Successful schools rely on student population

A recent editorial posited the need for more and better testing and teacher evaluation. I am sure that this is a completely wrong approach. Testing and teacher evaluation will not improve schools. Successful schools depend on student population.

A given classroom can withstand one enrolled pupil who has trouble behaving. Adding more disruptive or violent students leads to an increasingly intolerable situation. Similarly, the number of non-learners present has a tipping point. Teachers will instinctively strive to help students with learning problems. In the process, the pace of the class slows and less is taught.

The concerned public has long known how to combat the problem of schools that contain too many problem students. Throughout educational history, the only demonstrable means of successfully overcoming this has been to separate good students out. I submit to you that the flight to the suburbs, private schools, limited admission public schools and charter schools are means developed to do just that.

There was a time when the Buffalo schools were among the best in the nation. Now they have been deserted by the prosperous middle and upper classes, leaving behind that pool of students from which they have escaped. It is inevitable that these schools show less academic achievement with poor attendance, poor test scores, high dropout rates and tremendous discipline problems. No matter if we close buildings, play musical chairs with the staff or threaten teachers, this pool of disadvantaged students remains.

However, I think it is wrong to consider the schools they populate as being “failing” schools. These schools still serve as the single best avenue for students escaping poverty. We need to be thankful that there are dedicated teachers willing to serve under these adverse conditions who keep alive the diminishing American Dream of rising above being born poor.

William M. Rich