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1 Year In, “Turnaround” Principal Shares Lessons

by Melissa Bailey | Jun 21, 2011 11:36 am

(35) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools, West Rock, School Reform

Melissa Bailey Photos Kids borrowed thousands of books. Reading scores rose. Parents feel their children are safer. The longer school day didn’t work out as well as planned at the city’s first in-house “turnaround” experiment.

As an inaugural school year draws to a close, the principal overseeing one of the city’s most-watched reform experiments offered those observations.

The principal, Karen Lott (pictured) of K-8 Brennan/Rogers in West Rock, took a moment to share results and draw lessons from her first year seeking to to turn around a struggling school with unprecedented latitude in hiring and rule-making.

Those lessons will not only guide Lott as she embarks on year two of an ambitious school reform experiment in the fall. They offer guidance for another principal, Sabrina Breland, as she launches the second such experiment at Wexler/Grant Community School in Dixwell.

Both schools were chosen for overhauls because they ranked near the bottom in the district in student performance. As part of a citywide school change initiative, a few “failing” schools are being tapped each year as “turnarounds” to undergo restructuring. Brennan/Rogers and now Wexler/Grant are experimenting with a particular kind of turnaround that doesn’t call for shutting down a school or calling in private management.

Lott shared some early signs of progress in literacy and school climate, and some challenges in getting parents involved, in an interview amid the end-of-year bustle at the school at 200 Wilmot Rd.

School Day Shortened; Parents Advised

As the leader of the city’s first in-house “turnaround” school, Lott got unprecedented authority last year to hand-pick a new crew of teachers and set new rules allowed for by a new teachers contract. Brennan/Rogers opened last fall with a slate of new teachers and a longer school day for students and staff.

When kids showed up to Brennan/Rogers last fall, the biggest change was schedule: Their day stretched out from 8:20 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., an extra 1 hour and 25 minutes compared to the previous year.

As the school undergoes yet another transition, Lott announced she’ll be scaling back that extended schedule for students—and making sure parents know about the schedule far in advance.

The reason for scaling back is transportation, she said. Brennan/Rogers landed a multimillion dollar grant to become a magnet school in the fall, accepting students from the suburbs as well as New Haven.

Lott said only a handful of suburban kids have enrolled for next year in grades 1 through 8, in part because there were few open seats. The numbers are higher in pre-K and kindergarten. But the change in the student body means the school must adhere to the timetable of other magnets. District school buses make only one sweep through the suburbs to deliver kids to New Haven’s 17 other magnet schools.

Besides that transportation hurdle, Lott said there were other reasons that the extended day didn’t work out as she had hoped.

“I am a proponent of a longer school day, but we had some real problems with it,” Lott said.

For example: Teachers, as part of their new labor contract, had agreed to work the extra hours with commensurate pay. But other staff in the school had no such arrangement, so the paraprofessionals and clerical staff did not stay for the whole day.

“It’s hard to run a school when the office staff leaves” before students do, Lott said. Students found the hours taxing, and some parents protested as well, she said.

Lott said she originally extended the day because the students were so far behind where they needed to be academically. “It’s hard to make gains in the same time frame,” without extra hours, she said.

However, the new schedule at Brennan/Rogers did not add instructional time on core subjects, which is the key for catching kids up. Kids got hour-long classes in art and gym, but no extra class time on reading and math. Instead, the longer day allowed staff time to collaborate and train in new teaching methods.

Next year, students will return to a more standard school day, with classes running from 9:20 to 3:30. Teachers will still come in an hour earlier for professional development, Lott said.

Lott said she made parents aware of the change in newsletters sent home Monday and during school on Tuesday. She said she learned the importance of early notification from experience. Last year, as she hustled to pull together the turnaround plans, Lott waited until the end of the summer to let parents know about the longer school day.

For some parents who live across town, that meant their kids wouldn’t be home until 5:30 p.m.—a major change to the daily routine. Some parents weren’t too happy about the short notice, she said.

Build Trust Early

Short notice of major changes in the school may have contributed to a rocky start to the year, Lott added.

Students who had attended Brennan/Rogers for years returned in the fall to a slew of new faces. Of the 35 teachers at the school last year, only 12 got hired back. Lott chose another 30 teachers from as far away as South Carolina. Lott, who was in her second year as principal, was the only person some students recognized in the building when they came back in September.

