Calculating a Solution

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

Kaja turned to Ronan to get a read on his expression. He looked as optimistic as usual like a male model smiling in a Brooks Brothers ad. She hoped she appeared stoic to him. If he ever sensed how much she detested his interference it gave him a probable advantage.

“How exactly is this going to work?” Kaja’s eyes darting back and forth between Morrison, Ronan, and Ward.

“You still run the department Kaja. I will implementing the new classroom lessons modeled after pilot projects in Minnesota designed to prepare their students for the state proficiency exams.”

“And how did Minnesota do? I suppose in a homogenous population they all improved about the same?”

“The students’ scores went up 20 percent.” War interrupted.

“I take it they were all from intact all American families with two parents in a stable environment? If so, I guess even the upper middle class native English speaking teenagers perform badly on tests then?”

“You just deflated your own argument Kaja,” Ronan said in a terse voice.

“I suppose I have. You’re right Ronan. I guess I just did. What else do you have in mind from Minnesota then?”

Ronan knew Kaja wasn’t really buying into what he was saying. She just needed time to find her next angle. The fact was she didn’t have a choice. The school board had signed off on his implementation strategy and Kaja either went along or got suspended. It was only a six month project. Could she not acquiesce for just a semester or so?

“Minnesota also did a motivation project. The kids needed some kind of tangible reward to match the level of their ability to delay gratification. What parents and educators found was that if the students wanted a prize they would study for it.”

And who would pay for the car or prom dress they asked for?”

“It wasn’t gifts but social benefits like being able to leave school early. Or get on the cheerleading squad for a month without tryouts.”

“I doubt my single teen mothers or the boys working two jobs to help their parents pay for the mortgage would find that helpful.”

“We are going to customize it for this population. That’s where you come in Kaja. You know these kids.”

“How can I not Ronan. I was once one of them.”

“So you are on board then?”

“I have no choice not to but I want to hear more. I need to be prepared.”

“The students did the most poorly on the logic games on the math portion of the state exam. That’s really was caused the scores to plummet. Minnesota and Massachusetts both addressed this problem by introducing a mandatory logic class. It’s a separate course to encourage reasoning skills.”

“You’re going to ask the kids to stay an extra hour after school?”

“No. Principal Morrison and Superintendent Ward have agreed that the logic course can be used as an academic credit in lieu of a science elective. Most of the students wait till the very last semester of high school to take their physics requirement. The state has allowed the San Francisco school board the authority to waive it given the history of the population’s performance.”

“I see. Anything else.”

“I think that is it for now Kaja. This meeting was meant to be a short 30 minutes. You first class today is not until 11:00am. Ronan and you will meet from now until then to go over the details.” Clearly Principal Morrison wanted to wrap up this meeting before Kaja had a chance to debate Ronan’s solution with him as referee.

“Thank you for hearing Ronan out Kaja. We appreciate it given the situation. You are still chair of the math department. You just know have an active on site resource.” Ward wanted this meeting to end to. “Principal Morrison and I now have to leave for a meeting with some of the Trustees who wanted to hear how this meeting went. We need to leave for the financial district in five minutes.

Morrison and Ward stood up to shake Kaja and then Ronan’s hands. The handshakes were a tight grasp on her palms. It was as if both her superiors were telling to her to stay in her place.

“Shall we go to your classroom to go over the timelines Kaja?” asked Ronan. Sounding very certain he was now outranking her.

Kaja wondered how Ronan came up with his tactics. Was a cut and paste type proposal gathered from a collection of articles in a teacher’s professional journal? Or did he just watch the Freedom Writers movie with Hillary Swank and tweak the details to suit himself?


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