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Last year was our sense that about 85 80 to 85 percent of the kids who came in here last year were below grade level medium and about half of those are below the sixth grade. Some of the third grade and I'm telling you you were going to get him like that when I magicians or I think it's a good school I'd rather go to this public school than any other public school system. One of the things I think we're trying to work on with our students is to help them realize that despite their Praful they've got to pick themselves up and keep going that way. Good evening I'm Gail Harris. Last year the National Commission on excellence in education said public schools in America are in a state of crisis demanding immediate and extraordinary measures. Tonight we focus on whether the schools are mediocre as charged and if so what we should do about it. Joining us in a studio audience are high school principals students teachers and a representative of the National Commission whose outlook on education was so bleak. First we'd like you to watch with us a profile of South Boston High School. The setting for
years of racial turmoil over court ordered desegregation. Today the school is far more peaceful but it still grapples with low test scores and poor performance and basic skills. The usual problems of urban school systems. The documentary is narrated by producer Art Cohen women in the mid 1970s South Boston High School became a national symbol of racial hatred because of violent opposition forced busing to achieve racial integration. Opponents try to use violence to close the school. But the federal court you know right now with the police to keep it open. In the 1980s the debate about South Boston High School has changed from
busing to education. People still argue the school should be closed not because of busing but because of poor academic achievement. Why. There are 900 students here at South Boston High School most of them have gone to school together in South Boston all their lives as a result of desegregation. Just under a third of the students are white. The rest black Hispanic and can't vote. The minority students arrive each day on this convoy of buses with police escort. One of the legacy of the anti busing protests one of the responsibilities of the festival and any school is to be a fighter.
As my response read protect my teachers and my students from outside people who way have other things on their mind. Another legacy of busing is headmaster Jerome Winokur brought in by the courts originally to quiet the school. When a girl now believes his mission has changed Imperiale have two goals with kids. Those two goals from my point of view would be one that way help them discover themselves and secondly that we help make the world. An example placed by national standards of academic excellence. South Boston High School would be judged for the test scores and college attendance record of its graduates is below average but when it are the faculty and students of South Boston High School argue that academic achievement alone is not the measure of a school's quality or purpose. Instead they ask to be judged by their effectiveness at meeting the special needs of the
school's inner city population. By this standard they believe South Boston High School is successful. How are you today then he was around he might sue Michael for this and Michael will start on the slide rule. Well OK I get your phone. Let's go up the phone. This again. Sit down. You get you right by my ear OK.
The problems of the world are exaggerated in schools like this. We have a high percentage of welfare kids. High percentage of kids receiving some type of assistance high juvenile crime areas. Lowest where the lowest per capita income in town another Massachusetts in this attendance area. You take all of those signs and put them together when you sometimes produce a very depressed population. And what we've got to do is help them learn how to break out of those patterns because in many ways they become comfortable those patterns with dealing with survivors and a lot of things happened to students prior to them coming to the building so they bring with them that whole environment to basically reach them. I'm 10 12 and a half point showing
and it really should feel sorry for the students who graduate from here or who have touched the special people we have in this building have grown a life skills laughter. I'd say that's where we're successful as possible. I see this pic a lot of trouble. Star No. 5 to teachers sometimes teaches mutinous one time a priest a nurse and stuff you know for nothing. This cause I was mad you know I let it go today I don't want to happen again. Alright first pareidolia class where you belong and you don't play with us. You don't play well let's mess with throughout their entire stay at South Boston High School students see the same person when they get into trouble. So this provides a consistent approach to discipline. The school believes crucial for some of its duties as feed is one of three student advisors or disciplinary marks. You know that you are wrong for putting anything on a piece of you know a painting that doesn't belong to you a lot of people spend a
lot of time on those things. Great deal of my work is mediation explaining to students why they were wrong. Many students community here not really understanding why they were wrong in what they did. And by the way most of the time the students are wrong very very really to say what a teacher send a student to the disciplinarians office without a valid reason. It has to be explained to them not only why they they were wrong but what they have to do to get back on the right track. Tanya one for you chair over here. I hope that's not for me. I'm going to read this to you one account. I want to know whether or not this is basically correct. Well I put the assignment on the board Tanya very unexpectedly yelled out that she wanted to go to the nurse to do requests to go to the nurse during Israel's plan. I asked her to wait for Kevin Nolan had just asked for a pass first. Is that true. OK. She said she didn't. That you didn't care and while my back was still.
