Going down with the ship

Baltimore's school district performed dismally on this past spring's state standardized tests but, rather than address the problem seriously, school administrators decided to go trendy. "When the boat is sinking," says the district's Frank DeStefano, "you don't follow the manual. You fix it." Enter Sally Mentor Hay, former chief academic officer of Denver public schools and her self-created pet project, Studio Course. Baltimore has instituted this curriculum in all of its 21 traditional middle schools, two of its alternative schools, and one K-8 school. Hay's "cutting-edge" approach redefines nouns as "stuff" and uses the magazine CosmoGIRL! (this month's feature: "Five Hot New Kisses") to teach reading. Hay claims that, in between articles about smooching and such, Studio Course addresses basic skills, just not right away. "The first thing is to build some fluency in writing, not shut it down with overemphasis on spelling and grammar.... That is not the focus. The focus is to get these kids to realize they have something to say." Getting kids to realize that they have something to say? Has Ms. Hay ever actually spent time with middle schoolers? Or heard of Instant-Messaging? LOL!
"Schools rush into change," by Sara Neufeld, Baltimore Sun, December 4, 2005