The Complexities of Answering Students’ Actual Needs

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An important part of my general philosophy on our education system is the principle that resources should go toward the actual needs that students have.  If, as teacher union advocates claim when results prove poor, the missing ingredients are parental involvement and relief from poverty, then society should redirect resources from teachers who have no chance to penetrate those barriers to services that will.  We can debate how those needs can best be met — what programs, private sector versus public sector, and so on — but the basic idea is a managerial truism.

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Those who agree with the foregoing can’t be entirely opposed to this approach by the Providence School department, as Linda Borg reports it for the Providence Journal:

The Providence School Board has hired six school culture coordinators at the district’s middle schools.

They are part of a new initiative by Mayor Jorge Elorza and Supt. Christopher Maher to promote a positive school climate and increase student engagement. The hiring of a seventh coordinator is expected to be approved at the board’s January meeting.

School culture coordinators serve as liaisons between the school and the community, including parents, during the middle school years, when students often begin to lose interest in learning. School culture coordinators aim to support youngsters as they transition from cozy elementary schools to larger secondary schools, with the goal of boosting engagement and reducing chronic absenteeism.

A little skepticism is in order, of course, when school departments start spending on administrators and other non-teachers.  How much are these “coordinators” going to be making?  Will they be unionized?  What, specifically, are they going to be doing?

Some of these questions might be alleviated if the coordinators weren’t directly employed by the school department, because there’s no reason to assume that an agency (ostensibly) competent to teach children is also competent to address the needs of their parents or communities.  On the other hand, if the new positions represent a shifting of resources, rather than another excuse to collect more, leaving them within the school department may be the only realistic option.



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