Students were “resistant” to the new authorities, Lott said. Some “didn’t like the longer school day” or the higher expectations. They spent three months “testing” the new team. That led to an uptick in suspensions during those months, she said.

To curb this problem, Lott suggested that schools like Wexler/Grant give kids advance notice of the changes that lie ahead. As she launched her school’s turnaround last year she never directly informed kids about what would happen when they returned in the fall. “That fell off my radar,” she said.

“While the adults are excited” about changes in the school, “for kids, it’s a big emotional response.” Lott suggested a more intensive summer orientation, where new teachers could get a head-start building relationships with kids.

“Kids need to be able to develop trust,” she said. “And kids need to know what will lie ahead.”

Lott said the school is now in a much better position for next year: On a school survey, 82 percent of students reported having at least one adult in the building they can trust—a number that stayed the same despite the drastic teacher turnover. And kids won’t have to start from scratch next year, because 100 percent of teachers plan to return to the school.

All teachers made a two-year commitment when they signed up to work at the school. The few who were identified as struggling teachers by a new evaluation system have improved enough to keep their jobs, Lott said.

Parents: School’s Safer Now

Lott showed one early sign that Brennan/Rogers has made progress in improving the school climate.

In an annual survey, 94 percent of parents at Brennan/Rogers said they feel “my child is safe at school,” compared to only 14 of 20 parents last year.

Those results came on a School Climate Survey distributed annually to parents, teachers and students citywide earlier this year. Principals have been combing through the results, which have not yet been released to the public.

Lott said she looks to the survey as “a read on relationships” in her school community. Her school showed improvement across the board.

Brennan/Rogers showed a leap in participation on the surveys this year: 81 percent of parents took the survey, the highest rate in the district, according to Lott. That’s quite an improvement over last year, when only 20 parents, or 10 percent of the school, offered feedback.

The safety category posed a red flag last year, when 18 percent of students said they did not feel safe in the school. That number dropped to 11 percent this year.

The survey was taken by 103 students, 96 percent of the kids in grades 3 to 8.

Lott said the school environment has been much improved by a new “code of conduct,” which aims to establish clear language and expectations around proper behavior. While there were many disruptions in the fall, kids’ behavior calmed down after winter break, and teachers were able to focus more on learning, she said.

Mine That Library

One of the biggest challenges Brennan/Rogers faced this year was finding ways to help students catch up in their reading skills, which lagged several grade levels behind their statewide peers.

According to district test scores, 68 percent of Brennan/Rogers kids were reading below grade level when they came to the school in September. In kindergarten, 79 percent of students scored below grade level, and in 3rd grade, 91 percent.

Lott detailed two efforts to reverse that trend. One involves a new style of tutoring: In the past, kids who fell behind were pulled out of class for literacy interventions, but they were grouped in only one way—based on their reading comprehension. For some kids, the interventions weren’t working. Brennan/Rogers staff decided to break up kids into groups in a different way, according to their fluency levels. They also brought in extra tutors for more small-group work.

The results appear to have paid off, based on test scores on the District Reading Assessment, according to Lott’s staff. Math scores also showed significant improvement, she said.

The real test—the test that local, state and federal accountability watchdogs are waiting for—is the Connecticut Mastery Test, the state’s standardized test for all public schools. The DRA is “not always predictive” of the CMT, Lott acknowledged, “but we hope it would be.”

She shared one other result she can already count on: Students and teachers took out 8,266 books from September to May of this school year. That’s compared to only 689 books that circulated last year.

The reading boom came thanks to a new librarian, Susan Martinez Sendroff. The library was essentially dormant when she joined the school last fall. Sendroff started book clubs. She brought in whole classes to take out books. And she gave tailored advice to kids on which ones to read.

Last week she was organizing a summer reading giveaway at the school. Each kid got to take home five books for free. Sendroff pitched Nyquan Hayes (pictured) on “Bibsy” by Beverly Cleary.

“I think you’ll like it,” she told Nyquan. He took her advice and plopped the book into a black bag, emblazoned with the letters READ, stylized like the AC/DC logo.

Sendroff said kids at the school think reading is cool. She even had to hide books out of sight so that students wouldn’t plunder them before the giveaway began.

A group of 5th-graders (pictured at the top of this story) illustrated her point by flashing their texts before a news camera.

