Milty Goes to Connecticut

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 14 2012

Ladies, Gentlemen, Board Members, Thank You for Letting Me Speak Tonight

Last night I gave testimony at our school’s charter renewal hearing. Some sub-committee on charters from the state department of education is trying to decide if they will allow us to keep operating. It’s maybe not as dire as it sounds; they will almost certainly renew the charter. It is now a question of the term for which they will renew. We are asking for five years instead of three. This may not seem all that significant; what is two years really in the grand scheme of things? But consider all the time spent on renewing the charter: every three years, all involved parties have to amass an incredible amount of evidence, give tours, sit in meetings all to convince the same people they convinced three years ago that they should do this again sometime.

I think of it as being the difference between being a Senator and being a Representative. Either could be completely ineffective and accomplish nothing, but a representative probably spends half of her term campaigning for re-election, whereas a senator has a few good years to just act without the pressure of making love to the constituency. Likewise, with a 5-year renewal on the charter, we could spend time with our true love, the school, instead of being forced to charm the board members. I am sure they are lovely people, but most people got into education to teach.

So here it is Р the (mostly accurate) text of my statement to the board at the charter renewal hearing:

“As you can see, I will be brief [holds up 3 x 5 inch index card]. Ladies, gentlemen, good evening, and thank you for letting me speak tonight. My name is [redacted], and I’m the special services coordinator at [redacted] High School. I’m here tonight to speak to you about the gap within the achievement gap: special education.

When I talk to my teacher friends, a lot of them say, “well, if I had your¬†students ….” implying that there’s something magical about [redacted] students. Well, I do have my students, and here are some of their successes.

One of my students who has profound bilateral hearing loss outscored the school average for non-disabled peers on the algebra I district assessment.

Another one of my students diagnosed with ADHD outscored the school average for IAs 1 and 2 in history.

Two students this year had their labels removed or changed: one student no longer showed signs of a specific learning disability in math. The other student had her label changed from intellectual disability to specific learning disability, meaning that her combined IQ was no longer below 70 because of the incredible progress she has made. We know that minorities are often over-represented in special educations, and we’re trying to do our part to remedy that.

So, that’s why I’m asking you to renew our charter for a further 5 years. We will teach anyone who comes through our doors because we believe that success is not just for the wealthiest or the smartest. We are a school for all students. Thank you.”

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