Turned she proceeded to leave the room. As she passed behind me she threw her pen which hit me in the top of my head. She left the classroom and I know five returned in one 20 is that basically correct. You know that's an assault on a teacher with a weapon. Yeah you know what's the penalty for that. Tanya. What was the emergency. OK. Tanya how long we known each other. Long while. You haven't known me not to listen to you. Don't you think that if you were if you weren't satisfied with. My message Young please. Oh this is Imus a living calling herself Boston high school we had a little problem with Tanya this morning in The problem is that Tani claims that she had an emergency and but didn't tell the teacher that she just got up and walked out of the Romish. Yeah I did tell her that. OK she did tell her that but as she got up and walked out of the room she threw her pen at the teacher and hit the teacher in the head.
I'm going to suspend on you for three days and request a parent conference with Mrs. Young. Her suspension takes effect tomorrow and will be for three days which takes her right to the end of this week which means she won't be back until after February vacation. Right. After February vacation. Next week is February vacation but I would like to meet with Mrs. Young before the end of the week. Thank you very much sir. But I know. Tanya. You behave yourself ever since we got back from Christmas vacation. You knew that if you did something something like that suspension would you do a fun. Just to make you feel. Yeah. Let me tell you classical to now you see me that you know slack. Hang in. There man. What if he said no wait. Did you go to the nurse if you were out of the class yet. One of the nurse said he would have. Bet.
That. Tanya I don't deny that it was an emergency. I don't deny that. Because I know that you tell me the truth. That's fine I don't deny that. But you know what you should do. I mean you know what. I don't have to even tell you. We've dealt with each other long enough. For a number of things that you know by now what you should do if you have a problem like that you do not confront the teacher. You come to me and then I'll determine whether or not you have a legitimate reason for leaving the classroom as it was. I would have taken you back to Mr. Campbell explain the situation and then taking you to the nurse. Then you would have been in trouble. Time is going on. You can take her downstairs put on the fan. Yup. Russell would you want her to get a call please. I may have you come back to school tomorrow and meet with Miss Campbell and apologize to her for throwing
that pan out. OK. We felt a number of years ago that one of our most crying needs here was. People for kids to talk with people other than staff other than guidance counselors. People that don't give them grades. That kind of thing. Middle class never no class all have that they have shrinks and psychologists and social workers and I'll run and get all kinds of help everyplace. But typically working class people don't have access to those kinds of services. And we really felt that our kids were every bit as worthy of having that type of service as anybody else. And although I'm really more than willing to agree that it may not be the responsibility of the school to provide all the services nobody else has provided. And in this world that most people get out of themselves or simply don't get the service. Really. You know sometimes you can't talk to people because they don't want to listen I know this. OK I mean like they were just going to want to go home
and go the other you know. But you know she does she write down a piece of paper right. And there she go remarks she goes home are classes and as my teachers home are doing right now she's trying to help me get this job you know working with kids or working as a nurse and I used to go see a social worker. You know for my personal problems at home or you know anything that was on my mind I go talk to her about it. If you even if it was like oh I have a new job. You know I could tell I mean targe I think we're successful like I said in the approaches we have taken to get to why we're here and that's a high school diploma for most students and for some students preparation to go beyond. I think we're successful in realizing that students come to us with problems one of the things I think we're trying to work on with our students is to help them realize that despite their problems they've got to pick themselves up and keep going.