Tyreese Sheats chose a book called “Class President,” because “I want to be president of the United States.”

The flow of books home may have helped boost parents’ perception of the academic rigor of the school.

On the surveys this year, 89 percent of parents reported the school “has high academic expectations for my child,” compared to 65 percent the prior year.

The Unsolved Puzzle: Parents

Overall, parents appear pleased with the changes: 87 percent of parents said they would recommend the school to other parents.

That’s a major improvement over last year, when Brennan/Rogers landed second from the bottom of the district on parent satisfaction, according to the surveys. Fifty-eight percent said they would recommend the school to other parents. The only school that fared worse was Wexler/Grant, which 48 percent of parents said they would recommend.

The surveys also offered a candid view of an uphill battle to get parents more involved in the school.

On the surveys, 62 percent of Brennan/Rogers parents reported that they never volunteer at the school.

Lott said she appreciates their candor—and hopes to find new ways to get them involved. She made a push to get parents to come out to report card night, and then to get involved with their kids’ reading.

Parents did come out in record attendance, but Lott said she failed to get them to take on other roles in the school. For example, she envisioned reviving the school PTO and holding a vote among all parents as to whether kids should adopt a school uniform. The PTO never got off its feet. While some parents showed interest, none would commit to taking office.

“No one wanted to be the president,” Lott said. The question of uniforms was never addressed.

Likewise, Lott had difficulty when it came to setting up another parent panel—this one required by a new state law. Brennan/Rogers was one of four schools required to set up a school governance council by a Jan. 15 deadline. The panel is supposed to be made up of seven parents, five teachers and two community leaders, all elected to their posts, who advise the principal on school policy.

A few parents, including a mother-daughter duo from Westville Manor, expressed interest in joining the effort. But when it came time to hold the meetings, Lott said, none of the parents would commit to holding office or attending future gatherings.

Lott said she’s unsure of the future of the school governance council. As for the PTO, she said, she’ll take a different tack next year: Thanks to a private grant, the school will run a monthly food bank for parents at the school. She said she hopes that might provide a new venue to get parents in the door and get them involved in the school.

As she moves forward, Lott will work from a new road map, a “School Improvement Plan. It focuses on improving school culture, the “universal use of rigorous instruction,” and boosting that culture of reading at school and at home.

Sabrina Breland, the principal at Wexler/Grant, said she’ll be calling up Lott this summer as she goes about putting together her own road map for the Dixwell neighborhood school.

Lott said she’d be happy to share what she learned. Meanwhile, she’ll be pushing more families to enroll their kids in voluntary summer school, so the gains they’ve made this school year don’t slip away.


Past stories on the Brennan/Rogers School:

What “Magnet” Means
The Evaluation: Episode Two
• Turnaround Task: Fight Fatigue
Turnaround School Prepares For 1st Test
Parents Prepare To Help “Govern” 4 Schools
At Turnaround School, A Reading Push
In Garden, Teachers Tackle Special Ed Challenge
Brennan/Rogers Earns Magnet Status
No Naps For These Kids
Turnaround Team Sets To Work
Two Failing Schools Aim High
West Rock Kids Reap Two-Wheeled Rewards
Brennan/Rogers Prepares For Turnaround

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posted by: Nan on June 21, 2011  11:46am

Kudos to Brennan/Rogers librarian, Susan Martinez Sendroff!!!

posted by: Del-Rio on June 21, 2011  11:53am

Righton, Jamie!!!

posted by: Threefifths on June 21, 2011  1:06pm

Besides that transportation hurdle, Lott said there were other reasons that the extended day didn’t work out as she had hoped.

Give me a break.It is not working out because this school reform plan is a failure.Also how about the good teachers she god rid of.

Sabrina Breland, the principal at Wexler/Grant, said she’ll be calling up Lott this summer as she goes about putting together her own road map for the Dixwell neighborhood school.

Lott said she’d be happy to share what she learned. Meanwhile, she’ll be pushing more families to enroll their kids in voluntary summer school, so the gains they’ve made this school year don’t slip away.

Call her for what.Both of there schools will be in the same boat with out a life jacket.

P.S. Expose Domus!!!!

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS\ on June 21, 2011  2:03pm

I hope the efforts pay off for the students.  But it’s hard to do a turn-around when you are forced to work with one hand tied behind your back.

