A School Board in the Tampa area recently approved a change in curriculum for one of its elementary schools that has consistently failed to meet the State Standards for academic instruction. Progress reports for Wakeland Elementary school in Bradenton show that the school has failed dismally for at least the last four years in providing an even remotely adequate education to its students. In fact, the majority of its student body falls well below acceptable standards in every major academic subject. Wakeland is designated a Title 1 school which means that they receive additional federal funding to accommodate its high percentage of low socio-economic students but even that doesn’t seem to be solving the problem. It’s no secret that Wakeland is not doing a good job educating their students and there are several possible reasons for this: a lack of parental involvement, a shortage of qualified teachers, inadequate teaching strategies, large class sizes, and a high percentage of students requiring additional academic support beyond what is offered in the classroom.
The School Board’s recent decision to change Wakeland’s curriculum, however, will do nothing to educate the students that are failing. In what appears to be a move designed to avoid further federal penalties for failing to improve Wakeland’s performance, the School Board has decided to relocate all of the pupils to other schools. The Board then intends to turn Wakeland into a magnet school with an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program which specializes in providing an enriched academic environment designed to appeal to colleges. As such, Wakeland will no longer be a neighborhood school but rather an elite institution that requires an application process to attend.
School Superintendent Roger Dearing says, "Students currently going to Wakeland will have the first opportunity to take advantage of the open slots as long as they agree to the requirements of the IB program.” The requirements to attend an IB program traditionally include a student’s commitment to educational excellence, a strong desire to study hard and an ability to attain grades higher than may be required at a conventional school. If Wakeland’s students were already able to achieve those goals, the school would not be ranked among the lowest in the area. One can only presume that the likelihood of most of Wakeland’s 400 students being accepted into the new IB program is quite slim. Furthermore, the IB curriculum is known to be strenuous and involve academic instruction above and beyond that of a regular elementary school. If Wakeland students are already struggling, how can they be expected to do well with an even more challenging curriculum?