Thursday, January 31, 2008

Perspective on Chesapeake Science Point

Last week's post on Chesapeake Science Point (CSP), a County charter school, drew this thoughtful response from a reader close to the issue:

It has indeed been a tough month at the Chesapeake Science School. The administration and teachers are spread too thin while they deal with students whose behavior more closely resembles characters from the Lord of the Flies than what you would expect from students who attain high test scores. The school has lost their principal and one of the most important teachers they had. Anne Arundel County certainly has put this school under a larger microscope than that used on any other school but I do not believe it is a fair portrayal to cast AACPS as the wicked step-mother and CSP as the Cinderella.

The reason that these students score so highly is not out of any particular innate intelligence but is a result of the extreme dedication and willingness to work far beyond reasonable expectations of some of the teachers and administration. Free tutoring has been offered on weekends, after school, into the evenings, and even during overnight "sleep overs" held in the school. Teachers are encouraged to give more than they can possibly ever get back - and many of the folks working at CSP have done so willingly. Not all teachers have been willing to work to this point, preferring to do their job well and leave it at that.

Another problem that has contributed to some teacher burnout as well as to the current increase in unacceptable student behavior has been the lack of a serious disciplinary policy at the administrative level. Thus, the irony of Mr. Kandil being removed for "punishing" a student with push ups. This lack of a serious disciplinary program can also be viewed as a plus as it has allowed many students to stay in school after committing acts that would surely have spelled expulsion at most other schools.

Many of the students are generally disrespectful to the same teachers who work so hard for them. While it is wonderful to see that parents showed up to support the school - and the teachers love each and every one of them, missing were the large number of parents who believe that every failure and behavioral issue is the fault of the teachers and the school. If you are a parent and do not want to instill morals, manners and work habits into your student - CSP is the best chance your child has, because of teacher dedication. Of course, the concerned parents are giving their children the best of both worlds.

Now, teachers are working longer, and recently, harder hours than they are at other county schools. CSP has known for years now that they needed to hire a certified special education teacher yet they stopped looking this year after hiring a provisional teacher who had literally no training in special ed but did have a bachelor's degree in psychology. Is this an issue that can be compromised on? No - it is a federally mandated situation that AACPS is ultimately responsible for. Has the lack of a well-trained special education teacher put more stress on the teachers in the classroom who have had to modify lesson plans on their own while trying their best to meet the needs of the special education population? Yes, of course. The teachers were all told that everything was under control regarding their responsibility to convince the auditors that they are a school that can run just fine by themselves, thank you. To find out that something as obvious as the need for a certified, knowledgeable special education teacher was not being actively pursued is negatively impacting members of the faculty who feel misled. As to the question of facilities one must be aware that some of the classrooms at CSP are far too small to accomodate the 22 students that are crammed into them already. The school is currently physically pushed as far as it can possibly go. The desire to add a grade each year means that the need for a new facility has been on the board for quite a while. This is not a new issue.

Is Anne Arundel County Public School system one rife with many rude and inefficient staff members? Yes, Are they out of bounds in giving this school one month to get their ducks in a row on issues that have long been clear to both parties? No way.

When you consider that the school is now being run by administrators and teachers who have no idea if they have a job next year, that student behavior has taken a clear and dramatic downturn which must be dealt with by these teachers, that some parents who have anxiety are taking it out on their favorite targets - the teachers - and that these are all unnecessary results of poor planning on the parts of the CSP board and principal one can begin to understand why the county is actually doing the right thing here.

CSP has great potential. It also has many serious problems that must be addressed to help this school reach that potential. That AACPS has already poured more than a fair share of money, time, and energy into helping this school get it together is being ignored when everyone cries foul. This story goes far beneath what looks to be a pretty surface, and I have not seen anyone with a shovel yet. It is time for those of us with an alternative seat at this circus to speak our truths.



At 7:59 PM, Blogger cjskama said...

Wow, this post is long out of date. CSP has moved to a new building, the standardized test scores rank CSP one of the very top schools in the entire state of Maryland, and the waiting list for admission is longer than ever.


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