Like Principal Lott, we should all be disappointed with the roll-back of the extended day.  This is a perfect example of how employment considerations for adults conflict directly with the best interests of children. 

If anyone wonders “why privatize?”, this situation is exhibit A.  Why do we allow these work rules to exist when there is so much need for kids to catch up?  And why would we as citizens allow the desires of an administrative labor union to trump the educational needs of the students or the interests of taxpayers? 

These constraints are completely self-imposed - and they are the reason that this city has yet to move into the fast lane towards closing the achievement gap.

posted by: Ben on June 21, 2011  4:03pm

So is anyone on the anti-Destefano NHI going to give credit where credit is due and say that important progress is being made - by DeStefano and Mayo - with the teacher’s union, to reform urban education?

Probably not, but it would be nice.

posted by: Teachergal on June 21, 2011  5:29pm

Three fifths:  P.S. Expose Domus!!!!

Yeah, let’s here about the great results there. I’m in total agreement with three fifths. This reform is total insanity.

posted by: moneywheremouthis on June 21, 2011  6:35pm

Fix the schools:
You work in a bank. Dont judge other peoples work hours! ...

posted by: Butch on June 21, 2011  9:18pm

Why is it that Lott and Brennan/Rogers are ALWAYS featured on this website?!  There are so many schools in New Haven who deserve attention and accolades yet all I read about is Brennan and Lott!!  If this is the school we always hear about then lets call a spade a spade.  Im curious as to their CMT scores….lets post those up.  NHI should be ashamed for always featuring the same school time and time again.

[Note: Each year we pick a couple of schools to look at in depth in the course of a year to try to show the course of school reform in more detail. We still cover other schools, too, as part of the beat.]

posted by: Yes We Can! on June 22, 2011  6:54am

Let’s see.  Scores on the rise across the board; kids enjoying reading; kids happy to be at school; parents and kids feel safe at school; increased parent participation (love the school garden);  increased morale and motivation among students, faculty and parents. 

Sure that sounds like it is worthy of bashing.

Kudos to Karen Lott and the staff, parents and students at KB for not listening to the haters or falling pray to the negativity that is spewed toward Urban learners and Urban Education professionals.

Education is the key for these children and the adults at this school and within this school system are proving that we can unite around the needs of these students and make a difference.

Sure the usual suspects will cut and paste their normal vitriol but this is a job well done.  Many more steps to walk on the journey to get where these kids and the District needs to be but the first steps have been taken. 

Measured, sure and sustainable steps by none other than a New Haven Public School!

Yes We Can!

posted by: Where are the climate surveys? What about school l on June 22, 2011  7:00am

The climate surveys have been available to staff for quite some time, but they haven’t been made public yet.  They should be released now, before schools close.

I don’t know anything about Domus, but if that school is a problem, it isn’t the only one.  The superintendent failed in at least two of his appointments of principals in other schools this past year, and I know of nothing that is being done because the evaluations of principals is a farce.  Further, I know of nothing that will be done about it.  New Haven kids and teachers deserve quality leadership.

posted by: Paul Wessel on June 22, 2011  7:06am

This article, and the Independent’s ongoing series on New Haven’s school reform program, are great depictions of what change is really like.  Given the amount of rhetoric thrown around in policy battles, it is so important to get the boots-on-the ground story.  Please keep it up.  And thank you.

posted by: LOL on June 22, 2011  8:41am

So support systems that should have been in place years ago are now in place only because Dr. Mayo felt heat from the state and feds ... and we’re supposed to applaud?

posted by: Threefifths on June 22, 2011  9:13am

posted by: Yes We Can! on June 22, 2011 6:54am

Let’s see.  Scores on the rise across the board; kids enjoying reading; kids happy to be at school; parents and kids feel safe at school; increased parent participation (love the school garden);  increased morale and motivation among students, faculty and parents.

Show me proof of this.Did you not read her statement.

Parents did come out in record attendance, but Lott said she failed to get them to take on other roles in the school. For example, she envisioned reviving the school PTO and holding a vote among all parents as to whether kids should adopt a school uniform. The PTO never got off its feet. While some parents showed interest, none would commit to taking office.

Do you notice this The PTO never got off its feet. While some parents showed interest, none would commit to taking office.And you say that is motivation among parents?


