By Mary C. Tillotson | Watchdog.org
Pascual Rodriguez said he won’t hire teachers who feel sorry for the low-income, often Hispanic students his school serves.
“Don’t come in with a passive attitude, ‘I feel sorry because you’re Latino and you’re impoverished,’” he said. “I want teachers not because they feel sorry and want to give back to the community, but because they know our kids can learn just like any other demographic in the state.”
Bruce Guadalupe Community School, an independent charter school in Milwaukee, serves students from age 3 to eighth grade. The school is 97 percent Latino and 80 percent of the students’ families meet low-income requirements for free and reduced-price lunch. Though the school is not bilingual, many of the students enter speaking little or no English.
Yet the students’ test scores are competitive with wealthier schools that don’t need to teach their students English, Rodriguez said.
“Black, white, green, yellow — I’m going to treat you like you’re the smartest individual and you can learn, and I’m going to set those expectations high,” he said.
In a typical year, Bruce Guadalupe receives about 200 applications for only 30 seats in K-3, or kindergarten for 3-year-olds, and 100 to 150 applications for just 40 seats in K-4. Applicants are chosen by lottery, and any students applying later than age four have chances of “slim to none” of being accepted, Rodriguez said.
The school is planning to expand in the next few years to accommodate more students.
High expectations and a student-focused approach keep the school running and get the kids educated, he said. Teachers and administrators aren’t afraid to upset the status quo if it isn’t working.
When teachers and administrators noticed their sixth-graders had limited science skills, for example, they built a science lab for elementary students. Science scores rose, and sixth-grade science teachers could begin the year teaching at a higher level than they had been.
Students and classes have peaks and valleys in performance, he said, and sometimes all it takes is some tweaks in how the material is presented. But other times, as with the science lab, more dramatic measures are needed.
“We don’t just change on a whim,” Rodriguez said. “If it doesn’t work one year, well, let’s uncover every stone and see what went wrong.”
Since teachers spend the most time directly with the students, he makes a point to listen to them and understand their concerns before making decisions.
“I’m the lead principal here. My job is to hire people smarter than me,” he said.
For years, the school taught students one grade level ahead in math, and the system was working well.
But recently, “we were noticing that the kids aren’t getting it. The teachers were wondering, ‘What’s going on?’” Rodriguez said. “So we decided we need to go back to grade level, and it’s made a difference. Our first graders are first-grade material; our K-5s aren’t.”
It took humility, but the students’ needs took priority, Rodriguez said.
“It sounds real nice and fancy to say, ‘We teach our kids one level ahead,’ but in our circumstances, we were doing our kids an injustice,” he said.
Rodriguez has no illusions that poverty doesn’t impact students’ academics, but he refuses to lower expectations because of it.
“Poverty does have an impact. A child goes home that doesn’t have access to a computer, that is in front of TV because the parents are working — that just means we have to work a little harder and provide more services after school,” he said. “If we do that, they will perform.”
“We don’t buy the excuse that they’re poor. That’s just some other districts’ excuse to explain their test scores.”
Contact Mary C. Tillotson at email@example.com.
- Arizona mom won’t give up on special needs kids, no matter what state says
- Reviving a 1970s lawsuit, DOJ would keep black students in failing schools
- Relocating sexually abusive teachers would be more difficult under Pennsylvania bill
- DOJ backpedals on Louisiana voucher lawsuit
- Court says charter schools won’t pay for Atlanta’s pension debts
- Biggest education impact from shutdown? Furloughed bureaucrats
- Appeals court upholds Arizona school choice program
- Indiana’s voucher program expands; diversity a factor in one family’s choice of school
- ‘Vouchers don’t do much good for students’ claim is false
- NYC mayor’s race could affect school choice
- Vermont public school goes independent, raises ire from state bureaucracy
- Arizona education savings accounts aren’t vouchers, study says
- Legal institute fights Alabama union’s attempt to repeal school tax credit
- Experts: School choice improves education in public schools
- SC school-choice program helps special needs kids, could expand
- DOJ wants Louisiana parents out of voucher lawsuit
- U.S. House passes bill to prevent ‘passing the trash’
- ‘Non-traditional’ journalists barred from viewing tax-funded test results early
- New center hopes to help charter schools help kids with special needs
- Charter school advocate to Philadelphia schools: Listen to parents
- $45 million not enough for Philadelphia teachers’ union
- Study: Rhode Islanders support school choice
- Study: Choice would help failing Chicago schools
- Scholarships could lift SC school dedicated to real-life, hands-on learning
- Parents make good school choices, study says
- Divisive charter school reform bill headed toward vote in PA
- In Louisiana school voucher lawsuit, DOJ changes gears
- Opponents sue Washington to overturn charter school law
- School choice proponents’ challenge? Educating parents
- Judge: Federal oversight may not hamper school voucher program
- PA lawmakers push to amend tight teacher furlough policies
- College ready: A Milwaukee inner-city school success story
- Proposed economic furloughs could slay sacred cow of seniority in Pennsylvania schools
- What is Massachusetts doing right?
