No one wants their school tagged with the embarrassing label of “underperforming.” Several schools are struggling with that very public rebuke after the state Department of Education issued its evaluations last year.
Galveston Elementary School, the only school in the Chandler Unified School District to receive an underperforming rating, offers an interesting and instructive look at contrasting responses — and which response likely will prove most constructive.
Under state law, an underperforming school must create an improvement plan and raise test scores or face a state takeover. As Tribune education writer Beth Lucas reported on Tuesday, Gina Vukovich, Galveston's principal, has wasted no time. Faced with a large Spanish-speaking student population, Vukovich has made reading instruction and parent involvement top priorities at her school.
“We need to move past a large barrier that sometimes exists between the community and staff at the school,” says Vukovich. “That's the language barrier. We invite parents to come work with us.”
To encourage that involvement, Vukovich has launched evening English-instruction classes for parents. Parents and teachers told Lucas they're pleased with the efforts and have high hopes they'll pay off for their kids.
Contrast that with comments by Chandler school board member Karen Clark that question the school-accountability process and the need for urgency and action:
“You should know that your children are not low,” Clark told parents during a recent meeting. “Your children are precious and brilliant. Your children are every bit as good as other children in the district; teachers are some of the best. This is all about politics.”
Yes, every child is precious. And that is precisely why the public has demanded — and finally gotten — a system of accountability for its public education system. Step 1 is finding problem areas, and that occurred when the school ratings were released in October.
Step 2 is to develop a realistic, effective action plan, which Vukovich has done. Step 3 is implementing it throughout the school community, and holding students, teachers and parents accountable for results; that, too, appears to be taking place.
School reform is a work in progress and thus is open to constructive criticism. But those who, like Clark, disparage the process itself, are doing our precious children no favors.