David Weinraub
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Author's Plan

For countless years, I've had to deal with the politics and lack of courage of school administrators and school board members. I don't know how else to say it, but in the big cities, everything but common sense seems to influence a final decision. My frustration, of course, has led to the writing of the three books and below, I'd like to present one quick overview of how we could go about finding that missing common sense.

David Weinraub

A Plan to Help our Schools

As documented by the Philadelphia Inquirer series, "Assault on Learning," (Published in the spring of 2011) many neighborhood high schools operate in a never ending state of turmoil. (A neighborhood high school is one that takes all students within its boundaries. It's not an academic, magnet, vocational or charter school.) This is true not only in Philadelphia, but in neighborhood high schools across the nation. In addition, less than half of these students graduate and approximately eighty percent of eleventh grade, neighborhood high school students are significantly behind in basic skills. Complicating the situation even further, over half of the school age students in the US, now come from single-parent families.

We must accept a simple truth. We've never been effective in educating, poverty stricken, inner-city youth, coming from single parent families. It is what it is. We need a new plan.

Step One: Separate the boys and girls

It has to start here. Study after study shows girls mature faster and learn quicker. Boys and girls brains develop differently and remain different. The boys need a more varied and physically active, elementary classroom strategy. Further, both girls and boys will more readily participate in classroom activities, if the opposite sex isn't around.

Then there's the discipline. Ask any teacher or principal. The vast majority of discipline incidents are, in one way or another, instigated or complicated by complex boy/girl relationships and the inherent need to show-off. If we know this, why do we keep doing what we're doing? We can separate the sexes in the same school.

Step Two: Establish local neighborhood, K-8 elementary schools and eliminate middle schools

Here's what we now do. We send youngsters to an elementary school in their immediate neighborhood, until sixth grade. Then, we send youngsters from four or more neighborhoods, to a large middle school which usually houses approximately six to eight hundred students. So, at their most volatile age, we house students in grades six to eight, in a large building away from their immediate neighborhood, where teachers and principals know every family member.

Comb the statistics. The sharpest decline in learning happens in neighborhood, middle schools. By the time many students get to high school, the ball game is already half over.

Step Three: Establish Intermediate High Schools for grades nine and ten

Taking the now vacant middle schools, we bring the ninth and tenth grades together for intensive basic skills work at the intermediate high school. The bulk of the school day will be spent on getting the student's basic skills to a level which will enable the student to be successful in senior high school. If the student cannot reach this level, the student does not go to senior high, (s)he goes to an alternative school (see below).

Step Four: Establish Senior High Schools for grades eleven and twelve

Now, we have students in senior high schools with appropriate basic skills. They can function at a high enough level to absorb all the academic subjects necessary to become a true, high school graduate. Gone will be most of the hall walkers and trouble makers whose only reason to come to school, when they do come to school, is to make mischief.

Step Five: Alternative High Schools

When a student is assigned to an alternative school, it doesn't mean their chance to complete a high school education is over. There, an entirely new educational path will help the student earn a General Equivalency Degree (GED), and perhaps, transition back to senior high.

Step Six: Discipline and the Late School

Currently, one of the biggest problems in dispersing discipline is, that after a suspension, no matter how abusive and violent the student's action may have been, the student returns to his same school, class and teacher. It is devastating and demoralizing, to the principal, the teacher, and the other students.

Therefore, every school in the system will have a "Late School." The Late School is an out-of-school suspension class that begins after the last lunch period and ends at approximately 4:30 PM. The assigned students have no interaction with students attending regular school. The suspended student's work is sent down by their regular teachers and they stay in one room.

Students will be assigned to the Late School in increments of five days. Five days for the first occurrence, ten for the second, and fifteen for the third. If there is a third occurrence, the student will be sent to an alternative school or expelled. This eliminates the ridiculous procedure of transferring trouble makers from school to school.

I have presented, in broad strokes, an overview of a new structure. There is much detail to be explained, especially regarding an entirely new approach to instructional strategies. But, this new structure keeps elementary schools at a reasonable size, and sharply reduces the size of the senior high schools, with the establishment of intermediate high schools. It's an overview of a concept that deserves a trial, perhaps in one section of the city. Because, what we're currently doing, hasn't ever worked.

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