The real test—the test that local, state and federal accountability watchdogs are waiting for—is the Connecticut Mastery Test, the state’s standardized test for all public schools. The DRA is “not always predictive” of the CMT, Lott acknowledged, “but we hope it would be.” She shared one other result she can already count on: Students and teachers took out 8,266 books from September to May of this school year. That’s compared to only 689 books that circulated last year.


Again show me proof that Students and teachers took out 8,266 books from September to May of this school year.

Give me a break.Again all I am seeing is a three card monte.

P.S.  Like I said Expose Domus and Now Expose Brennan/Rogers.

posted by: roasty on June 22, 2011  10:07am

The surveys are out, and they are dismal - especially Cross.  See other headline for why.

posted by: ElisaQ on June 22, 2011  11:09am

@FTS: Public school teachers care about kids, not profits.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on June 22, 2011  11:47am

ElisaQ, Yes, of course, teacher unions care about kids - as long as they don’t infringe on a 6 1/2 hour work day, weekends, lunch breaks, bus time, full summers off, sick days, and a host of full paid holidays. 

Don’t agree?  Well then let me refer you the Godfather of teacher unions, Albert Shanker when he famously said:  “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children”.  Some things never change.

and “Money…” brings up a good point. Teachers often wonder why it is that the public feels that it has a right to loudly criticize the teaching profession when there isn’t a similar hue and cry about other professions.  Why do educators get picked on all the time?

The answer is simple.  In most other professions and industries, the recipient of the service has choices.  If you don’t like a bank’s hours you can go to one of many banks within walking distance which have more convnenient hours.  Don’t like a doctor’s bedside manner?  There are 1,000 physicians in the area.  A restaurant’s service is too slow?  You never have to go back again because there are plenty of choices out there.

The education establishment and TEACHERS, to the extent that they defend the monopolisitic one-size-fits-all system, are wide open to criticism if they stand in the way of parents, students, and taxpayers to access more choice. 

In the absence of choice in a closed-loop system in which there is only ONE provider of services, people are left with no other option but to protest when they are not being served well. 

So if the education establishment wants to stop being villified, then it needs to stand aside and stop preventing other providers of educational options from serving public demand.

posted by: ElisaQ on June 22, 2011  12:09pm

@FTS: No teacher works only 6 1/2 hours a day…

Teachers take home HOURS of grading and planning each night and every weekend. We put our hearts, souls, and minds into our work because we love what we do and we care about our students. We will do anything to help our students, and you would be amazed by all that public school teachers put into their work if only you would take the time to see it.

posted by: VD on June 22, 2011  12:11pm

Where can we view the survey results?

posted by: VD on June 22, 2011  12:16pm

Fix: I was leaning anti-union until I started reading about the principal at Cross and thinking about the implications.  Without union protection, I have no doubt that Ms. Moore would dismiss teachers for what she considers challenges to her authority, regardless of the quality of instruction.  There is already plenty of intimidation happening.  I’m sure Cross isn’t the only school where this abuse of power would occur.

posted by: LOL on June 22, 2011  12:51pm

I promise you, the New Haven Federation of Teachers is probably the WEAKEST union in America.  Its officers boast about being the “most progressive” in the country.  Too bad it does a lousy job of protecting the very people from whom it collects dues.  The NHFT has absolutely no power whatsoever.  NONE. The only reason it is still around is because superintendent Reggie Mayo has agreed to work with it ...

posted by: Vincent A. Simpson on June 22, 2011  1:13pm

I had the pleasure of reading the New Heaven Independent and I saw where the “Turnaround School” Brennan/Rogers, headed by Ms. Lott, kept that success going for over one year. Congratulation! Ms. Lott, Good job.It is obvious that Principals with your ability is committed to Staff Development, Teacher Support, Schoolwide learning strategies and improving instruction.Wishing you continued success.

posted by: Another NHPS Parent on June 22, 2011  2:13pm

TO FTS:
“So if the education establishment wants to stop being villified, then it needs to stand aside and stop preventing other providers of educational options from serving public demand.”

Who stood in the way of Achievement First to take over Roberto Clemente?

Why did AF not jump at the chance to serve this group of students who have been disenfranchised for so long in a dysfunctional school environment? If I recall correctly, a spokesperson from AF said that the organization was not looking to do so at the time of the bid-Why?

