Monday, January 21, 2019

Singing the Praises of Teachers Who Foster 'Growth'

Photos by Evan Brandt
Pottstown High School Choral Director Ben DiPette, left, directs the high school chorus in two numbers sung for the benefit of the teachers being recognized Thursday night.

Much emphasis in education is put on test scores.

"How did you do?" is the watchword, and standardized testing has only increased that emphasis as we struggle to improve public education in America for all students, not just the ones who live in the right zip code.

But in Pottstown, they are asking a different question: "How much BETTER did you do?"

As the chorus sang, the Great Growth and True Blue Trojan teacher
awards awaited presentation to their recipients.
Although they are certainly related, there is a difference between growth and achievement.

If you got an A- on the last test and an A on this test, you have certainly achieved a higher mark, but truly, the "growth" in your achievement is minimal.

If, on the other hand, you received a C on your last test and then earned an A on this one, well then the "growth" in your score has been truly remarkable.

Pottstown Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez used a sports analogy, likening growth to a significant improvement in the time it takes a runner to run a mile. The runner may not have the fastest time, but may have shown the most improvement.

Allow me to use a less diplomatic sports analogy.

So many of the wealthy school districts in this area have students who start the game with many advantages -- college educated parents with good jobs, a community with plenty of financial resources, well-resourced facilities with lots of well-paid teachers -- the equivalent of starting somewhere between third base and home plate.

When they do what's necessary to score a run, and are hailed as heroes for doing it, the administrators and school board members pat themselves and their teachers on the back for what a good job they're doing.

But do those face the same real-life obstacles as the students who may not know if they will have a meal that day or, worse yet, has to work after school to put food on the table?

Or will come home to an abusive or addicted parent or sibling?

Or who has moved four times in five years?

Or has to help raise younger siblings because mom and dad have to work two jobs just to make ends meet?

Or lives in a neighborhood where gunfire is all-too-common and support for the long-run benefits of a good education are constantly undermined by the short-term benefits of crime?

No SAT prep tutors for them.

No swanky computer labs in their schools where MIT-trained instructors give them code-writing lessons twice a week.

For them, just getting to school on time in the morning can be an ordeal the student who arrives every day in the family's SUV cannot begin to imagine.
Ten Pottstown teachers received the newly established
"Great Growth Award" at the Jan. 17 school board meeting.

Starting at bat with two strikes against you and scoring a run; making your way painstakingly around the bases, that is truly an achievement worth recognizing. And the coach who makes that possible deserves recognition as well.

Thursday night, Pottstown teachers who have overseen steady "growth" in their students' achievements were recognized.

Those who fostered an entire year of steady growth in their students' achievements received the newly established "Great Growth Award." They are:
  • Ginger Angelo -- Pottstown Middle School
  • Jason Bergey  -- Pottstown Middle School
  • Helen Bowers -- Pottstown High School
  • Robert Decker -- Pottstown High School
  • Nicholas Fox -- Pottstown High School and Pottstown Middle School
  • Amanda High -- Pottstown Middle School
  • Danielle Lawrence -- Pottstown Middle School
  • Carol Livingston --  Pottstown Middle School
  • Margaret Taraboletti -- Pottstown Middle School
  • Cynthia Ziegler -- Pottstown Middle School
Nine Pottstown teachers received the newly established
"True Blue Trojan Teacher Award" at the Jan. 17 meeting.
Not satisfied with that, Pottstown Schools have also created a second award, the "True Blue Trojan Teacher Award," for teachers who have fostered steady growth in their students' scores for more than one year. They are:
  • Nicola Alutius -- Barth Elementary School
  • Eileen Basham -- Pottstown High School HS
  • Justine Donnelly -- Pottstown High School
  • Mary Ann Hill --Pottstown Middle School 
  • Bradley Mayberry -- Barth Elementary Schools
  • Ann Marie McDonnell -- Barth Elementary School
  • Denise Schleicher -- Lincoln Elementary School
  • Joshua Wagner -- Lincoln Elementary School
  • Mandy Wampole -- Lincoln Elementary School
Congratulations and thank you to all those Pottstown teachers who are in the trenches every day, working to provide success, self-confidence and hope to students who, in many cases, have a longer way to go to get to home plate.

It's enough to make one quote John Armato and say "Proud to be from Pottstown."

Now, just in case you missed it in my last post, here are the Tweets from the Jan. 17 meeting:

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