Something's going on in Pasadena's schools. Teachers are teaching and kids are learning. Quietly. Without making a lot of noise about it.
As I mentioned in yesterday's comments, they don't use the lockers at Eliot School in Altadena. Principal Peter Pannell noted a couple of reasons, the obvious one being that kids can't use them for hiding contraband. The less obvious reason is noise. Books are kept in the classrooms, and much of the homework gets done in after school programs. If kids have to take a book home they can check one out. At Eliot, they're not loaded down with pounds and pounds of them.
It was quiet during the first period at Eliot, and our tour group sat in the library while Pannell told us a little bit (well, a lot) about how the school operates. They do 90-minute class periods, alternating subjects but keeping the same group together in the same area of the building. Teachers meet regularly to discuss curriculum, the students in their group, what's working and what isn't. (A teacher group was meeting in the library while we were there.) All the teachers in the group know all the students in their area. This "embedded grouping" helps educators spot problems and work as a team to solve them. It also makes the kids feel safe--it's a big campus but they get to know their area and their group.
All this has been successful at Eliot, where they chalked up a 97-point gain in their API score just in the last year, jumping from 606 to 703. The target for all schools is 800. (I linked to the same article yesterday but in case you didn't read it, it's worth a look.)
Even if you don't have kids I think every citizen should care about the quality of local schools if only for mercenary reasons; if the schools in your town are good then your property value is higher. Touring Eliot School (see yesterday's post) showed me that, contrary to tired rumor that gets passed from tongue to ear to tongue to ear with nary an open-eyed fact check, Pasadena's schools are in decent shape and getting better. There's enough improvement (and hope for more) that it's worth making some noise about.
Our tour group was in the library when first period let out. I expected pandemonium. But it was a quiet storm.
Parent Tours at Eliot School are given the first Tuesday of every month, first thing in the morning. Contact the school at (626-396-5680).