational modeling and other early environmental factors. The role of the school and neighborhood is probably more of a correlative factor and not as much of a causation factor.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

I read 'Nickeled and Dimed' a few years ago, great book but for me there were not any new revelations as to the problems of poverty. This book just confirmed the experiences of the poor here in Black Rock and other parts of WNY. Should be required reading for those in the wealthier classes to open their eyes to the reality of life at the bottom. It is too easy to write off the poor as lazy or incompetent when lacking first hand knowledge of their actual situation.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Good point about the fighting, many seem to believe our city schools are in a constant state of chaos with violence on a daily basis. In my experience the city schools are safe for the most part. Fights happen in all school districts, not just in the city.

JSmith
JSmith

Seriously? You believe poverty is a congenital birth defect rather than having to do with household income?

Perhaps rather than implying support for forced sterilization of people who don't make enough money, we should push businesses to pay people enough to support themselves without public assistance.

Here's an eye-opening article on why the system is essentially rigged to keep poor people poor:

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/08/09/america_crime_poverty

Greg
Greg

Well I don't think I'm at all as extreme as you. I do think schools should be tougher on students. I take an anti-bullying approach, and a right to learn approach. Here's my take:

Learning is a right. But when you violate the rights of others, you endanger your own right to learn.

If you get suspended three times with in two years, or more than 30 days in one year, you should be expelled from the school. It's no non-sense. Some students in today's City schools actually don't mind getting suspended because it means they get a "vacation." Instituting this rule means that they're on a short leash.

Good students don't deserve to have to go to school with people who ignore the rights of others whether toward teacher or student.

Where do these bad students go you may ask? Their option is to be expelled from the neighborhood, and attend another school within the City where good behavior is mandatory. If they act up again, a parent will pay to send their child to another school outside the district. The student will have lost their right to learn in Buffalo because they will have endangered the rights of others.

The Buffalo Public Schools are not professional babysitters. They need to get tough.

(It should be pointed out that fights don't happen as often as people think. I never witnessed one in my experiences, and I think I was in a building during a fight just twice. At the most, you might see two kids shoving each other, but most know they don't want to get in trouble for fighting. Of course, these are my experiences.)

Greg
Greg

That's a really good question. I think some teachers would like to see it removed, but I think it holds a purpose for making that bond between community and school. Living in the City means you might see your students at Wegmans or at Halloween. But, a teacher can still go do adult things in the City without their students present. There still is a veil of privacy, and I think some teachers who advocate removal of the residency requirement don't understand that.

And Millenials are the ones not complaining about the residency requirement because they want to live in the City.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Not sure how to respond to this tirade but for starters I will point out that many kids "with promise" get a good education in the City of Buffalo and go on to become some of the best and brightest. My one little corner here in Black Rock has turned out multiple ivy league graduates and many others that have went on to be successful in their chosen field. As for teachers, most are doing the best they can with the situation and a very small minority are "worried about their precious plastic surgery benefits". Your "gene pool" comment is just dumb and shows a lack of understanding of the complexity and role of genetics.

Poverty has grown as wealth has been concentrated at the top. Decades of driving down wages and off shoring jobs has shifted our nations wealth away from those that work and produce to the investor class. We no longer value the work performed by the lowest skilled, even though they provide an essential part of our economy. Our society will continue to decline until we make all work pay enough to provide some dignity and a decent lifestyle without the need of government assistance.

Finally, I think residency would certainly help, teachers that are part of the community would be more involved and bring a much needed middle class income and presence to our neighborhoods.

skybox
skybox

What do you think about residency requirements for all teachers?

skybox
skybox

Parents who can't take care of themselves can't take care of their kids. Why is this a shock to anyone?

The city schools are a joke. They are filled with apathetic teachers who live in the suburbs and who worry more about their precious plastic surgery benefits than they do about the kids they teach. Too many teachers have given up on the students for the reasons you mention above.

Poverty doesn't just happen though, it is caused. We can't address the poverty issue if we want to preserve free choice. Take away the choices for the poor, make them take drug tests and alcohol tests before getting benefits, and hire some more social workers to stay on top of the poor to ensure they make better decisions with their lives and you'll see improvements.

On the other hand we can stick with the status quo and let the poor keep on breeding instead of working and then wonder why their substandard gene pools aren't producing more successful children.

All you folks can keep making excuses for why the schools suck by blaming poverty and the suburbs but the real problem is shitty parents who shouldn't have had kids in the first place. The middle class and upper class left for good reasons, those who remained are not good people to live near. No one wants to raise their kids near kids who are going to be losers for life, so they move their kids to better schools in the suburbs. Even the wealthier poor do whatever they can to get their kids away from their poor neighbors.

Before you folks get your undies in a bunch this isn't about racism it is about people who are so much of a drain on society and so far away from normal that they are killing each other and stealing from each other while blaming everyone else for the stuff they don't have. I think Chris Rock said it best so look it up.

