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Fowler High School: Growth Starts at Its Roots

Jaikera Green
Comp 101
8 December 2015

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Thesis: The home lives of the students who attend Fowler High School are outright horrendous.
Death, hospitalization, violence, teen pregnancy, incarceration, expulsion, no support system,
and a lack of motivation are just the basics of what effects these youths from performing their
bests at school. Syracuse City School District does not look at these factors when determining
the fate of the school in an attempt to help increase the graduation rate, which Fowler has been
the lowest in the district for generations. Putting in programs with social workers and authorities
whose jobs are to help motivate and give the students the help and support they need to get
through each school day will help fix the problem. No true change will be made until SCSD
make an improvement where the issue starts.


A. Alternative Decisions
The phasing begin
A. How does phasing work
a. What influenced the phasing
How graduation rates are calculated
Who is accounted for on the list
Troubled home lives
The alternative solution
A. Why should this solution exist
Changing a name doesnt change behavior
PSLAs turnout
More factors to consider

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Jaikera Green
Comp 101
8 December 2015

Fowler High School: Growth Starts at Its Roots

Syracuse City School District (SCSD) is working to fix the educational system. One thing
that SCSD wants to fix is the graduation rates. For generations Fowler High School has had the
lowest graduating rate in the district, influencing SCSD to make dramatic changes as in changing
the school and switching out staff. The process in which they are pursuing is called a phasing,
which was decided on after only four years of observation. This phasing has been put in action
and has shown little improvement. So far all the district has done is change the name of the
school, switched out staff, and added classes that are meant to keep the students in school.
At the start of the school year of 2014-2015, the phasing began with one of Fowlers
grade level no longer existing and the new set of freshmen being part of the new school. So as
each year go by Fowler will lose another grade and be replaced with another grade of the new
school until all Fowler students are graduated and the new school is the only school in the
building (Riede). This decision in which they are pursuing is only looking at the surface. The
new school is called Public Service Leadership Academy (PSLA). The new school, PSLA,
contains a program of classes that are said to keep the students interested in attending school.
Also, switching out all the staff members to those who can teach courses which causes all the old
staff to go looking for jobs elsewhere after working in the building for as long as they can

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remember. They initially said that any students interested in attending the new school must
complete an online test to see if they complete the requirements. This made the Fowler
community feel a bit worried, they argued that the new system will succeed on the fact they hand
pick the best students so it had no way to fail. For generations Fowler has been the school where
students were just dumped, so if students got kicked out of any other schools they would be
transferred to Fowler, in other words, sending all the troubled students who most likely dont
care for school into one building and blaming the school itself for its failure.
The way the district calculates the graduating rate is by taking the number of freshmen
that start their freshmen year and compare it to those who actually graduate their senior year on
time. But all the dropouts, incarcerated, and those who left unnoticed are still on that list and
never was taken off to lower the number of students and correcting the number. This makes it
look as if there are more students who are expected to graduate when in reality there isnt,
especially for those who are incarcerated.
The only students that do not count in the final count are those that leave Fowler, by
withdrawing, and can be accounted for elsewherelike, returning to a home country, enrollment
in another district/ educational program. August graduates do count in the final tally, although
everyone tends to focus more on those who graduate in June. Meaning that those who are
incarcerated are still on the list and is accounted for as a Fowler student until further notice. Most
of the students who are released from jail never return back to school, and they are not taken off
the list until they reach a certain age since its a law that children of a certain age should be in
school unless homeschooled. This age is 21, seeing how that you are too grown to be in high

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school. This is another issue for the fact that many students who drop out are within the ages of
Many of the students home lives are so bad that it literally takes focus off of their school
work. And after asking a few students who currently attend Fowler questions about the new
system they replied PSLA is giving the school a bad name and the students are hurting the
school more than helping it, and that they shouldnt have changed the name of school. Its
evident that the students they handpicked turned out to be even worse than the students who
already attended the school. Further questioning into adding programs that can help motivate the
students in doing well in school and Melissa Rodriguez replied with A program would be great
like that because there are so many kids who don't have people to turn to. the students
understand the struggle of not having someone in your corner to pat your back when doing well
or someone to help you back up when you fall.
An alternative solution couldve been to add a program that consists of social workers or
counselors, not the typical ones that are already working in the building, but those who jobs are
meant for special cases of things from home that really effect the students focus while in school.
The problem isnt the school or staff its the students. The system has every part it needs to fully
educate kids and to help them graduate. The district should focus more on where they live, what
influences are around them both negative and positive, and what kind of life they are living at
home. Many factors influences a students concentration in school and many of them lead back
to their home life, it can either motivate them or break them. Its evident that SCSD or even the
state should consider a program to help each troubling student in the schools, but Fowler in
particular has always been the alternative school for those troubled teens. The district just

