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Last Chance High School: A Principal's Crusade to Rescue Throwaway Teens
     

Last Chance High School: A Principal's Crusade to Rescue Throwaway Teens

by Harold Golubtchik Ed. D
 
Last Chance High School is the incredible story of a caring and innovative principal and his staff who found ways to dramatically change the lives of behaviorally challenged teens. It describes the first two years of the successful transformation of an inner city special education school in New York City. From birth, many students in this school had been denied

Overview

Last Chance High School is the incredible story of a caring and innovative principal and his staff who found ways to dramatically change the lives of behaviorally challenged teens. It describes the first two years of the successful transformation of an inner city special education school in New York City. From birth, many students in this school had been denied opportunities and had been given nothing to look forward to. General education schools could not find ways to cope with them. For most of these throwaway teens, Last Chance High was their only chance.

At the end of two years, fights were drastically reduced, and vastly improved social skills were exhibited. It was the first time that students were given opportunities to return to general education schools and to earn high school diplomas. Many went on to enjoy happy, productive lives.

The philosophy that drove this successful transformation emphasized that all humans, including troubled teens, have the same basic and genetic needs to succeed, to have options and choices, to belong and be loved, and to have fun and not be bored. When these needs are met, the philosophy explains, there is no need to misbehave.

Furthermore, schools have the the capacity and responsibility to create social and academic cultures where these fundamental needs can be met. Schools have the power to make a difference in their students' lives and help them overcome histories of failure.

The following fundamental principles were the driving force behind the successful transformation:
1. The use of punishments is not effective as a tool to change someone's behavior. The reality is that punishment and coercion cause youngsters to resist and even shut down.
2. Internal motivation is the secret to long range change. Teachers should not perceive their roles as change agents but, rather, as facilitators that help those who want to change.
3. Kids are not widgets on an assembly line waiting to pass tests. They are complex individuals with unique personalities, strengths and needs who desperately need to be surrounded by caring adults.

The book shares success stories that translate this philosophy to practice. For example, how did a publishing center motivate students to improve their writing skills? How did students pass exit exams when their absence rate was so high? How did the dreaded pop quizzes become a welcome instructional approach? How did students meet the dissection requirement in biology without using scalpels?

Last Chance High School is not a textbook, although thought-provoking concepts are presented throughout. It describes a journey packed with true stories of how students and adults worked together to turn a school around.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2013-08-27
An instructive, inspirational debut memoir that recounts a teacher's lifelong efforts to educate troubled students. When Golubtchik became principal of a floundering New York inner-city school, he didn't have the professional experience he needed to prepare him for the job. He'd been a longtime teacher and administrator, but Last Chance High School was a destination for "severely emotionally disturbed" students, cynically labeled "throwaway kids." He quickly learned that the educational environment was crippled by an unwieldy bureaucracy that wasn't creative or nimble enough to respond to its students' challenging needs. Before he could teach them basic skills, he had to confront the stark reality of their broken homes and fractured hopes. The anecdotes can often be despairing: The administration struggled with students smuggling weapons into school and the constant threat of sudden violence; local bodegas sold alcohol to underage students not for profit, but out of fear of retribution; and students complained of hunger, abuse and abandonment. Golubtchik came to realize that no set of minor revisions would improve the school's educational outcomes; its whole culture needed systemic rehabilitation. He bases much of this book on psychiatrist William Glasser's "choice theory" and looks at the proper "internal motivations" that may help even the most troubled students to succeed. Overall, this work is a pastiche of personal stories, educational theories and student profiles; one chapter, "Letters from the Trenches," shares dispiriting but refreshingly candid appraisals of the school before Golubtchik took the helm. Although it often reads like a memoir, it also has elements of a policy wonk's white paper, along with philosophical reflections on the human condition. The prose is sometimes a bit rough (one chapter subdivision, for example, is titled "He Cursed My Mother So I Hit Him"), but the personal stories are clear and compelling, and the advice on how to improve the educational outcomes of at-risk youth is courageous and profound. An engaging look at the values that represent the best chance for the future of education in America.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781481163842
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
06/14/2013
Pages:
196
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.42(d)

Meet the Author

Harold Golubtchik, Ed.D, is a life long educator who has taught general and special education students in urban schools and served as a principal of elementary and high schools. He is presently an associate professor at Brooklyn College in the Educational Leadership Department.

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