Strokes and Bro you don't have to. Reports want to tell me what how. Did you. Survive. Or where did you go. I was hoping. That. You were in this class all the time. And he claims that you left the room. This is. My. Last. One for you. Stuck. Into my home. Well she confirmed that she went to the store feeling the unit the class. Missed her chance going to send up a report. Until then where you supposed to be. Heading to the auditorium and when I need you I'll get you if you leave the auditorium. Before I come and get you coming here instead of going to class. All right. I find the classes are very challenging and also there are a lot of programs for students who have difficulty and academics social personal promise I mean I don't think there's not a program here they can take here the
majority of problems that young people have. I join my friends they. Do hear that I'm going because like in a way they're kind of like the kind of Latin with a conscious you know not shock but an amazement that somebody from South Boston High School is going to college. They care a lot about the students they want to know what you're going out for when you leave here they want you to want to make something of yourself. They don't want to be a nobody they want to be a somebody. Yeah well you know the academic problems of the students we get is that there are anywhere from two to four grade levels below where they belong in reading and math. Last year it was our sense that about 85 80 to 85 percent of the kids who came in here last year were below grade level medium math. About half of those are one of the sixth grade is a member of the third grade. And I'm telling you you know you get in like that when I magicians or. If we can improve them four years in four years we will have done something nobody else has ever been able to
do. They would like for us to take all the kids at the bottom and put them out in the slave camps and and only teach the best and the brightest. I mean that's really the part of America we've never been able to deal with. The elitist America says we're really mediocre. Also schools offer what they cover middle rating which is I think ridiculous. Let's do what's remedial remedial as when you go back and learn something that you didn't learn properly to begin with. From my point of view we need developmental rating which takes them where they are move them along. And not just keep dealing with them as if there's something wrong with them. Yes. Do you feel. Yeah. Your ancestors the students I have I think a typical of inner city
kids. They're kids. Who have a lot of gaps in their knowledge. I think I don't know the reasons why I think some of them did not attend school regularly. For whatever reason. They don't function as well as the assured as well as they're probably capable of functioning. Yeah. I was. That's right. They come into school. Feeling. They really can't do the work. They're really not good enough. They don't believe in themselves. They don't believe that they
can succeed. That is the hardest obstacle to overcome to convince them that yes you can do it with. Her sister. That's right. Wow she's doing your time. Right. It's. Many of them. Come from homes where. No one's graduated from high school. They haven't been instilled. With the budget cation. They come to school and I hear teachers say one thing but they go home to a different kind of lifestyle. You know a lot of people don't have good jobs. And they just assume that's what's going to happen to them. Right.
I'm teaching here. Because it's extremely challenging conventional methods don't work. I think if you can teach here you can teach it anymore. I expect as much out of the teachers as I expect other kids expert to come in here and give everything I've got to make this place work to make sure that the students in their classes are learning. I will say this I think gap in terms of the faculty the way had a lot of scares. Health teacher Marilyn her which runs one of the more popular classes itself Boston high on which one of you was having a nosebleed. Play. Stands right beside the table. Please tell us how. He was punched in the nose. Now this is rather a dumb question but how do we know it's coming out
OK. Let's see. He has only one. Talk to this person. Right. Come on look at the First Aid basket you have to have an unbelievable amount of energy and I have a lot of kids with an unbelievable amount of energy in my tactic has always been to outmaneuver them. So if I can be loud and crazy and do whatever you know bizarre way it sticks in their mind what I'm trying to say. Right. Right you would. Be. Pissed.
I think the most frustrating point for me as a teacher is I don't really know if they're getting anything out of what I'm doing. How does it taste. It's. Not like can rote information. But I'm always concerned if what they're giving me is what they think I want them to say or what they have just learned as being valuable information. You have a frustrating for them is getting them to take responsibility for what they are responsible for namely coming to class prepared doing homework giving any kind of effort back that's probably the hardest thing for me to deal with and probably oh I guess about one third of every one of my classes has a continued c of students who really believe that it's enough to be here that that's all they required to do is be physically present. And that isn't enough to be successful in school or in life you have to give one over here. Don't worry about it. You too short anyway they can't get you. To last night.
The first thing. You once before something that my a long time ago maybe. Yeah you get thrown out of the stuff class. Where were you. When he took you out and sent you up here. Why. Do. We fall into. The laughing with you friends. Or friend. Well we. Often you know that laughing can disturb what's going on right. Because obviously if you're laughing about something that's not going on in the class and you starving the class right. Yeah. We're not going to do that again. Next time I see you for a problem like this another place in the student planning center you know where that is where they have whips and chains and.
