Monday, November 5, 2012

If the goal is 100% "failure" then we're almost there

After nearly a dozen years of No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top

Remember, back in the day, when all the talk was about leaving no child behind? Remember the NCLB mandate that ALL children will be proficient by 2014?

Now as the new year approaches, comes the news that 82% of Illinois school districts have failed to make the grade, up from 80% the year before. Even worse, 98% of Illinois high schools are now considered failing. That means only 11 out of Illinois’ 671 eligible high schools achieving the standard known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Scores on state achievement tests barely budged in 2012 and graduation rates also dipped across the state, and the majority of schools failed federal academic standards in math and reading — similar to results last year's. The same pattern is holding true nationwide as well. In other words, the longer we persist in these top-down, corporate reform policies, the worse things get,  even according to their own standards.

It should be obvious however, that all those schools and districts aren't really "failing." The failure here is with the way the system measures and defines success and failure and the way it considers or fails to consider the effects of poverty and external downward pressures on all these measurable learning outcomes.

Maybe the next round of testing madness connected with Pearson-driven and Duncan-led Common Core Standards, can push us over the top, to the 100%-failure mark, truly leaving no school behind.


The view from Miles Davis Magnet Academy in Englewood on Chicago's south side. In the 90s, Englewood had the highest lead-poisoning rates in the country.
There's no better example of these negative external poverty-driven forces than the fact that Chicago has the distinction of being home to more cases of lead toxicity than any large city in the U.S. One in 12 of the city's children is lead poisoned. Megan Cottrell makes the link between lead poisoning and under-performing students in the Nov. 1 issue of The Reader.
A recent study out of the University of Illinois at Chicago examined the blood lead levels of third graders between 2003 and 2006—students now likely to be roaming the halls at CPS high schools. It turns out that at three-quarters of Chicago's 464 elementary schools, the students' average blood lead level was high enough to be considered poisoned, according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And although lead poisoning is rarely mentioned in the debate on how to improve schools, the UIC research shows just how much it may be damaging kids' ability to succeed. According to the study, lead-poisoned students in Chicago Public Schools are more likely to fail the third grade and score notably lower on their yearly standardized tests.
So without making "excuses," it should be obvious that if you really want to improve outcomes for inner-city children, stop evaluating/punishing schools and teachers for student test scores. Instead, get the lead out.

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