- Goldwater to appeal Louisiana school voucher decision
- Want to end poverty? Educate the kids
- Breakdown in Philly schools not only about the money
- North Carolina scholarship program on firm legal footing, attorney argues
- Philadelphia school district threatens charters
- Belief in student ability key to success at Milwaukee charter school
- Three things to know about Philadelphia’s school budget: Debt, pensions and safety
- Choosing to sue: Here’s a look at some 2013 lawsuits involving school choice
- Philly charter schools outperform district counterparts
- California students sue state over ineffective teachers
- Study: Public supports parent choice in education
- Under new management, Philly Renaissance Schools show growth
- New Orleans tops school choice index
- AZ to consider four school-choice expansion bills
- Florida family ‘blessed’ to be apart of scholarship program
- PA lawmakers put education at top of agenda in election year
- Louisiana: Feds ‘more interested in skin color than … education’
- Charter school for Philadelphia foster children will not be renewed
- Governor ties proposed PA education funding to targeted grants
- WA’s first charter school serves children, families of ‘extreme poverty’
- Vermont attempts to take independence from independent schools
- Philly stumbles on way to simplifying enrollment system
- Plan for Philly schools keeps charters in check
- Missouri ballot initiative would increase funding for public, private schools
- New York charter school focuses on family, community
- NC school vouchers on hold
- WI voucher bill would help special needs students denied open enrollment
- Philadelphia schools will end another year in red
- PA universities expect state, students to pick up tab on rising tuition
- Two ESA bills get House support in AZ
- Thousands rally to support New York charter schools
- California’s defense begins in Vergara trial
- Accountability or overregulation? Charter supporters split over Minnesota bill
- PA considers empowering universities to authorize charter schools
- Bill would make Florida students eligible for scholarships
- To test or not to test? Florida school choice proponents split
- Philly school district broke, but the pay is good
- Philadelphia charter school sues public school district
- Colorado Supreme Court to hear school voucher case
- Vermont to reconsider education funding formula
- Arizona Supreme Court allows school choice program to stand
- Massachusetts charter school bill revived
- Quality schools matter more than racial integration, black leaders say
- FL again takes up school-choice bill
- Choice Media’s videocast tackles host of education issues
- Ending teacher seniority rules beyond Philly requires legislative action
- New website helps Detroit parents choose schools
- Philly schools caught on funding merry-go-round
- Louisiana bill would coordinate school choice programs
- New D.C. charter school lottery eases but doesn’t eliminate waiting lists
- Federal bill attempts to help replicate high-quality state charter schools
- Philadelphia schools awaiting taxes from city, state
- ACLU alleges discrimination in 138 NJ districts
- MN anti-bullying bill could have unintended consequences
- Mississippi’s special needs bill to return next year
- Illinois considers three-year ban on virtual charter schools
- Violent Philly high school source of worry
- Auditors examining troubled Philadelphia school district
- Civil liberties organization sues to overturn anti-bullying law
- Legal conflict over teacher seniority in Philly heats up
- Academics, culture help mom choose private school
- PA cyber charter schools could be funded by state, not districts
- Arizona expands school choice program
- The sticky statistic of statewide charter school performance in PA
- Louisiana offers new vocational technical program
- Benefits are driving high personnel costs in Philadelphia schools
- Educators look to grow with expanding Hispanic demographic
- Philadelphia flexes muscle over charter schools
- Philly school district facing another bleak budget
- Andre Agassi dedicates Indianapolis charter school
- For PA and neighboring states, school spending and graduation rates don’t add up
- At long last, PA school buses could be getting a boost
- Arizona charter schools need funding fix, proponents say
- Progress reports for Philadelphia schools show uneven achievement
- Teachers union opposes ‘Bad Teachers’
- Governor’s plans to boost education funding falls short
- Georgia’s school-choice program draws legal challenge
- Missouri parents want more choice in education
- U.S. lawmakers to consider charter school bill
- Florida’s school choice expansion awaits governor’s signature
- PA charter schools may see drop in funding with new special education formula
- In Nevada, your child’s school records could cost $10K
- AG, lawmakers propose similar updates to PA charter school rules
- NC school voucher program gets temporary green light
- Philly school district’s lack of transparency frustrates families
- Bullying motivates many parents to home-school, attorney says
- Philadelphia City Council gambles to fund schools
- PA Supreme Court pushes forward charter school’s lawsuit against Philly
- Feds consider joining school choice game
- Florida’s new school choice law likely to spark others
- California teacher reform lawsuit sparks copycat, more likely to come
- School choice is popular — when parents know about it
- What can private schools learn from charters?