We laugh and. Approach on a board and they stretch you out. You might want that though. OK. Just bring this to Mr. weniger it's almost a want to get that we've got the other one on this and that. We just did this again OK. GREGORY. All right. Anybody else. OK. Jennifer. Will be here. Kenneth you know where you stand right you just got off a major project right. That's 5 minutes into the second period Kenny asked me for a pass I told him I gave him one yesterday and there would be no more passes for the week 15 minutes later I look around for him and he's not to be seen. Couple minutes later I find him back in the room with a donut in this pocket I asked him where to get. Where he was. He tried saying that he did not go to the school store and that a girl went
for I myself went to the school sort of check writing to the store. They said they just waited on. You know me at store you can see we don't got any girl just a lot. How it all falls out was to go to me get my stuff from our last round island for you. You walked out of the class without permission. Yeah. Diane I mean. Look up Angela Pina in the Blue Book. Get her out of class if she's at lunch I want you to get her out of the lunch room OK. I think the reason why people think that there is value on racial tension in this building is because of the history's reputation it's its past and I've just said the word passed because that's what has passed and we first came here was like black kids didn't really like the white kids you know because they had heard from the students they came here like in 75 is that before the problems they were
having but we haven't any problems we don't have any problems here. When they hear you are your class president you know. So I really I enjoy it it's on. It's where I was when I was old to beat my up my opponent it's not because I was white he was black it's just because we're to a point of wonderful opposition that we both want to go forth for really looking to build a stronger America. And we are going to just do that. With higher scores. We've got to do that with ability to understand each other particularly in say like Boston where there's been so much strife over the years. Back in the old days in school you never had an opportunity to meet anybody different from you. And that's a real advantage that I just have is that they can meet so many different kinds of people. I don't understand the richness that that diversity brings to a society. Of different kinds of people working together to make the place better.
I used to play basketball for the school and that's how I used to get on with the black kids and he said talk to him and stuff. And now I'm swimming. That's like I make all my friends. The school encourages participation by everyone in its activities. South Boston High is one of the few inner city high schools with white kids on its basketball team coach Earl care. And when kids place. They're not afraid to go and play in the black community. I mean they used to. Say. Oh we should Was advantage to a surprise attack but it's not. We don't look at is you know as one individual's color track team you know we He's a player he's a member of the team that's
just basically believe it when he goes on the floor like everybody else gives 100 percent. Thank you for coming on. This happening on the. Streets just from coming here. You think you want me to show good organize program when we have the good. Guys.
There's racism here and it's subtle. It wasn't always subtle it was subtle in 1984. We have achieved a certain degree of sophistication. Kids can go to classes leave the building at the same time so. You know in some ways it's very encouraging but there does seem to be a low man on the totem pole and Southwest in high school that low person. Is the Cambodian student. Sometimes you call me to. Come. Look at. Small intestine. On average we'll just put up with the situation. We don't tell you what
I do say it's a requirement. I know very well you know there were birds. Yes I mean I don't know I just ran with it. Now it's become clear to me over the years I've been here that the young people come through here really do understand that they're part of history that they have an opportunity frankly to learn about all kinds of people that they would never know about. Anywhere else. I tutor. Cambodian students I find something I really enjoy. Because when I look back at it. They've been through so much during the Vietnam War and they were so behind in and learning and I wanted to help in whatever way I can. Some of the real nice in a way to you know you talk about you know someone that's speaking English fluently in there tell us about a country and everything else in the town.
It's a good experience I'd say. And what during the. Woodshop Kennie's woodshop period or two ago did you go to school stuff for him. Can't tell. Did. He show up and then go up and get a Madonna or anything bring it back to. What did you have that class for what period was this kind of. What do you have to carry. The salmon those that you want to go through I'm sure. Yeah you need the girls gym for anything. Russ would you write her a pass back to where it came from please. Is it possible that you thought that you were going to get more trouble if you said that you went to the school store. Yeah. All right now listen to me. Let's let's take the whole situation. OK. Take the whole situation.
You're afraid you're going to get in trouble because you went to the school store especially with what's in your folder. Fine. But you can't lie to me when I deal with you I have to deal with you on the basis that you're always going to tell me the truth. I'm still going to do exactly what I said. I'm going to write to Mr. Cruickshank that you did in fact go to the school store that you've made me a personal promise that you will never leave this classroom again without permission. Don't break that promise. I had a promise. Yeah. Right. We go to class. People conscious and constantly want us to fit into their way of thinking about schools. Instead of. Accepting the fact that we think about it our way and for whatever reason it's working. So that's the people say to me. I don't
understand what you're doing over there why these kids kill each other anymore. And I said you know Erick Erickson would understand what we're doing here. We're dealing with teenagers. And teenagers have different needs than adults have different needs from little children. They have you know they just have different needs and probably attempting to do is to help the staff understand. What it means to be 14 15 16 17 18 in this day and age. And then try to develop. Classes programs courses accordingly. I don't think I'd rather be in your school. The school system really don't allow for me. They push us really high in a lot of people that when hear have gone out to college you're finished. If you're a good student they want to push you and make sure you do very well and those who don't want to do it they just say they try and you can try so I really think that really really ticks me off as we have people turn around and say you go to South Boston High School and you know they get that negative attitude toward you.
