School Observation: Springfield Gardens Middle Term Paper

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[. . .] From the perspective of school connectedness, (Blum, 2004) PS 59 has some obvious areas for growth. First, the math curriculum and testing strategies may need to be more relevant to students. Mr. Duggan may need to consider ways to incorporate real-life examples of math facts, especially when teaching geometry. Offering incentives and public recognition, such as a bulletin board, extra privileges, or public acknowledgement, for students with high test scores, could increase student engagement, and this theme should be connected across the school by displaying student achievements and school news in public spaces. In addition, students with low test scores should be expected to correct their exams or engage in extra tutoring time. Neither strategy was mentioned or enacted when the tests were returned to students.

In 2010 evaluations conducted by the New York City Department of Education, students and staff rated the school very poorly for behavior and safety. Student behavior during class transitions and in unstructured settings shows a lack of effective adult supervision across all three observation sites. Staff should be more present in the hallways, interact more with students during the lunch period, and students should face immediate disciplinary consequences for poor behavior in the hallways. Consequences or disciplinary actions should be consistently and clearly implements. For example, students should know there are consequences for running or horseplay in the hallways, and a student who is suspended from school should not return to school without a reentry conference. The issues with the suspended student and students in the hallway during class time are indicative of lax supervision and unclear disciplinary guidelines. Blum (2004) indicates that students often respond to consistent messages of high expectations concerning both behavior and academics. The school's principal should lead this effort by setting a serious tone and making an extra effort to prompt appropriate student behavior when even small incidents of poor comportment occur. Students should have a strong sense that there is no tolerance for horseplay or aggressive behavior in unstructured and unsupervised settings such as hallways or outdoor spaces.

The overall decor of the cafeteria and the principal's office reflect little effort in the creation of a school culture or connectedness among community members. There is no faculty or staff news posted, and the school's mission, accomplishments, and student work are not publically displayed. As a result, it's difficult for visitors or school community members to get any true sense of what students are learning or how they are progressing in their academics or extra curricular activities. A school can optimize successes by promoting them publically, and because PS 59 lacks any presentation of community events or accomplishments, it is hard to get a sense of the school's culture. One way to achieve this in a school this size is to organize more closely by grade level or to develop small learning communities in which cohorts of students and teachers work together in teams. These strategies often allow large schools to strengthen the sense of connectedness and student-faculty rapport.

While the school has some major need for growth and increased connectedness, the observations indicate they have a professional and attentive faculty and staff. The presence of many African-American employees, including the principal, indicates that students have a variety of relevant role models in their daily school experience. Working from this strength, the school should consider ways in which it can build a culture defined by appropriate behavior and high academic standards, by promoting academic achievement and increased school pride. The school should consider using professional development time to outline a comprehensive plan to enhance school connectedness, indentifying and implementing three to five strategies as outlined by Blum (2004).

References

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2004). School "Connectedness: Improving Student's Lives." Baltimore, Maryland. Blum, R.

New York City Department of Education. (2010) "I.S. 059 Springfield Gardens: Progress Report, 2009-2010." NYC Department of Education, New York, New York. Retrieved from http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2009-10/Progress_Report_Overview_2010_EMS_Q059.pdf. 24, Feb. 2011.

New York City Department of Education. (2010) "I.S. 059 Springfield Gardens: Learning Environment Survey Report: 2009-2010." NYC Department of Education, New York, New York. Retrieved from http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2009-10/Survey_2010_Q059.pdf. 24,Feb. 2011. [END OF PREVIEW]

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