A plan that needs to work

  • Follow Editorials

The widespread excitement of Murphey Middle School's new charter school status has even trickled down to the office secretary, who is gathering clippings and photos for a school scrapbook.

"She's collecting," Principal Veronica Bolton said with a laugh. "Our whole year will be captured in a portfolio."

And it will be an important year for Murphey.

The school on Old Milledgeville Road hasn't had just a cloud over it. It's been a whole storm front. Chronically slumping academics. Hundreds and hundreds of disciplinary incidents. All that has tarred the school with a reputation that Murphey is not where you want to send your kids.

But under a charter system, Mrs. Bolton and her faculty have set out to change that - drastically. As a charter school, she said, "we get a chance to really be innovative and creative and think outside the box."

That's a sentiment this page has long echoed. The current system of education delivery has not been working. If one set of tools isn't fixing your problem, switch to another set of tools.

Murphey's new set of tools is designed to advance four areas: academic achievement, self-improvement, college/career prep and community service.

That last item is especially intriguing. All who attend Murphey must sign a "student contract" that binds them to a number of academic and behavioral stipulations, including the completion of at least 25 hours of community service.

"Some people think they deserve help," Mrs. Bolton said. "But what are you going to do for somebody else?" Community service can show kids the benefits of getting involved - such as gaining civic pride and contributing to a better quality of life.

Self-improvement also is key. It's hard for teachers to reach willfully unmotivated pupils who lack direction or hope.

To remedy that, Mrs. Bolton wants to give pupils more reasons to come to school, through extracurricular activities that offer fun environments in which to learn. The school's first book club, for example, can foster a love of reading. Spanish Club, Future Business Leaders of America - she even mentioned the formation of a Stock Market Club for budding financiers.

Murphey also will offer a personal management class. Kids will use math, reading and research skills to learn life skills such as writing checks, prudent budgeting and credit card responsibility. "If we can start teaching that," Mrs. Bolton said, "we will have better citizens."

Mindful of the school's discipline problems, Murphey will have classes addressing anger management and bullying, and breaking down the concepts of good leaders and bad followers. "If we can change their whole mentality, and show them what we're trying to accomplish," Mrs. Bolton said, "the academics will take care of themselves."

Ah, the academics. This is the most important part.

It's an administrator's dream to have a school full of kids eager to learn, but it means little unless they post positive results. Perhaps no school in Richmond County is in greater need of those results than Murphey, which has made Adequate Yearly Progress just once since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

The conventional method of teaching isn't working at Murphey as well as it should. That's why it is switching to a method called differentiated instruction. The method has been around for at least 20 years, but began as a teaching model toward gifted pupils. Now schools have been applying it to all pupils, and many charter schools have reported success with it.

Differentiated instruction at Murphey will work like this: Each pupil will have a plan that teachers will monitor weekly to chart that pupil's progress. Say a class is learning about fractions. Before the teacher moves forward in her lesson plan, she notices a few pupils still haven't grasped some concepts.

That's when she differentiates her instruction: While the rest of the class moves forward with higher-functioning work, more time is spent working with those pupils who need help with fractions. This way, all pupils are learning at paces that best match their skill levels, and no child is - well, left behind.

By Mrs. Bolton's estimation of a recent school meeting of between 75 and 100 people, Murphey parents seem to be on board with all the changes. They'll have to be, since increased parental involvement is going to be another key element in helping the school improve.

Community volunteers also are stepping up. Mount Calvary Baptist Church has trained 35 of its members to be mentors and tutors to Murphey students.

A big complaint against many inner-city schools is that they fail to create a positive climate in which pupils can learn, and have fun doing it. Compared to schools in more affluent neighborhoods, urban schools seem to start out at a disadvantage and can't keep up academically.

Under a charter school system, Murphey Middle has a chance to turn that around.

Principal Bolton, incidentally, is a Murphey alumna. She attended eighth grade there, and as a pupil she didn't see the level of disciplinary problems that the community talked about even back then. But in every school, she said, you'll have "a handful of troublemakers."

When Mrs. Bolton attended, they were the Murphey Middle Demons. Today, they're the Murphey Middle Mavericks, an apt mascot to match the course the school is plotting.

And what does Murphey's newest principal plan to do with the "handful" she has now?

"Bring that handful into our team," she said. "We just want to make sure we can change their thought processes, and everything else falls into place."

A lot of people will be watching Murphey Middle closely this coming year. This is, after all, an experiment - and it's one that we hope succeeds.

Augusta should hope so, too.