It's weird is why they turn around and maybe reach something good about it all maybe even anybody no matter where they are we just come to school visit us and they'll see the changes in the school itself. I'll be honest with you I'm always amazed at the ability to kids to come in this building so dirty. And so rundown and just carry energy and feel upbeat about it. Which leads me to believe that believes it know that there's more to be upbeat about a round here than the condition of the building. So there is just. Nothing. The facilities are terrible. Our football team actually changes clothes out in the open. Under the trees and the fall leaves a bear assing. Really is a Bears. We played a Thanksgiving Day game of white stadium. There's no fly going to flag the national anthem. The place needed to be painted 90 years ago. Kids knows that so they know that they were in Watertown. Be different. And I say these kids are as good as the kids in Watertown the adults have to say the same thing everybody else says but
yet they're there in a chair in a modern or upbeat whatever is just it's a shame you know a lot of ways people saying it should be shut down. I think there should be other schools or should be shut down before this one because this is a time to develop to be a very good school. A lot of ways my activities and other people get along in the school. And. Teachers and nice. I think it's a good school I'd rather go to this public school than any other public school. Boston we have never given up. I think that's the only thing I can say I students are survival oriented and I think the teachers here are too. They've gone beyond above and beyond the classroom. I think they've had to make some personal sacrifices some personal decisions. Most black teachers especially did not have to come up to South Boston High School. Most of the teachers who were not here when I first came in decided to come. I also did not until
I'm called I'm saying beyond race color sex etc.. I think. That somehow they felt that they were making some type of personal contribution to helping students somehow. Get a high school diploma and that's the reason why we're here. We have not feel we got a lot of work to do. The entire system is. Cleaning itself out this bothers reading writing arithmetic in preparation for work in preparation for school. We will not give up. I would say the biggest thing. In keeping us going is the fact that we are proud of who we are. Well whatever you think about what you have been watching for the last 30 minutes or so I think one thing does seem fair to observe and that is that South Boston High School is a school that is struggling to survive and to succeed against some pretty long odds. But you folks are obviously more directly
involved in education than I am. What do you think a fair portrait of South Boston High School. Let me start with you Peter we didn't hear from you in the documentary. High school does not get enough of recognition for what we've been doing when there are so many programs unbelievable. Myself I'm over and UMass and UMass program this is an enormous golf home with a gifted and talented students from different high schools. OK and they have the opportunity to you know advance in what they want to go into in the future and you know have get the foot in the door in a way that in other words OK and you know I was in high school does not get any recognition for that. They just they just think of like what James said earlier that you know they go by the past 10 years with one of their freshman year. OK. I thought South Boston High School was going to be no big disaster and I mean they you know at first I really wasn't sure what school I was going to go to. And so when I went to Boston High School was a totally different story. You know what I mean when I went up there was everybody's like hey you know and she has a first family I'm really I just couldn't believe not
what you'd expected. All right Bob what did you think. When I first came up documentary fair portrait or no it was a fair portrait. Anybody and I was like a happy family when I came in from the beginning for most when I go and nobody is still effective. He says you spend more time in school you do at home so yeah this is my second home. People my family you know me. How about urban high schools in general is that what looks like that is not what you know is looks like. I think it's a fair portrait of what South and Boston high looks like it's not by the way what Boston Latin looks like which is another school. I think one of the problems with the reports that have been coming out is they generalize about all schools even within Newton Newton North looks very different from New South and it's important to recognize that schools really have different characters have different student bodies and have a very different flavor to them.
All right let's see if we can pinpoint some of the specifics from this national commission report that we mentioned earlier. The issue is from The Nation at Risk included such things as first of all blaming the schools saying it's the schools that are responsible they're mediocre they're why students aren't learning. Are there others to blame here that we're not mentioning here. I'm going to come back to you why don't we get the other side. I can't believe frankly that's what comes out of American Public Schools has any effect whatsoever in American economy. I'm serious about that. Well every time America looks bad in the global picture or perceive that their reputation has been sullied by some other country the public schools blast in the 50s it was Sputnik. Now it's computer technology and competition with steel and autos and everything else. Once we've recovered from that I'm going to face it people are more literate in this country they've ever been. Kids are reading better than you've ever read. The level of successful completion of education is higher than it's ever been in this country.
