Hiding poor performers is no fix

The News and Observer this morning attempts its own analysis of performance in Wake County schools.  Unfortunately they failed to clarify matters.  In response I sent the following letter to the editor. 

Your article on five big questions fails to clarify the reality in Wake schools.  On question 2, whether higher-poverty schools have higher teacher turnover and lower test scores, your response conceals a more discomfiting truth; that poor children perform comparably poor regardless how much of the student body they comprise. 

You cite Salem, for its low poor enrollment and high passing rates, and Brentwood, for its high poor enrollment and low passing rates.  Inconvenient to your “healthy schools” conclusion, 39% of Brentwood poor kids pass and only 26% of Salem poor kids pass.  By focusing on school pass rates, your story obscures the fact that we are failing to educate the poor. 

Worse still, like too many in this debate, you mix unrelated issues.  Suburban parents want proximity and, more importantly, stability in school assignment – a fair request.  The poor want, or ought to want, increased academic achievement beyond all else.  The one size fits all system struggles to serve both ends.

It’s time that we get on with adopting some of the successful programs that are making huge strides at raising academic achievement among the poor, and stop trying to spread the failure around.


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One Response to Hiding poor performers is no fix

  1. anon says:

    Consider this statement:

    The United States has the greatest education system on earth both currently and historically.

    This is a very easy statement to defend, and not particularly easy to disprove. Looking at the current state of education in the world, the US of A educates the most culturally diverse population in the world, including nearly every social, economic, and ethnic class over an extremely broad and variable geographic range. All children living in this country are offered 13 years of free education, and are legally required to attend at least for 10 years. Notice I didn’t say all Americans…because foreign nationals and illegal immigrants are also entitled. This is one of the largest socialist systems in the country (although dwarfed by the military which accounts for about 1/3 of the US budget – but that’s another topic entirely). But media sources and capitalists are quick to rip into this great institution as being hopelessy behind other countries (ignoring those countrys’ small and homogeneous populations which share the same culture, language and values). So why all the criticism? The answer is simple: industry is in need of a well-trained population that can become productive employees and active consumers. Since there’s no profit to be made educating an entire population, there’s no complaining about the socialistic nature of a tax-payer funded education system. But there’s a lot of complaining about the quality and type of education. We need to push students into science, math, and technology they say. Why not history, politics, world geography, music and the arts? That’s kind a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway. What good is a saxaphone player to GE? Okay, now I just answered a rhetorical question with another rhetorical question. But hopefully you get the idea. Note that it’s no accident that I mentioned GE which is an industrial giant as well as a huge media conglomerate (the owner of NBC, Universal Pictures, 26 television stations and numerous other cable, tv, and entertainment sources). See http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart/main
    for more info on who owns the media. This may sound nefarious, but it has produced an education system that is top-shelf and a model for the world. You may think the poor are getting left behind, but in fact, the poor are getting an infinitely better education than they’ve ever recieved in history.

    But even if you agree with my logic above, you might still say that a good sytem still has room for improvement. Maybe so, but it *is* a good system, in fact it’s the best system in the world. So let’s start from there before talking about how to make it better. There’s no need to pretend it’s crap, unless of course you’re trying to spread a myth in order to squeeze more tax dollars out of my pocket! 🙂

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