Look forward to your response.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on June 22, 2011  2:38pm

ElisaQ, I do see it.  There are WONDERFUL teachers out there who quietly toil away without the benefit of widespread support from inept administrators, or consistent support from their teacher colleagues because of job protections. 

And you’re also right to clarify the 6 1/2 hour work day.  Many teachers do work after school.  But the fact is that teachers through their unions have been able to negotiate an in-school day, which is especially important for students, down to 6 1/2 hours.  I have not seen where it is possible to close the achievement gap with only a 6 1/2 hour schedule for students.

In Lott’s case, it was the administrators union that held it up.  So my question is, if you care and love the kids so much why don’t you and your colleagues stand up and let your admin staff know that they should not stand in the way of an important turnaround effort?

VD, I am reluctant to throw Ms. Moore under the bus because I don’t know her and I only know of this situation from one reporter’s vantage point.  HOWEVER, for the sake of argument let’s assume that we have a principal who would misuse her authority and get rid of people she just doesn’t like.

In a system that works on the basis of academic results and not politics, a principal would think twice about getting rid of people who she doesn’t like personally if they were great teachers.  Why? Because her job would depend not on who she knows or her longevity, but on how well she runs her school.  And it is a fact that the best schools have the best teachers. 
If a principal was willing to sacrifice great teachers because of personal whims, the school performance would decline and she would soon find herself out of a job.

So to your point, and it’s a good one, a competent incorruptible administration is as necessary to school reform as is high quality instruction.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on June 22, 2011  3:52pm

Another NH Parent,

Thanks for the opportunity to reiterate that I do not speak for AF and am not involved at all in the business of the schools.  My opinions are mine alone and do not represent anyone else’s views. There may be some people who agree with me occasionally but I am sure that there are more than a few folks at AF and at other charters who actually wouldn’t be disappointed if I kept my thoughts to myself. 

But to respond hypothetically, and based on a series of conversations over the years with people who have actually been successful at school turnarounds (btw, AF has done ZERO turn-arounds), the following conditions need to be present in order to have a fighting chance at success.

1. Public per pupil funding levels equal to the host district; 
2. No forced teacher unionization;
3. No BOE authority over any school policies.

Frankly, each of these conditions taken by themselves would represent a significant hurdle.  Taken collectively, they’d be a non-starter to most. 

Having said that, I admire people who can work within those politically-motivated constraints and actually get the job done for kids.  But they are rare. Anyone ever heard of the amazing Kathy Greider?

posted by: Threefifths on June 22, 2011  4:26pm

Hey fix How about this.

Bill would waive certification for charter school teachers.

http://www.ctmirror.org/story/12320/charter-school-teachers-risk-pink-slips-if-they-dont-go-back-school

Why should these charter school teachers get
waive certification. Aslo you talk about the union.Will the Charter Schools sing on to the Charter School Act.

The Charter Schools Act.
1. STUDENT RIGHTS – Charter schools MUST be required to retain Special Ed and ELL students. No longer push out, counsel out or expel them out of the school.
2. PARENT RIGHTS – Every charter school board MUST have a parent board member who is the President of the school’s independent parent association.
3. BILL OF RIGHTS – There MUST be a universal Parents Bill of Rights and Students Bill of Rights for charter schools.
4. INDEPENDENT PARENTS ASSOCIATION – Every charter school MUST be required to have an independent parents association.
5. CO-LOCATIONS – The state MUST develop a better process in determining co-locations in public school buildings in New York City because it is pitting parents against each other.
6. ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY – Charter school board members and employees MUST be held to rigorous financial disclosure requirements and conflict of interest prohibitions as all other organizations receiving public money. There MUST be more oversight of Founding Boards. Board members MUST NOT be allowed to be permanent trustees. All employees (principals, directors, staff) MUST not be allowed to serve on the board. All schools must be audited by the State Comptroller.
7. CHARTER CONTRACT & BY-LAWS – Every charter school MUST be required to post their charter and by-laws online to increase accountability and transparency in charter schools and their governing boards. Every board meeting MUST be held at the school.
8. STATE RECEIVERSHIP – The state MUST have the authority to take over a charter school and re-constitute the board of trustees.
9. MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS – For Profit Management organizations MUST NOT be allowed to manage charters. Public money should be spent on public students.
10. COMPLAINT & GRIEVANCE PROCESS – The state MUST develop a formal complaint and grievance process that includes tracking and resolving issues within 30 days.
11. TEACHER RIGHTS & PROTECTIONS – Teachers in charter schools MUST be provided with whistleblower and job protections when exposing corruption, financial mismanagement and corporate chicanery in charters. No teacher should be fired for standing up for their students. E.g. East New York Prep Charter School.
12. CHARTER AUTHORIZATION – Authorization MUST only be granted by the Board of Regents