And once we reclaim in our perception that American perception that we're competing better in the rest of the world the pressure will be off and will be off to do some other things. That's my opinion on the matter. All right one of the other criticisms of the report and I really will get your reaction was about teachers being poorly motivated was one of the observations that they were at the bottom of their own classes. Teachers want to defend yourselves. I do think that teachers do best they can I think they've taken a lot of undue criticism over the years and I think. The situation and teachers are and they're not they're poorly paid and I think if they were paid better they attract better teachers. For example a person who has skills and math would probably opt for computer education or a business education or something else. Why enter teaching knowing that you're going to start out making about fourteen or fifteen thousand dollars a year when you can start out with computers or something. You can 25000.
OK OK OK. And there's no way that a report on a national scale can deal with those kinds of issues and I think that's that's something that the report didn't address and probably couldn't address. So we asked should we be a little more narrowly focused on what we expect in some instances yes we are asking too much but I think. That we do not give them enough credit for what they do do you know. I think there's that's one of the problems with the report that are so right now coming up. I think as educators we don't want to say no. We see needs coming from our students and and we want to fill them. And we don't want to deny them if we have to take care of their needs because they're not being taken care of in the community. I think that that's something we know we have to do before we can teach them academically. But I think what teachers need what we all need in the profession is the kind of recognition recognition in the sense that we are valued by the community. And I think in Boston it's fair to say that we don't have that sense of being
valued by the Greater Boston community. I think it's changing I think I see some optimism in regard to the business community and certainly City Hall as well with the leadership of Mayor Flynn and I think we will see some positive changes. But I think it's the recognition from the community that we want it doesn't necessarily mean merit pay either. Sure I tend to agree and disagree I'm a guidance counselor and as a resident of the city of Boston and a guidance counselor. I don't think that there are enough people in the teaching profession who give 100 percent. I know that I give 100 percent. I'm very proud of the time I put in. I don't think that there are enough of us who really care about students in general. I think that in the Boston schools especially we have a tendency to be so political. So sidetracked by just keeping our own jobs intact and that's important. I think that society is asking us to answer their problems. We are only a reflection of society. And I think that as far as Pecos
if we were paid on a scale equal to our efforts and allowed to have one job a day you get that hundred percent. All right Jim you've been very patient you had a role in writing that report for the National Commission. You want to defend yourself or your reporter. Either one. Yes I'd be glad to first Gaillard like to comment on I don't adequately reflect South Boston High School or not some so I don't know a great deal about Boston itself much more South Boston but one of the things I was fascinated with in watching the documentary was how many of the themes in the report of the National Commission on excellence in education are reflected almost precisely in your documentary. For example the commission stressed the importance of the leadership role of the principal and here's this guy when I go everywhere you turned there was one degree explaining what was going on in the school. And very clearly setting a tone within the school of what he hoped for the school to attain what do you expect the teachers to do. And what do you hope for the students. Secondly one of the keys to improving education in the eyes of the commissioners was to set a high
level of expectations and then hold students to it and again the headmaster says quite explicitly in the documentary. I expect a lot from my teachers and I expect a lot from my students and we expect to be successful in the school and setting those expectations I think that's the key. And the third thing was Arthur Cohen in narrating the documentary implied that perhaps the Excellence Commission wouldn't think this was an excellent school because by some artificial arbitrary standards of high achievement South Boston High School perhaps wouldn't reach. That level because of the low academic achievement of the students coming in. In fact what the commission said about excellence in student performance was the following. It's excellent students are those who are performing at the levels at the boundaries of their ability in ways to test and push back those boundaries so that in that sense all students can be excellent students and extend their performance and I would think that the commission would think that that was an excellent school because it was adding value to the lives of the students there.
All right I have to cut you off here because what I want to ask the students one of the ways in which you measure excellence let's say there have to be some guidelines one of them the national question talked about is if you have some more homework what you think how much homework do you have likely. James I think you'd have a substantial amount more about an hour amount of homework right kind. Doesn't work. It is busy it's very demanding. I don't think I have easy classes. I don't think they do have very demanding classes especially a lot of people think oh your senior year you can have a good time. Now seniors are pretty busy I think for me it's not easy or low and as far as the quality of education and work after school I find it. Very disappointing and I feel that it is very demanding it's not something that you know I'm just going home just for the book. Just do a couple summers know it's something that I have to sit down and really concentrate on something they really have to work at.
