Thursday, June 10, 2010

SFGate: Teacher layoffs undermine school reforms

This from today's SFGate:

E.R. Taylor Elementary's third-graders worry that McClaren Park's weeds will go wild because of unexpected rain. These park stewards take their responsibilities seriously.

Virginia Dold, Taylor's principal for nine years, worries too, but not about weeds. Most of San Francisco's second-largest elementary school's third-graders won't become park stewards next year. Their beloved science teacher - and one of two remaining reading-recovery specialists who'd made half the Latino students proficient readers - was laid off.

Stability drove the success of Dold's school. "I have an incredible staff," Dold says. "My teachers don't leave, unless they retire or move." On her watch, E.R. Taylor Elementary became a National Blue Ribbon School, one of just 25 in California, and one of 300 in the United States. How? Dold led her entire faculty to collaborate to catch struggling readers early. Three reading-recovery specialists ran 120 intense, daily half-hour lessons for every struggling first-grade reader.

"Six years ago," Dold recalls, "just 17 percent of our Latino students were proficient readers. Now 50 percent are. It won't stop there."

Or will it? Ask the state Legislature, as Dold and her Blue Ribbon teachers debate restoring a reading recovery teacher - by sacrificing their only tech teacher.

"We know how to do it," says Dold, one of the UC Berkeley Principal Leadership Institute's first graduates, as she describes turning struggling Latino students into English readers. "We just need the resources."

Their reward for such inspiring results? The last bilingual paraprofessional? Gone. After-school staff? Cut. A popular upper-grade teacher with a pink slip says, "I can't wait any longer. I need to pay my mortgage." This year's cuts could top the past nine.

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