Principal Keith Dowdell of Carter Parramore Academy (CPA) recently invited Reverend Charles Flowers and me to go on a comprehensive tour of his innovative school.
The attention of the students, the obvious deep commitment and enthusiasm of the teachers, and at least on that day the exemplary behavior of the students left me thinking that all of our schools should be designated alternative schools.
In every classroom there was absolute control, attention being paid by students, and deep learning occurring. During class breaks every teacher was outside their classroom door aggressively monitoring and keeping the flow moving … no stopping is allowed as students move toward their next class.
Two years ago, after several years of discussion with the Gadsden County School Board, a “No More D’s” policy was instituted at CPA, partly because of its “alternative” label, but mostly because Principal Dowdell saw how it would benefit the students. One board member wisely observed that if such a policy were instituted district-wide we would not need an “alternative school.” Paradigm shifts come slowly with elected boards, even when desperately needed.
So two years ago CPA parents studied a detailed PowerPoint presentation of the coming policy change provided by Principal Dowdell. The cafeteria was at seating capacity as the parents soaked up the meaning of a policy that would require students who make below 70% on anything to redo their work; the point being to learn the material. Up to that point the students had the option of redoing their work, but no one had lived up to the adult responsibility of telling them they had to redo their work, which leads to changing the learning culture for the better.
At the end of the presentation Mr. Dowdell asked for the parents’ opinions, resulting in thunderous applause. The parents knew that Mr. Dowdell and his teachers had their back in making sure their kids learned and learned in an environment where they were genuinely cared about, which is when kids learn best. Discipline, after all, is a reflection of greater love.
Led by Principal Dowdell, the teachers at CPA clearly understand the value of a “No More D’s” policy, and they practice it. The students know they are cared about because of the policy … They just needed to be told that they would be redoing work that was poorly done. They are learning that it’s easier to do things right the first time.
Superintendent Milton is behind this policy because he knows it works … Now WE need to unite behind HIM regarding reconfiguration. If in our own communities we need to “take one for the team,” maybe we should do that for the overall benefit of the kids. We can’t all have everything we want all of the time.