Adrian how about you how much homework do you have on a normal night. I mean you really work at it. Yeah I mean it's mostly from each class. My main classes. Is it useful is it helpful. Does it. Yes it helps a lot because when you do your homework and you go to class the same thing you did homework is going to be similar in class. So you have to study so you know what you don't when you go to school the next day. All right let's turn to Newton North High School do you get a lot of homework. Every class I get about an hour of homework each night seven hours now I get about three hours home. Each night so considerably more than. All right. Let me hear from some of my teachers and administrators about the value of that. Work at home. Anybody I have kids who work six hours a night after they get out of six hours a day at school I have students working full time at our job till midnight go home do their homework get up at 6:00 o'clock in the morning and come to work. We forget that
many. I don't I have no sense of how many of our kids work but I'd say 50 to 60 percent of those are 16 years of age or over work four or more hours a day to expect them to do three hours worth of homework. First place I think is unrealistic I didn't do much homework and I went to high school and that was some years ago when everything was great right. I think you know I went to school in the Midwest guys we didn't have as a teacher corps or any of those things to worry about. But we all did well and went off to college and made some contribution the world we hope. But I'm one of my concerns with the homework particularly with kids who are academically depressed is there's nobody there to help them at home who knows more about it than they do. I would frankly rather that the teachers spend a good deal of time in class working with them before they take the work home. They may not have as much to take home as they might have someplace else. But we know it's being done correctly which is frankly more important. All right let's talk about that a little bit about what happens in the classroom. Some teachers
have lamented for years that discipline is their biggest problem. Or we saw a steady stream of people in and out of your office. Is that the biggest problem in the classroom. I don't know that it's the biggest problem in the classroom. I think the biggest problem in the classroom for teachers is to get their point across as Mr. Wood stated in the documentary classroom disruption we have them from very minor isolated incidents to very major confrontations and they have to be handled quickly effectively consistently and feely and you'll get a positive reaction from teachers and students. The objective of discipline has to be what's going to happen in the future your decision has to be based on this incident never recurring not necessarily what happened but that it will never happen again. That's the important thing. And as I said in the documentary I find myself being an a mediator between students and what they did wrong and in the teachers to whom they they were wrong. I did want to make a point. Adding on to what Jerry said I think it's important to keep in mind all the time that the problems that are reflected in school are a
reflection of the society from which we draw students and the values and priorities in the homes from which we get the students may differ quite differently from a Newton North or a Watertown or a Belmont. And we have to deal with that in a very real manner. We can't. Fantasy is a philosophy all the time we have to deal with the realities of what we're dealing with. All right Gerri to Maaco your perspective is one of a state legislator you've been very active in the Education Committee the state is now talking about maybe spending anywhere from 60 to 300 million dollars more in the schools. Where is that money going to go where can it do the most good to help people. Also someone who had my first teaching assignment at the Deoband school in Roxbury so I looked at the screen and you know it's right it's right and it was good to see those corridors so alive and I just want to comment I think only the courageous statements that I saw there both of the teachers in the ministries and kids working together for the tough difficult situations I think we do need an increased state presence both in expectations and standards and yes and support but I
think it has to be used in a strategic sense I don't think we can give to those have communities that have enormous benefits both because of the social economic mix of parents and backgrounds and the rich commitments on a per child basis already in place to struggle for better schools in this commonwealth or in our urban areas in places like Boston maybe to struggle for the future this country is in those places and I think that's where those dollars should be put. OK specifically I mean Computer Education for example this is a big deal that we hear about it everywhere we go is that is that going to solve your problem. I will tell you that we have more computers and a lot of the suburban schools have 16 or 17 now and eight more coming next year plus word processing the whole works. But if you've got kids reading at third grade level is that really going to help them. You know computers are no better than whatever the people put into it and the computer itself can be used by anybody at any grade level with any degree of ability. It doesn't take a genius to run a computer. If it did nobody but I'm ok with it what's your thought about where that money should go.
