Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Schools...... They are Changing...

Texas has sheltered the lions share of the Hurricane Katrina Evacuees, with Houston, Dallas and San Antonio picking up the majority.

The storms have moved on , the shelters are closing and back in New Orleans the 9th Ward is still uninhabitable. FEMA is giving out housing vouchers. Needless to say, apartments with 4 figure rents and 100% occupancy aren't interested so they are being dispersed into the poorer parts of city. From poverty to poverty.

Our attendance zone includes one such complex. And we're getting Katrina Evacuees at the rate of 3 & 4 a day. So far we have 20, and more are expected. It's playing havoc with our demographics.

We'd always heard the New Orleans public schools were in deplorable condition and that anyone who could opted out for private school. The children we're enrolling come from homes were there wasn't the drive, the initiative or the inner resources to accept anything but the mediocre education that was doled out. And mediocre it was. Every student has been at least 1 and often 2 or 3 years below grade level. Flunking appears to be only remedial intervention offered. We now have 5th graders (normally 10 going on 11) who are 12 going on 13. One showed up last week who just turned 13. We've a 2nd grader who is 9 going on 10. The first graders have been retained only once, but hey, it's early in their school career.

The children come with baggage that would be daunting without the complications of a major hurricane - poverty, 4 generation welfare mentality, emotional problems, fathers in jail, grandmothers serving as mothers, multiple step stair siblings with multiple fathers, prenatal drug exposure and every learning disability in the books.

And there in lies the real problem. These children need so many resource teachers, so many intervention specialists, so much diagnostic testing and so much counseling. And there isn't anyone to do it. Our resource and special ed teachers can barely keep up with their current students, our counselor hasn't enough hours in her day for her standard caseload and it takes weeks to get a child tested so he/she can receive services.

Our scenario is being played out in many schools throughout Texas. No funding appears to be forthcoming. Despite No Child Left Behind, many, many of these children are so behind that they can't even reach the starting line, much less finish the high stakes test race we call education.

When it comes to Iraq, No Cannons are being left behind but when it comes to education many children certainly are.


Julie said...

Ugh. My husband has an evacuee in one of his classes, way up here in Michigan. She seems to be doing okay, so far.

Melissa said...

I was wondering how things were going in the trenches. I'm sure it's much the same here in Dallas. Yikes!

Kathy of the HavinsNest said...

Arlington ISD has been receiving hurricane students since the first week in September. Our school has over 100.

I am amazed at how many cannot read their own names when they go to pull out their tardy card. On the other hand, I have met several kids who are thrilled to be in our AP classes and being challenged.

It is the failure of an entire education system. AND now we are making them take TAKS to graduate. Last week was a TAKS make up testing week for seniors who still need to pass. The list of Louisianna students taking the test took up a whole page.

Julie in GA said...

We're seeing the same thing here in metro Atlanta. The children we've gotten are desperately low and need our support but I'd be less than honest if I didn't say there is a small, hard part in our hearts as teachers that resents the new influx of children. The accountability criteria remains the same but the needs of the children who are not supposed to be left behind grow exponentially.

GuusjeM said...

I know what you mean about the sinking feeling - we are supposed to welcome all children, but everyone gives a silent collective groan when yet another child enrolls. We got 4 more today, including a second grader who has no concept of print and a 3rd grader who reads on first grade level. Makes you wonder if the New Orleans Public schools were exempt from NCLB.

Library Lady said...

These are the same sort of kids who live down the block from my library. The schools they attend have largely been deserted by the affluent white families who either put their kids in private schools or move to McMansions in the lily white suburbs. There is some movement to improve the schools, but a lot of these kids are lost already, and it really depresses me.

(And needless to say, these kids don't use the library, except as a source for the Internet. Really, really depressing...)

Anonymous said...

We have a somewhat similar situation here in Florida schools -- not so much with New Orleans evacuees, but with a Spanish speaking immigrant population that is growing at a staggering rate.

I teach a 3rd grade sheltered English class. Most of my students' families arrived from Puerto Rico, South America,
Cuba and Mexico within the past year or two. While they are mostly a very bright (and exceptionally well behaved) group, I'm dealing with a group whose reading levels range from first grade to fifth grade.

Which is daunting!!

I'm scrambling frantically to learn the art of differentiated instruction, in order to teach everyone the same concept but allow them to practice it with activities at their appropriate levels. But as a relatively new teacher, this isn't easy...

Fortunately my particular school offers a wealth of support and I have the tools I need to help my students. The question is whether I can rise to the challenge.

I can't imagine how difficult it must be for teachers at schools that weren't prepared for this sudden influx of students. Good luck...!

: )

Vanessa said...

No Child Left Behind certainly seems like a myth. Well-said post.

alice, uptown said...

I think the powers-that-be should have been more specific when they came up with the notion of No Chid Left Behind. Behind where, is what we should be asking. An abandoned shed? A putting green? Maybe -- ha! -- we'll get lucky and this whole evacuee education mess will get people to focus on the truth -- our schools are abysmal (Public schools in NYC have an astoundingly high drop out rate), and no one's putting any money behind anything except militia for Iraq, and whatever wars we're funding that the Feds won't identify. Teachers are woefully undervalued and underpaid in our society, and unfortunately I don't think the shrub's administration is going to do a damn thing about it. For one thing, the shrub would have to learn how to read, analyze and identify the problems -- and you know that's not going to happen.

Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

Your last short paragraph summed this up well. Thank you for your contribution to education, especially in times like these.
I changed careers a while back from being in the school system, altough I still teach art and writing, but I still remember the school system.

These times now require much more than book learning. I know you'll impart that and already have along with tons of other good and caring educators.

Mamacita said...

Wow. Just, wow. I know you'll do your best but, wow.

Please let me know if there's anything I do can.

Pigs said...

Wow...terrific post. I see it in the Dallas area too. We had many evacuees early on from the local shelters, but they have since filtered into other schools and districts - going where their vouchers could afford. It's sad to see so many schools inundated with so many children with such daunting problems. Our schools were staffed and financially supported based on a number of children before the hurricane(s) happened. Now? I can't even imagine being in one of those schools, yet I feel guilty that I'm not. Is that weird? One of the things I hate most about my school (as you know!) is the "spoiled" mentality. ARGH! The evacuee situation just rubs it in even worse.