U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a round table discussion at California GEAR UP distinguished school Tincher Prep yesterday in Long Beach. The purpose of his visit was to learn best practices of the school and to hear how Tincher has been so successful in creating distributed leadership and a school community working for the same goals.
Principal Bill Vogel said it best: “You give teachers choice in their professional development, you let them lead the direction of the school, and you let the school have discretion in how to best serve their students.” The teachers chose to participate in California GEAR UP three years ago.
“We need funds to keep programs and people” he said. “We need programs like GEAR UP, AVID, and funding for those programs.”
The secretary listened intently as administrators and teachers talked about the programs that make Tincher a success. Mr. Vogel and the staff repeated listed California GEAR UP as a key program in their development. The East Long Beach K-8 school, where more than 50 percent of the students are designated as disadvantaged, has been lauded for its gains in test scores and was named a “School to Watch” by the California Middle Grades Alliance in 2009.
Duncan said the Tincher sets an example for other school districts in the country.
“I’ve studied your school district for a long time, and I think you have so much to be proud of,” he told a crowd gathered in the school library. “I don’t say this lightly, but more so than the vast majority of school districts that I visit, this school district has gotten things right for a long time.”
Also in attendance was Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach., who said federal funding should be streamed directly to school districts instead of being “tied up” in Sacramento.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed No Child Left Behind, and the fact that virtually every school in Los Angeles Unified School District will be classified as failing by 2014 if the law is not urgently reformed.
That has led to a narrowed curriculum that focuses intensely on those subjects, sacrificing the well-rounded education that every child needs, he said.
Middle school music teacher Laura Strand said No Child Left Behind should have a greater focus on art, music and sports programs that are in danger of being cut in the budget crisis.
“I see students being pulled out of these programs when they’re finding success and it breaks my heart,” she said.
“No Child Left Behind is fundamentally broken,” Duncan said. “We want to fix it before we go back to school this fall.”
He said Congress needs to rewrite the law to be more “fair, flexible and focused” this year, so it can be implemented for the next academic calendar.
Tincher Prep has been a California GEAR UP school since the fall of 2008 and is part of a cohort of schools receiving professional development services with the goal of creating a college-going culture throughout the school community. Tincher recently received the California GEAR UP Leadership Team of the Year award at our Southern California Community conference, and as the Secretary of Education has pointed out, continues to be a model school.