Addressing poverty means addressing the poor but no liberal left wing bleeding heart is going to blame anything on the poor. Why? Because that means that you have to take more responsibility for the poor and even the left wing bleeding heart liberals prefer to take a stance on poverty from a distance by proclaiming that the rich are causing poverty so they attack the rich but don't do anything to really help the poor other than given some money to save their own atheist souls.

You want to fix the schools then take any kid with promise and move them to the suburbs and just let the poor kill and screw each other.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

All the points made here are valid, poor parenting and lack of community involvement continues to undermine the Buffalo Public Schools. These problems are symptoms of a district where 1/3 of children live in poverty and another 1/3 live not much above that arbitrary line. Concentration of poverty in cities creates a culture where education is not always encouraged or supported by a certain percentage of the population. We can't just make people into good citizens and parents. If a person has no stake in the game, no wealth or investment, they are unlikely to be good parents, good neighbors or good role models.

The dismantling of neighborhood based schools in Buffalo had many negative consequences. Middle class flight to the suburbs, loss of school/community connections, and the

uncertainty experienced by parents. The cities were already in decline at that time and integration/busing greatly accelerated the problem.

Unfortunately "neighborhood based" was code for white only when I went to school in the 60's and early 70's. Our neighborhoods are no longer so segregated and neighborhood based would be better, at least at the elementary level.

There were also some positives from the dismantling of neighborhood schools. The magnets, City Honors, Olmsted, and many other options became available that had not existed in the past. City kids were exposed to more diversity and expanded their knowledge beyond the insular culture of the old neighborhoods.

I stand by my first comment, address the poverty or the outcome will continue to be the same. That poverty continues to grow, it won't get easier. There might be some small incremental ways to improve, certainly we need more inspiring leadership but we need a middle class majority to provide the foundation for any sustained improvement.

Greg
Greg

Having spent time through various means at 3 lowest achieving schools in the City, I can say one highly visible problem is lack of connection between community and school.

There are other poor places in the US where children achieve higher than ours. And there are also many kids who aren't poor and still underachieve in the Buffalo schools.

One of the primary problems is the lack of neighborhood schools. Having neighborhood schools create a bond with, and a bit of symbolism to the surrounding community. Administrators become more than school leaders, but members of the community themselves. It also reduces spending on busing, and more on teachers.

Don't forget, in a neighborhood system students still have about 3 choices for schools that you don't need to test into. And some of these schools would overlap, so that North, South, East, and West of Buffalo would have available vocational schools and college prep schools for everyone. And, the test-in schools wouldn't disappear either.

LI2Northpark
LI2Northpark

Fire Williams, scrap the entire board and start anew. What;s to lose??? Our schools are about as bad as they can get. Why appoint an interim superintendent who has been part of the culture of failure? Why retain the board when they hired Williams in the first place and then extended his contract? The whole situation is just pathetic and there is no way in hell I would ever allow my child to be at it's mercy.

Erik
Erik

While I didn't attend the meeting (read the live blog), it seemed that the decision to use the EPO model was done at the very last minute.. The decision wasn't the choice of BPS admin, but a knee jerk reaction by the board because they didn't want to challenge the BTF..

I am definitely not a fan of BPS admin, but in this case the blame needs to be laid at the feet of the School Board and the BTF.

KangDangaLang
KangDangaLang

We have to do something about parents. I fully believe that parents who allow their children to miss school, get in fights, disrupt class etc should be forced into monitoring by a social service organization. That is the only way we are going to change the Buffalo school. Parents are the ones that make the difference in a childs education. If you implemented that along with the end of busing children from one part of town to another you would see a raised interest in neighborhood schools, because people would actually live in the near vicinity in which their child attend school. No lottery system, busing, paying teachers more, enhanced facilities etc will ever fix lazy parents.

TheRealBuffaloBill
TheRealBuffaloBill

So if your poor you can’t learn, and if you don’t learn you become poor. This seems to be the crux of the blackrocklifer logic. By this line at some point we would in fact all be poor and ignorant. I suppose this has happened many times before in history and a more productive cultural came in and killed them off. If not Idiocracy would come true.

Back on point, I don't see why they doom seven schools at a time, break them up and maybe some will get ahead.

getzvillain
getzvillain

This is all part of the culture of educational anxiety that NYS & the Federal government has created. Blackrocklifer has it right.

LI2Northpark
LI2Northpark

While it is obvious that there are societal problems that the BPSD can't do much about (poverty, absent parents, gangs, drugs) it is completely inexcusable for them to not submit these turnaround plans on time. The schools are the one thing that is truly holding Buffalo back. As a soon to be first time Dad it will also probalby be the thing that drives me to the suburbs if I fail to win the school lottery. The sad thing is that any other young parents who can afford to move to the suburbs will leave as well.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

I will submit the only viable improvement plan for the BPS. Address the poverty that is proven to be the main driver of poor school performance.

Or we could bus all the kids from Williamsville, Clarence, Lancaster, and all the other affluent districts into the city and send the city kids out to the suburbs. Then we could all talk about "how are we going to fix the problems with suburban schools?"

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