Практикум по культуре речевого общения (английский язык как второй иностранный) Учебное пособие

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Polly Curtis, education editor
October 22, 2007
Some people call it extreme education: 10-hour days, parental contracts and zero tolerance behaviour policies in small, 200-pupil academies. The result, seen in an evolving breed of US school, is 100% college acceptance, test scores to rival private schools, and south Bronx teenagers who play the viola like their Manhattan neighbours.
James Verrilli, principal of the North Star Academy in Newark, America’s second poorest city, said: “These kids know drugs. These kids know crime and violence. Their fathers are in jail. We have established a school culture which is very distinct from the attitude they walk in the door with. It’s a college-bound culture.”
At the North Star Academy children like Charism and Queen-Ama smile politely as they shake your hand and welcome you in. Some 85% of pupils are African-American and 90% get free school meals. Last year 80% were graded ‘proficient or advanced’ in maths, compared with 28% in the local neighbourhood school, and exceeding state averages. Pupils work in silence with a professionalism learned during a three-day process. From the beginning, pupils are taught to speak clearly, answer questions in full sentences and look the teacher in the eye.
Parents have to sign a three-way contract with their child and the principal, promising to pull their weight. When a child’s homework isn’t handed in by 8am there is a phone call home. When the parent doesn’t turn up for a meeting, their child is not allowed back into school until they turn up. Signs telling them ‘No excuses’ line the walls. “I was working until 11 last night. I’m tired, but I know I’ve got to work,” says one 11-year-old, as she finishes up a ‘brain food’ worksheet over breakfast. “Even my mother’s gone back to school since I’ve been here.” Pupils are tested every six weeks and their results scrutinized.
“As a principal of a small school I know what every child is up to in terms of their academic achievement and their behaviour,” says Mr Verrilli. It’s an accountability that is extended to teachers: Mr Verrilli will sit in on classes with a Blackberry, emailing the instructor his notes as they teach.
North Star and other small schools like it, have evolved out of the 3,500-strong charter school movement in the US. Charter schools are independent schools, funded by the state, and allowed more freedom to set policies, including their admissions procedures. It runs a lottery for admissions and has 1,800 children on the waiting list. Parents have to put their child’s name into the lottery and there are discrepancies in who does so; three times more girls apply than boys.
Mr Verrilli vehemently denies any suggestion that his students might not be the most needy. “It’s a prejudice to say that parents from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t care about their kids’ education. 95% of parents just want a better education for their children. “We’re not creaming. I’m defensive about that. It’s something we’re accused of a lot. How hard is it to put your child’s name down on a piece of paper?” he said.
Every child who attends the Kipp (Knowledge is Power Programme) academy in south Bronx, New York, plays in its orchestra, the best school ensemble in the city. Every child can read music. Shirley Lee, a director of the Kipp academy in the Bronx, says it works because there is a consistent approach across every part of the school. “The truth and reality is that kids like structure,” she said. “It’s about telling them what’s appropriate and them learning when to use it. I wouldn’t talk to you like I am now if I was out in some of these areas. But if we teach them to look in my eyes when I’m speaking to them, they will use that if they get stopped by the police and that will protect them.”
In the UK, the political debate about the achievement gap between rich and poor in schools is gathering pace. The official body for inspecting schools, Ofsted, last week highlighted the ‘stark divide’ in achievement linked to social class and the government has set itself tough new targets on reducing the gap. Three London academies are experimenting with small school principles and last week a group of British teachers in training to run inner city schools visited the US looking for methods to tackle the dire state of ‘complex urban education’.
Ark, a UK academy sponsor, is taking key components of the small school model into London academies. Lucy Heller, managing director of Ark, says: “There’s something in the air: it’s small schools, tough behaviour management and an adamant belief that inner city children can do just as well.” The UK schools minister says small schools can teach disadvantaged children the skills that their middle class peers take for granted: “High ambition, zero tolerance of failure, an expectation that children will go to university and that schools will give them the education to do so.
Ark is also helping to fund the 30 ‘Future Leaders’ group on the school leadership training scheme visiting the US. The trainees are expected to take some of the ideas they experience home to the UK. Many of them see limits in how translatable the model is to the UK, however. They talk about the fact that most of the US schools are middle schools, for 10–14 year-olds. The model has been tested less in the secondary school age group (11–18). They also ask how smaller schools can be afforded, though others point out the fact that in the US facilities are basic. “They don’t even have interactive whiteboards,” says one of the group’s mentors. “They just teach. Small schools might not be practical in the UK, but what I really want these new school leaders to take back is the sense of culture in these schools.”

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