"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Department of Education magic tricks...that don't work

This is a current article from American Thinker. The author talks about putting different names on the same failing schools, which somehow turns them into "high-performing" schools. Does that language sound familiar? That "high-performing" label applies to everything from teachers, to schools, and to administrators in Race to the Top language. RT3 suggests this will be accomplished by taking the highest performing teachers and administrators, assigning them to the "low-performing" schools, and it's magic, ladies and gentlemen! Low performing schools will turn around, teachers and administrators will become superheroes because of their dedication and record of performance, and all will be right in the educational world.

Read this piece below and then let's talk about the real issues with failing schools and why the Federal government's ideas of more spending and shifting of personnel is not the answer:


I want to draw attention to a couple of the author's paragraphs:

"Instigating Detroit's third-world slide is its schoolchildren's woeful academic performance. A mere 2% of its high school graduates are prepared for college-level math; just 11% are ready for college-level reading. In 2008-2009, its graduation rate was 58% compared to the national average of 89%. In 2009, Detroit public-school students posted the worst math scores in the forty-year history of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test. Students are fleeing at jailbreak speed -- between 1997 enrollment dropped from 175,168 students to 84,000 and continues to fall, and those remaining are probably the worst of the worst.

The statistics are hardly unusual; noteworthy is Detroit's intended solution, and it is here that the third-world virus may escape the laboratory and infect America more generally. The chief culprit is something called the Excellent Schools Detroit initiative, a solution backed by state officials, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and two wealthy private foundations. Its aim is to increase the high school graduation rate from 58% to 80% and then insure that 90% of these graduates enter college. Critically, to achieve this aim, low-performing schools will be closed and replaced with, according to officials, seventy high-performing schools".

I highlighted the last few sentences. This is the same position the Missouri State Board of Education has taken in its push to secure federal funding for unfunded programs such as Race to the Top. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and other businesses initially supported this program, and in fact, the Ewing Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City underwrote $100,000 of the first proposal the State Board drafted in 2009. Does this sound familiar to the backing Detroit schools received?

Look on the Missouri DESE website regarding graduation rates and the several articles addressing this problem:

It is a laudable goal to increase high school graduation rates. It is unrealistic to prepare all students for college. The stated goal of this administration is exactly that, to prepare every student for college. Are we setting up students in Missouri for the same trap in which the Detroit students find themselves? I fear the third world virus WILL escape the laboratory and infect Missouri.

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