Poverty blamed for failing Hammond schools
By Jane Bokun Post-Tribune correspondent February 27, 2014 10:40PM
Updated: April 1, 2014 10:36AM
HAMMOND — High school social studies teacher Carleton Glassford was one of the educators at Thursday night’s hearing on School Accountability held by the Hammond School Board.
“You can’t turn a football team or a school around in two years,” said Glassford, who was Teacher of the Year. “One of my students is the only one in his family with a job and that’s as a busboy. Imagine how hard it is for him to concentrate in school.”
He said some students don’t even have heat in their homes.
A large portion of about 150 people in the audience agreed with Glassford that outside factors such as Spanish students who were not English proficient, poverty, transient populations and student hunger contributed to the school’s failing or poor grades. Elementary schools such as Harding, Hess, Edison and Irving as well as middle schools including Columbia, Gavit, Clark and Eggers, and Hammond High School gave presentations to explain why their schools received D’s or F’s for overall performance from the state of Indiana. The open meeting which included parents, students, and teachers were in the audience as principals and school heads met with the Hammond School Board to answer to new accountability rules tied to Indiana’s 2012 No Child Left Behind waiver.
“We all know there isn’t a level playing field,” Hammond Superintendent Walter Watkins said. “Our schools are not failing when you consider what our staff has to deal with. It takes funding and support, and we’re not getting that out of Indianapolis.”
The schools at the board meeting were all considered priority, Watkins said. Under Indiana’s rules, schools that receive D or F grades have to have federal school improvement status. Schools that receive D’s are classified as “focus” schools. Those with F’s are considered “priority” schools. Under an earlier agreement, the principals of these priority schools will be reassigned or asked to step down.
Many parents in the audience agreed that teachers in Hammond have had a difficult time, but things can be turned around.
Jeannie Anderson, a longtime Hammond resident and parent, said four of her children attended Hammond schools.
“My son attends the Hammond Academy for Science and Technology and next year he’s going to Purdue University,” Anderson said. “All of my kids were in the top 10 percent of their classes.”
The next Hammond School Board meeting will be 6 p.m. March 10 at the Administration Center, 41 Williams St., Hammond.