posted by: Yes We Can on June 23, 2011  7:01am

The negativity on these pages continues to astound me.  It is as if a signal goes up from NHI Headquarters when an article comes out and then the trusty commenters and their sidekicks exclaim, “To the keyboard!”

To 3/5s.  Increases in parent participation is quantified from the report card nights and the actual participation in the survey.  That is a fact, not opinion.  You predictably focus on the downside that these parents have yet to fully mobilize into some sort of Fortune 500 PTO.  Well, perhaps some day they will.  For now they are more engaged.  Are meeting the teachers, entering the school and becoming more physically invested in the education of their child.  Working in the school garden and volunteering in the parent room.  That is good!

You want to point to high stakes testing and poo poo DRA gains and other interim measures.  The interim measures are facts.  These are academic tests of the students knowledge and growth.  Based on those tests there is growth across the board.  That is a fact and that is a good thing that should be noted and credit given to the hard work it took to get there by students and staff.

You, however, want to ignore that work and focus on the ill conceived high stakes test model and withhold your judgment as if that one week of tests should be considered among all other factors as the be all and end all. 

I have seen these tests and I must tell you a few things.  One, they are a horrible way to test knowledge.  Students today do not learn in a style that is best measured in a weeks worth of 45 minute blocks or more of filling in bubbles and lines.  Second, in my opinion, the tests are racially and regionally biased.  If the reading comprehension is about things that from a contextual perspective only a suburban or affluent kid would have any meaningful knowledge of then it is not a fair assessment.  These tests and the manner in which they are administered is 1940s at best which is a shame.  Kids today learn much differently then their parents did and the world of education needs to adapt to that.

Alas, the school will be judged by this one week of testing and failure to move the dial will result in another rush to the keyboard to demand firing of everyone involved.  All other work and successes big and small will be thrust aside so that we can hammer one another and once again declare Urban students losers.

To that I say bull——.  These students and teachers have taken some very important and courageous steps that deserve respect and praise.  Does more need to be done? yes.  Are they there yet? not by a long shot.  Can we get there faster?  Together I think we can.  Yes We Can!

posted by: LOL on June 23, 2011  10:41am

Schools like Brennan-Rogers have languished under Reggie Mayo’s watch for far too long.  I’ve been on the inside, I’ve seen the understaffing of schools, broken technology, lack of parental accountability and cronyism that’s led to the promotion of many unqualified individuals within NHPS.

Mayo has had ample opportunities to improve NHPS and he’s failed in the most important aspect—student achievement.  He’s gone through many teachers, administrators, curriculums and reform initiatives (remember his “5 Bold Goals” that were never achieved, then quietly swept under the carpet?).  When is it time he is truly held accountable?

This latest reform is nothing but a product of the pressure that government at the state and federal levels have been placing on all school districts across America; money is tied to test scores.  That’s a fact.

So, sorry, but I’m not all that impressed by what’s occurred at Brennan-Rogers.  This process, and the student/staff supports that come it, should have begun long ago for everybody’s welfare.

The fact that it didn’t should not be taken lightly or brushed off.  Mayo should have to answer for it.

posted by: Threefifths on June 23, 2011  12:37pm

posted by: Yes We Can on June 23, 2011 7:01am

The negativity on these pages continues to astound me.  It is as if a signal goes up from NHI Headquarters when an article comes out and then the trusty commenters and their sidekicks exclaim, “To the keyboard!”

The negativity on these pages continues to astound me.One could view you comments as being negativity.We are expressing our opinions like you are.But as I always tell people If you don’t like one’s comment.Don’t answer it.

You want to point to high stakes testing and poo poo DRA gains and other interim measures.  The interim measures are facts.  These are academic tests of the students knowledge and growth.  Based on those tests there is growth across the board.  That is a fact and that is a good thing that should be noted and credit given to the hard work it took to get there by students and staff.

