Getting results at a high-poverty school

March 3

Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit that aims to improve schools by addressing the effects of poverty both inside and outside the classroom, is working with five DCPS schools this year. The goal is a calmer environment where learning can take place. So far the results look promising.

In the first part of this post, we looked at how Turnaround for Children (TFC) partners with a school for three to five years, bringing in a team that helps coordinate social services for kids who need them and providing the staff with techniques that create order, foster social skills and promote learning for the school population as a whole. (Disclosure: I have contributed financially to TFC.)

At Walker-Jones Education Campus, a high-poverty school near North Capitol Street in Ward 6, TFC is in its first year of a partnership. Michael Moss is the 13th principal in the past 10 years, and when he arrived the school had about 450 suspensions per year, the highest rate for any DCPS school below the high school level.

On one recent school day, the TFC instructional coach at Walker-Jones, Charlie Crabtree, led a small group of teachers through a new classroom technique: Students are given cards with questions and answers about whatever material the class is studying. They then find partners to quiz, trade their cards and find more partners.

If a student’s partner doesn’t get the correct answer right away, she provides some coaching and then some praise. The exercise gets students to interact with each other in positive ways, something that doesn’t always come naturally to them, and reinforces their self-esteem. At the same time, it provides a way for students to review what they’ve been learning.

Principal Moss says his teachers have embraced TFC techniques, even though the program requires them to attend meetings that intrude on their planning time. And while he says the difference that TFC has made is “nothing you can quantify” and more of just “an overall feel in the building,” he also says that suspensions have gone down to perhaps 50 so far this year. “And we haven’t had a fight in weeks,” he says.

Those results seem fairly typical. A 2009 study of 5 TFC middle schools in New York found that incidents reported to the police decreased by 51 percent and suspensions by 32 percent. Overall, the schools had become calmer, happier places, the study said.

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler's post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education and a member of the board of the D.C. Scholars Public Charter School. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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