Western is an incredible place to work!
In a state with the biggest achievement gap in the nation, Westerns space surpassed the state average. If we truly believed that education is the response, then we had to ask ourselves if we were providing an equal chance for ALL of our students. Presently, depending on the content area, minority students make up between 38-44% of the population in our advanced classes. Over the last a number of years we just increased the number of innovative areas provided, providing a greater opportunity for ALL trainees to be exposed to a sped up curriculum.
Submitted by Gordon Beinstein, Principal of Western Middle School
In a time when everyones talk about the subject of race are dissected, critiqued, analyzed, and after that judged as laudable, deserving, tone-deaf, insincere, or something else, I am expecting this piece will elicit actions across the political spectrum.
If all that results from this current awakening is that we have changed the name of a sports group, a military base, or a street, then this movement will have fallen woefully short of its pledge.
Western Middle School is not the school the majority of people think of when they think about the town of Greenwich, Connecticut. We pull from a wide variety of feeder schools, a few of which are over 70% non-white, and likewise from those whose concept of a minority is a brunette. Demographically, Western is about half Caucasian. Most of our minority population is Latino, with a strong percentage of African Americans, Asians, and numerous other races and ethnic backgrounds. Financially, almost half of our students certify for totally free or lowered lunch, we have a big middle-class population, and others are amongst the one-percenters. These kids discover, play, and consume side by side. Is it Nirvana? No. When pre-adolescent students from such varied financial and ethnic backgrounds come together, there is bound to be some discord. We are talking about middle school kids who, if you have any hanging around your house, you know can be periodically senseless. The charm for those of us who work in middle school is the chance to turn these misplaced comments and actions into teachable moments. It is from these conversations that lack of knowledge and indifference can rely on understanding and compassion. Western is an unbelievable location to work!
When I took the helm 7 years ago, with few exceptions, you might identify the level of our classes by the skin color of the trainees sitting in them. Our standardized test ratings shown that inconsistency. In a state with the best accomplishment gap in the nation, Westerns space surpassed the state average. Were we part of the service or the issue? Many of us who select to enter this occupation do so since we wish to make a distinction. If we truly thought that education is the answer, then we needed to ask ourselves if we were providing a level playing field for ALL of our trainees. Even though kids were in the very same structure, they were not attending the very same school. The academic expectations and opportunities were unequal. It was our ethical obligation to correct this..
Addressing this inconsistency ended up being one of our leading concerns, and when I say “our” I mean the entire staff, by taking a number of useful and real steps. We analyzed and then raised the level of rigor in ALL of our classes regardless of class track. High expectations for ALL ended up being the norm. Our trainees were going to the exact same high school as those on the other side of town. They had to be prepared. We would not allow a childs home life to form our expectations. Rather, we would work to understand what the house might and could not fill the void and provide as best we could. No longer would we accept a childs first, worst effort as his/her last product. The effect for doing poorly on a test or project would not just be a low grade; it would be the chance to redo the work. Opting out of knowing was not an alternative. Next, we reviewed evictions that were keeping kids out of the sophisticated classes. Numerous kids who were previously seen as unable or not ready, we rose anyway while offering the support during and after the school day they required to meet success. We also embraced the motto “in loco parentis,” Latin for “in place of the parent.” When moms and dads didnt feel comfy promoting for their kids due to language or cultural barriers, our staff took this on, advancing children when appropriate. This “adult” role continued on through the high school positioning process..
Programmatically, we adopted the AVID program. AVID stands for Advancement via Individual Determination. The idea stemmed in California as a program to help kids in the academic middle who were in a group usually underrepresented on college campuses (African American, Latino, English Language Learners, low income, foster kids, and so on) to end up being the very first in their household to participate in college by methodically teaching them how to “do school,” developing the abilities required to be successful in school and beyond. At Western, we run the AVID optional program which is particularly created to fulfill the requirements of those trainees at Western who fulfill a few of those criteria. We also are now an AVID magnet school, taking those very same college-ready and executive functioning skills and teaching them to ALL Western trainees regardless of background. We engaged the parents … in their own language and at times that work for them. I remember the very first time we ran a multilingual tech workshop for our Latino families to help them discover to access the tech platforms their kids would be using. We had 70 parents show up at 7:00 in the morning. I absolutely ignored the donuts!. Currently, depending on the content location, minority trainees make up in between 38-44% of the population in our innovative classes. It is important to note that we didnt reject certain groups of children access to attain this balance. Over the last several years we merely increased the number of innovative sections used, offering a greater chance for ALL students to be exposed to a sped up curriculum.
I am likewise not so ignorant to think that a college degree or a great job eliminates bias, but they do open doors.
Gordon BeinsteinPrincipalWestern Middle School #Westsidebestside.
This material was initially released here.