Comments (13) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/06/07 - 04:14 am
0
0
What a great goal. To turn

What a great goal. To turn around the attitude of the students and teachers in an entire school. And parents too! Good luck Mrs Bolton. I hope your idea works. It'll shake up the entire county if it does. I really like the format laid out in this article.

jaschild
5
Points
jaschild 08/06/07 - 07:44 am
0
0
bravo!!! love the plan. the

bravo!!! love the plan. the contract, community service, personal management classes, anger management- it takes more than discipline to foster positive change. wish MM the best, they are taking steps in the right direction.

bone
23
Points
bone 08/06/07 - 08:46 am
0
0
differentiated instruction is

differentiated instruction is very tricky for a teacher to manage - hopefully there is a plan in place to do plenty of staff development to prepare the educators. student expectations appear high, but teachers will be driving the academic progress by their ability to implement multiple teaching strategies across multiple curriculum objectives.

bone
23
Points
bone 08/06/07 - 08:51 am
0
0
okay, so here's my plan to

okay, so here's my plan to improve teacher recruitment in problem areas: thru test scores, identify the highest performing schools / districts down to the lowest schools / districts. lower the base pay for all teachers to a minimal level and then reward teachers for teaching at the more academically-challenged schools. there will still be a group of teachers who would prefer to teach at higher socioeconomic schools, but some good teachers might be encouraged to take their talents to schools with student populations that would benefit from better quality instruction. this might even equalize the veteran / rookie teacher stratification that occurs at schools (this isn't addressed by non-educators much, but i assure you that a school with a predominance of experienced teachers is much more efficient than a school with teachers who have 5 or less years of experience).

jack
10
Points
jack 08/06/07 - 10:24 am
0
0
Yeah Bone. Lower all the

Yeah Bone. Lower all the teachers pay ans see how many quite, retire or find another job. You don't lower low pay even lower and expect an employee to hang around. The incompetents probably would stick around as they usually know they wouldn't make it in a regular job.

johnsmith
9
Points
johnsmith 08/06/07 - 10:42 am
0
0
D.I. *is* tough, but no

D.I. *is* tough, but no tougher than trying to teach sentence parsing to a student who doesn't yet understand the concept of "noun"...

jaschild
5
Points
jaschild 08/06/07 - 01:04 pm
0
0
i can understand how DI might

i can understand how DI might be overwhelming for a teacher. perhaps a strong tutoring program along with DI might alleviate the load. great administrative and parent support will go a long in this endeavor. what will be the max for class sizes and what are the consequences of not honoring the contract?

SHOCKER1
0
Points
SHOCKER1 08/06/07 - 02:35 pm
0
0
I love how those who aren't

I love how those who aren't in the field of education think they have the answers. EX. bone's solution! You should run for office!

jaschild
5
Points
jaschild 08/06/07 - 05:23 pm
0
0
uh oh.

uh oh.

bone
23
Points
bone 08/06/07 - 06:47 pm
0
0
sorry to disappoint you,

sorry to disappoint you, shocker, but i am a teacher. i have no urge to run for office - i already know i make a difference.

Rozzie2003
5
Points
Rozzie2003 08/06/07 - 08:46 pm
0
0
Wish Mrs. Bolton, staff and

Wish Mrs. Bolton, staff and students a successful school year.
I admire her positiveness and goals set.
I hope the parents buy into the program. Doing things different so you can expect different outcomes.

bone
23
Points
bone 08/06/07 - 10:15 pm
0
0
no, shocker, you will not see

no, shocker, you will not see my name at the top of the list for a low performing school. read carefully what i posted: i would not go for the charity element; pay incentives would encourage me to change schools. if there were pay incentives, sure i would consider going. i am confident i make a difference because i continue to take the time to research best practices in my field and consistently apply them in my teaching on a daily basis. i am not alone in this effort: the school i teach at is filled with amazing teachers that love coming to work & sincerely want to instill a love of learning in students. the positive atmosphere makes everyone want to succeed at the tasks we have each day. wouldn't it make sense to bring this experience to students who could really benefit from such an incredible opportunity? i don't think that teachers will leave a great situation unless there is sufficient motivation; with the low wage scale we work for, additional income would definitely be an incentive for experienced teachers to move to more challenging schools. i'm no altruist: i have it good where i am and i'll only leave if i can have it better somewhere else.

bone
23
Points
bone 08/06/07 - 10:17 pm
0
0
best of luck to ms. bolton

best of luck to ms. bolton and her staff.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Many black colleges struggling

Although Paine has struggled with its own failures over the past several years, HBCUs across the nation are dealing with some of the same troubles that are threatening their missions and existence.
Search Augusta jobs