Saturday, February 26, 2011

Here we go again! Another list...

Apparently, the Michigan Department of Education has an unlimited amount of money to collect data and create lists ("Website measures how well Michigan schools are preparing students for college").  This comes despite the fact I know of no research that concludes publishing lists of best and worst schools every improved student achievement.

I'm not making excuses (nor am I "whining," Mr. State Superintendent) but the state and feds do pressure high schools to graduate all students within four years, regardless of college-readiness. It's damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don't. 

The Godfrey-Lee Public Schools area is a transient high-poverty community and many of our students come to us during or after middle school two to five years behind in academic skills. If you remove the artificial barrier that says all students must graduate in four years, then those who are behind could continue their education until they are deemed college or career ready. It makes sense in light of the fact that most college students these days are taking more than four years to graduate. Why not high schools for students who need it? Allow schools to assess students at intake and develop an individualized plan for getting to college-and-career ready levels that may include more time. This is especially important for schools that are trying to teach the vast majority of their students the English language at the very same time they are learning academic content along with their English-speaking peers (another ridiculous short-sighted federal requirement of NCLB and Title III).

The state loves to publish lists but it does very little to lift a hand and help. In fact, our new governor's solution seems to be cut the per-pupil foundation allowance by $470 for next year. Why do we continue to spend diminishing taxpayer dollars on a state agency that does little to nothing to help improve student achievement? In fact, why isn't their a list that evaluates the 50 state education departments on their effectiveness to support local education agencies?

By the way, the Michigan Department of Education accumulated and published this data by violating the Michigan Constitutional prohibition against unfunded mandates.  And they continue to do so without repercussion.  These are funds wasted that could help local districts improve student achievement.