Were did you ee me write that I agree with high stakes testing.I don’t think that high stakes testing are the answer.

To that I say bull——.  These students and teachers have taken some very important and courageous steps that deserve respect and praise.  Does more need to be done? yes.  Are they there yet? not by a long shot.  Can we get there faster?  Together I think we can.  Yes We Can!

You are right….

posted by: HOLD THE MAYO on June 23, 2011  1:02pm

@YES ...

“You, however, want to ignore that work and focus on the ill conceived high stakes test model and withhold your judgment as if that one week of tests should be considered among all other factors as the be all and end all.”

Two responses:

1. How come teachers at failing schools don’t receive the consideration of all other factors?  They must reapply for their jobs.  About a month ago, I suggested that if Clemente’s teachers are so poor and Hoooker’s are so exceptional—as the district would have everybody believe based on each school’s tiering—then why doesn’t the district merely swap the teaching staffs?  Rhetorical question.  Know why?  Mayo knows full well it wouldn’t make a difference in test scores and that he’d actually have to consider all other factors and, in some cases, hold them accountable.

2. Why is this “work” just being done now?  Mayo’s been in charge for over 10 years and the achievement gap’s widened.  Why doesn’t he have to reapply for his job?

———————————————————————-

“I have seen these tests and I must tell you a few things.  One, they are a horrible way to test knowledge.  Students today do not learn in a style that is best measured in a weeks worth of 45 minute blocks or more of filling in bubbles and lines.  Second, in my opinion, the tests are racially and regionally biased.  If the reading comprehension is about things that from a contextual perspective only a suburban or affluent kid would have any meaningful knowledge of then it is not a fair assessment.  These tests and the manner in which they are administered is 1940s at best which is a shame.  Kids today learn much differently then their parents did and the world of education needs to adapt to that.”

Oh here we go.  Listen.  It costs parents nothing to talk to their children, listen to them or read to them (given all the books teachers send home these days).  That said, the federal and state government levels are creating a nation of test takers.  We’ve got teachers teaching to the test simply to keep their jobs, and principals turning a blind eye to it simply to save their job.

posted by: Mike Houston on June 23, 2011  1:04pm

I’ve lived in the greater New Haven area all of my life and haven’t seen these types of improvements in the New Haven school system I have read about in Brennan K-8. The system being used in this school should be duplicated throughout the New Haven school system. Great job principal Lott and Dr. Mayo.

posted by: to Mike Houston on June 23, 2011  9:33pm

So what took Mayo so long?

And why does he get over a decade’s worth of “do overs” while teachers and principals who challenge him get run out almost immediately?

posted by: thomas Lott on June 24, 2011  12:52pm

Great job Ms Lott!  It is obvious that you have created a culture to learn.  Your example will rest in the minds of these kids for years to come.  Later in life when they are asked to name a significant person in their life, they will proudly say, “Ms Lott.”

posted by: pattycakes on June 25, 2011  12:56pm

Don’t forget during the summer to visit you local public library.  Many libraries have summer reading challenges and activities to keep kids interested in reading and learning.  Parents are the best rolemodel for reading.  So whether you pick up the newspaper, a book or magazine read in front of kids and read to them—no matter the age.  I still read to my grown kids!

posted by: ridiculous on June 27, 2011  9:38pm

Teachers don’t need an extra hour of professional development.  Parents need to step up ... read to your child, bring your child to the library, talk to your child, get your child to school on time, feed your child nutritiousfoods (a bunch of bananas costs less than bag of Doritos).

posted by: Jesse Scott on June 30, 2011  5:26pm

The initiatives and programming in place is definitely working in the best interest of increasing academic performance. The surveys have been a positive tool in offering feedback to administration to better enhance and reinforce services needed for the student base. The cognitive development of students in reading and mathematics is definitely a uphill climb and persistence will be a proven asset in establishing a favorable outcome. The ability to engage the parents as the primary caregivers of the child has increased parent involvement,monitoring and supervision of academia in the child’s home this was vital in increasing a strong home/school link. The family nucleus will always present indicators that can be strengthen and priorities that can be examine as key drivers which will inevitably make the child a better product as a student. The effort at Brennan/Rogers should be a model basis for all schools that are closing achievement gaps.

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