I think it should go down and kinda got an early childhood because that's where we have to be again. I know that with putting some money in our middle and high schools. But if we don't get them into the kindergarten and have to 2 years of kindergarten and let those children go into first grade ready for first grade. We have children in first grade now some of them have classrooms of 33 students. Some of that no school experience and a teacher cannot deal with 30 children in my classroom and we have a promotional standing now and some of these children will be held back so then you and you increase that load for that elementary teacher and I think that that's where it should be which should begin there and build a strong foundation and everything else will fall into place. It will take away our right to Rome wasn't built in a day six years that's it that's from my point of view. Whatever's going on outside of the church going to donate. That's right yeah I agree. Because all children are eager to learn it. Three four and by the time they get there at six it's sometimes too late. They're in daycare and it's and it's really no structure in there with play
play play and then they get into the first grade and it's probably no coincidence. With the desegregation issue when the kids had gone to school all along from the early grades right on through the high school level. All right seems to me we're leaving somebody out in this discussion and really in the documentary as well and that is the gifted student. We're talking so much about bringing people up to speed and bringing them up to their to their great level. But what about the schools visited by Ted Sizer and my other colleagues on a study of high schools we found that gifted students did quite well because they were special. They were members of an enclave that received more adult energy and resources. They were in a sense a school within a school. And by and large it was the middle kid. The UN differentiated great middle who slid through high school school receiving the least attention and concern. So are those the ones we should be I think we want to say and to give to kids that are a place where we have a lot of opportunities. I mean we hustle around all of the city and find
places that they can go. We do not have enough students in calculus at our schools so we send to UMass Boston to take calculus I go there every day. I want to really completely change starts at this point and ask you most people are many people their major thought about South Boston High School may still be that image of the buses coming up over the hill with the police cars beside them. There does seem to be the racial tensions at least evidenced in the documentary. What happened to alleviate that problem. That's the whole story by itself. I mean that's just it is not a matter of two or three simple things we did it's the way we live every day in and outside of school. It's modeling behavior it's an expectation. It's setting parameters within which we all live in this building it's not negotiable whether or not we're going to get along or not get along if you're going to go to school are you going to get along. And we began that up front eight years ago and you just keep after it and keep after it.
Rita let me ask you. The. Comments about the physical deterioration of South Boston a lot of people are concerned about the high school maybe being closed is sort of allowing the place to fall apart the first step toward that why can't those those classrooms be painted. That seems like a minimum. It seems like a minimum but we don't even have that minimum to get paint bar even from any command. We only have like six million dollar alterations and repair budget if you have a couple of boilers break down to big buildings there goes a million dollar something for some places so we are hoping and we are in the process of trying to get some support from from City Hall to have that bonding issue it might when we $50000000 to bring all of the things that are not piecemeal. I don't know. We have some buildings that have 5 roofs and 5 all leak and they're not all buildings and I think that we should ask the city to go after those contractors to repair those buildings.
Money remains the bottom line all right with me. We have just about one minute left let me see if I can get to a quick responses on what can we do to change things. You know I can't let the program end without saying this. Commission on excellence did not blame public schools for the state of the country it described our public schools in fact all of our schools public and private as reflecting many many conditions in society and if the citizens of Boston and the citizens of the nation generally expect to improve education they can't expect the schools public or private to do it by themselves are going to have to get involved themselves and businesses and corporations are going to have to get involved the way the corporate community in Boston has with the Boston compact. All right I'm asking you to have the last word Fred. Will just respond to what you were saying about Tory even even though you have said some positive things about the report you did seem to me that there was a perspective that a negative perspective that teachers did feel and maybe didn't wasn't intended for that but in a sense it was felt that way and it did demoralize some people.
So maybe we should take a look at some of our perceptions which we had about another three hours to talk about this but thank you all for joining us. And thank you for watching at home. I'm Gail Harris. Good night. Yes.
The book.
From Busing To Books: A Portrait Of South Boston High
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Episode Description
Hosted by Gail Harris, this program examines the question of mediocrity in public schools and in particular South Boston High. Short film precedes in-studio discussion with high school students, teachers, principals and educational commission representatives. 3/28/1984. Produced by Art Cohen.
Social Issues
School integration; South Boston High School; high schools; Boston Public Schools; High School Students; High school teachers; Busing for school integration; School management and organization; School integration
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Identifier: 6330fdb10c735aba94d53bbdb6d4016c6dd1c9ed (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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Color: Color
Duration: 00:59:28;19
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Chicago: “From Busing To Books: A Portrait Of South Boston High,” 1984-03-26, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
MLA: “From Busing To Books: A Portrait Of South Boston High.” 1984-03-26. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <>.
APA: From Busing To Books: A Portrait Of South Boston High. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from