Public schools in New Orleans, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., which have struggled historically, are being tracked closely by education experts for signs of improvement.
In New Orleans, many students who are significantly behind their peers academically or who have gotten in trouble with the law attend one of two special schools designed to get them back on track. A year ago, the New Orleans school superintendent, Paul Vallas, hired an private company to run both schools under a rigid disciplinary and academic code. This year, Vallas took back control of his alternative schools and the NewsHour's Education Correspondent John Merrow reports on the the results, which have largely been positive so far.
In Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee reached an agreement with the teachers' union after years of controversial negotiations. While Rhee did not win the ability to have teachers give up tenure for higher pay, teachers will get performance-based bonuses if their students do better academically.
"Our students, they are frustrated. They are emotionally frustrated. They are academically frustrated. They're not aware of how they're creating a domino effect or how it may affect the entire classroom." - Mera Bercy, Assistant Principal, Booker T. Washington School
"Each of us has had challenges with the criminal justice system. We have made some very poor choices and, in some cases, horrible choices, in our lives, but have found a way to turn our lives around." - Khalil Osiris, founder, Circle of Courage Mentoring Program
"Everything is driven by performance for children. So, if you look at the way that teachers will be compensated now, that will largely be driven by whether or not you're performing and delivering results for children. So, we're moving away from a lockstep pay structure and to a new performance pay structure." - Michelle Rhee, Washington, D.C. schools chancellor
1. What are some traditional ways that schools handle academic and disciplinary problems?
2. Why do inner city schools often face significant challenges? What kinds of specific challenges do they face?
3. What are teacher contracts, and what do they determine?
1. What do you think are the most effective ways to handle discipline and low academic performance at school? Do you agree with how your school handles these things? Why/why not? Give specific examples.
2. What is unique about what the schools profiled in this segment are doing? Do you think those practices should be extended to other schools? Why/why not? Would they work in your school?
3. Why are contracts often hard to negotiate between teachers and school districts?
4. Do you think that student performance should affect teachers pay? Why or why not? Do you think it will help students learn?