Overcoming Poverty’s Damage to Learning

This article appeared in the New York Times recently.  Overcoming Poverty’s Damage to Learning 

The argument is that children in poverty are more likely to suffer from PTSD than children in Manhattan who were exposed to the devastating experience of 9/11.

What the researchers discovered surprised them. Many children in city schools exhibited symptoms of trauma — but the problems weren’t clearly attributable to 9/11 nor were they clustered near Ground Zero. Such symptoms were, however, concentrated in schools serving the city’s poorest children. And the students’ sense of threat or insecurity stemmed not so much from terrorism as from exposure to violence, inadequate housing, sudden family loss, parents with depression or addictions, and so forth.

The researchers recommend a program that identifies students with intense emotional barriers to learning and then works with the whole school to introduce more productive responses from adults.

Questions that Charter Teachers Might Want to Ask their Operators

In the spirit of creating a dialogue between charter teachers and their operators with respect to the current charter expansion bill (House Bill 486, Senate Bill 595), teachers might want to consider the following set of questions:

  1. What are the main frustrations that you experience as an operator in running a charter school in Baltimore?  Which of these frustrations are unique to being a charter operator?  Which, in your opinion, are shared with all schools?
  2. Are you behind every part of this bill?  If no, which parts do you not support and why?
  3. There are changes in the bill that make MSDE a possible charter authorizer and thus increase the potential for charter management organizations to come to Baltimore to “convert” existing schools, (according to MDCAN, these would be mostly high schools):
  • What are the positive aspects of this change?
  • What are the negative aspects of this change?
  1. With respect to the proposal to allow charter operators to become the employer of the teachers and paraprofessionals in their charter (instead of BCPSS being the employer):
  • Would you opt to make the operator the employer at the next renewal?
  • If yes, what protections, salary levels and benefits would you anticipate maintaining from the current union contract?  What would you change?

Parallel Questions for Traditional School Principals

  1. What are the main frustrations that you experience as the principal of a traditional Baltimore City Public School?
  1. Are there freedoms/flexibilities that charter schools currently have that you would also like in your school?