That clashes with the gentler take on school reform that San Diego Unified has put to the test at Burbank, one that has steered clear of showdowns with the teachers union.
Helping Weakest Students Could Cost This School
Jul 20, 2011
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
The last bell had rung at Burbank Elementary. But the math problem still sat stubbornly on the screen before the handful of third graders who lingered with teacher Fred Montes on a hot afternoon.
The children stared up at the numbers under a whirring ceiling fan. Montes coaxed them through long division, step by step. Then the kids tried the next problem alone, scribbling on little white boards on their laps.
"Ready?" Montes asked before they went over the problem.
"To go home?" one boy asked.
"It's 3:03. We're not going home yet!" Montes exclaimed.
This is one way that Burbank is trying to turn around years of sagging test scores: Montes and other teachers choose to stick around and tutor kids who faltered on state tests. The Logan Heights school pays for the extra hours with a windfall of federal money meant to overhaul the very worst schools. It is slated to get $4 million over three years and already was awarded more than $1.1 million this year.
Now that treasured money could be in jeopardy — and all because Burbank focused on its weakest students. To extend the day, the school tutored struggling students after school. It also served up extra lessons for them during breaks. Teachers could volunteer to work more hours for more money.
But the feds say schools were supposed to add more school time for all children, not just some of them. Giving students more time to absorb lessons is a big push for the Obama administration, which has touted longer school days and a longer school year to help youngsters in the United States compete with China and India. California has warned schools like Burbank they must change their ways or lose the money.
That is stirring up confusion across California and at Burbank here in San Diego. The most obvious way to make sure all students get more time is to lengthen the school day and make all teachers stay there longer. Public schools cannot do that unless they square off with their teachers union over work rules.
That clashes with the gentler take on school reform that San Diego Unified has put to the test at Burbank, one that has steered clear of showdowns with the teachers union. And teachers aren't even sure that a longer day would be better for all kids, instead of just the ones who need the most help.
Last year California branded Burbank as a persistently failing school, one of only six called out in San Diego County...