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decided that they would send all the expelled, recently released, and struggling students to
Fowler and expect the staff to help them focus.
Changing a school name and the staff doesnt change the way students behave and how
much of the resources they use that are provided for them. The districts way of changing this
is by spending millions of dollars when all they really need is to put students who are struggling
with school in counseling or help with social workers visiting them and keeping them on track.
This will be very useful because whether the school changes or not, the students will stay the
same. The same courses they used to put the new school in couldve been added along the list of
courses that already exist, instead they decided to completely change an issue they considered a
burden for as long as two generations ago by replacing it. Based on the states requirements on
the graduation rates, the district decided it was time to cut loose the underdog before it dragged
everyone completely under.
The turnout of the new school so far has been a bit rocky. The new courses the new
school offers are offered for both the new and old school so its keeping the promise with making
the students interested in attending school and the classes. The new schools students are causing
more damage to the newly renovated building and has caused more drama than before. Which
shows that the issue hasnt been fixed, only time will tell but if the system doesnt have
something in place to help those students who really cant focus because of their personal live,
the new solution will eventually slip back into the old issue.
Back to the lives they at home, factors like death, violence, teen pregnancies, and
hospitalization also effects a students focus and attendance in school. Other than being an

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alternative school for troubled students, Fowler is also known for having the highest percentage
of pregnant teens although this is never reported, but the students know this. So these teen moms
are now taking on more responsibilities than just school work. They have to help provide for
their children and this results in temporary drop outs until they feel they can come back to
school. Many miss a lot of school days because they either need to work or have no one to watch
their children. Social workers can help them manage their time and help find some sort of
babysitting business that they can trust and afford while at school or working after school. Now,
taking in the consideration that Syracuses homicide rate has been increasing, death and violence,
including gang violence, has caused some students to stay home and grief a lost loved one. In
that percentage of students, there are those who get shot, stabbed, or beaten then have to be
hospitalized. Fear rushes over the youth and drama that started at school can escalate into more,
so some avoid school altogether. And even though the district itself cant do much about the
violence and deaths, they can put social workers and counselors in the schools to help resolve
issues before they escalate and help any grieving students so that they have another reason to go
to school and make it through the day. And yes, this isnt just happening in Fowler High School,
but the fact that the majority of students with this issue are at Fowler makes it even the more
important for SCSD and the state to look beyond the surface of the issue and go into considering
the things that can cause a lack of focus and motivation, causing the graduation rates to be at a
very low.
After being directed by the state to fix the graduation rates in the high schools, the district
decided to do a phase-in phase-out of Fowler High School into PSLA. Not looking at all factors,
which would have shown that there was an even bigger issue that needs to be fixed, the new

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school isnt going exactly as planned. SCSD has yet to deal with what is soon to come, which
will be more problems. The students need help in places more than just the field of school, if
theyre being distracted then they wont be able to focus. Bad lives at homes causes bad behavior
in school. Renovations and new staff doesnt change much but an image, but that image will
soon fade if the students start to give it a bad look. When a family is struggling they work on
things with one another not replace members because itll just be easier to work with. Easy isnt
always good, and a good struggle makes you stronger. Growth starts at the roots, and if the roots
dont have everything it needs to start growing no true change can be made.

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Works Cited

Riede, Paul. "Syracuse's Fowler High School to Phase out as 'Public Service
Leadership Academy' Phases in." Syracuse.com. 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 18 Oct.

Riede, Paul. "12 Things to Know about Big Changes Brewing at Fowler High
School, Two Other Syracuse Schools." Syracuse.com. 13 Apr. 2014. Web.

McMahon, Julie. "Syracuse's Fowler High School: Field of Broken Dreams."

Syracuse.com. 18 Oct. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.