Plan will likely hurt, not help

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I read with concern about the plan of the Las Vegas City School Board to improve student performance at struggling schools in the district. The idea, as presented in the Optic, seems to be this. Students at Paul D. Henry are performing well. That means that the teachers at Paul D. Henry must be doing a good job. So the obvious conclusion is that if we move those good teachers to other schools, the performance of the students at the other schools will improve.

While I agree with the first two statements, I strongly disagree with the conclusion. Schools are much more than the sum of the individuals who work and study there. They are communities. And if Paul D. Henry is making adequate yearly progress when other schools are not, it isn’t due solely to the individual effort of each teacher. It is because of the collective effort of the whole school community.

The Las Vegas City Schools Board should not be asking, “Who works at Paul D. Henry?” They should asking, “What is being done at Paul D. Henry?” Not  “How are the teachers at Paul D. Henry different from the teachers at other  schools?” But “How are the policies, procedures, attitudes, and expectations at Paul D. Henry different from those at other schools?”

I am writing this quickly, in hopes of influencing the decision of the school  board before they take action on this plan. But if anyone is interested, I would be happy to present the research supporting this letter. If the school board decides to proceed with this plan, the most likely result is that they will have done nothing to improve student performance at the other schools in the district, and much to harm Paul D. Henry.

Jean Hill
Professor of Psychology
New Mexico Highlands University