A day in the life of an inner-city middle school principal

April 14, 2011 | By | Reply More

Ever wonder what it is really like to run a public middle school in the inner city. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times has writtenan excellent account of the job of Ramon Gonzalez, principal of a public middle school in the South Bronx.

In certain respects, 223 is a monument to Klein’s success: empower the right principals to run their own schools and watch them bloom. Thanks to Klein, González has been able to avoid having teachers foisted on him on the basis of seniority. He has been able to create his own curriculums, micromanage his students’ days (within the narrow confines of the teachers’ union contract, anyway) and spend his annual budget of $4 million on the personnel, programs and materials he deems most likely to help his kids.

And yet even as school reform made it possible for González to succeed, as the movement rolls inexorably forward, it also seems in many ways set up to make him fail. The grading system imposed by Klein that has bestowed three consecutive A’s on González is based in part on how well 223 does on state tests. But the school’s relative success on these tests and other measures also disqualifies him from additional state resources earmarked for failing schools. The ever-growing number of charter schools, often privately subsidized and rarely bound by union rules, that Klein unleashed on the city skims off the neighborhood’s more ambitious, motivated families. And every year, as failing schools are shut down around González, a steady stream of children with poor intellectual habits and little family support continues to arrive at 223. González wouldn’t want it any other way — he takes pride in his school’s duty to educate all comers — but the endless flow of underperforming students drags down test scores, demoralizes teachers and makes the already daunting challenge of transforming 223 into a successful school, not just a relatively successful one, that much more difficult.

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Category: Education

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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