Sunday, September 22, 2013

Achievement Gap or Equity Gap?

P.L. Thomas, Furman University, reposts on the becoming radical blog site on how the achievement gap has become nothing more than a misnomer for the equity gap.

"First, and this is the most important aspect of the topic, the achievement gap is primarily a reflection of the equity gap that exists in the lives of children, and only secondarily a reflection of school quality and practices. 
"While politicians and the media misrepresent the achievement gap in order to demonize schools and teachers, we have ample evidence that addressing the whole life of the child is the only avenue to closing an achievement gap. 
"...the political, corporate, and media elite—who are using the “achievement gap” refrain to mask their true commitments to maintaining the current status quo of privilege and inequity—reject all evidence-based calls for addressing social forces as using poverty for an excuse. 
"If we start with a solid premise (the lives of children outside of school contribute about 60-80+% of measurable student outcomes), and then implement inequitable in-school policies (testing, labeling, and stratifying students in order to ask less of those labeled most in need), we should expect only one outcome—a persistent achievement gap.
"The political and corporate elite benefit from a constant state of education crisis because that perception allows them to point at the schools and distract us from their own failure to address the conditions of inequity that insure their privilege. 
"People living in poverty and trapped in a cycle of social inequity—specifically children—are not the agents of that inequity. The powerful determine the conditions of our society, and our schools reflect and maintain those conditions. 
"A persistent achievement gap is an accurate indictment of our schools as mechanisms of perpetuating inequity and privilege, but it is a greater indictment of the power of the cultural elite to maintain their privilege while claiming to seek equity." 

Achievement Gap Misnomer for Equity Gap, pt. 1 | the becoming radical

Achievement Gap Misnomer for Equity Gap, pt. 2 | the becoming radical

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just who are those GREEN school districts?

Michigan's new school accountability scorecard was revealed this August with a color coding system that rivaling anything the Department of Homeland Security could ever devise. Based on academic achievement growth, achievement gaps, graduation rates, and a few other factors, schools and districts were color-coded either GREEN, LIME GREEN, YELLOW, ORANGE or RED.

A super-majority of school districts were rated YELLOW, none were coded LIME GREEN, and only thirty-nine out of more than 700 districts (including charter schools which under Michigan law are considered "school districts") were GREEN.

A total of 3,397schools and 873 districts received scorecards. Approximately three percent of schools received a green scorecard, 15 percent received red scorecards and 82 percent received yellow, orange or lime green scorecards. ~ Michigan Department of Education news release dated August 20, 2013

It is interesting to take a look at some of the demographics of school districts that constitute the GREEN group:

  • 23% (9) are one room schoolhouses or operate on one of the Great Lakes islands
  • 85% (33) have a total enrollment of under 500 students each
  • Average enrollment for all thirty-nine districts is 205 students
  • 36% (14) have enrollments of less than 100 students
  • 41% (16) had been in operation for only one year
  • 31% (12) had NO scorecard data despite an overall GREEN designation
  • 67% (26) are charter school districts with fifteen (58%) of those in their first year of operation
    •  1 of those charter school districts was actually closed in 2011-12
    • Average proficiency in math and reading (3-8 MEAP) for the charter school districts was 24%
Our State Board of Education lauded this new scorecard as a better growth model for accountability than our old "ED Yes!" system. But one has to wonder how any traditional school district can ever measure up to the 2013 GREEN group given the descriptions, above.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Not Falling Behind, But Pulling Apart

A pithy but blazing indictment of the unjustified reform efforts that have done nothing to address the root causes of learning and opportunity gaps for our children. Only those politicians, business and educational leaders intentionally burying their heads in the sand can ignore this essay.

"Since the 1983 release of A Nation at Risk, policymakers have asserted that US students are falling behind their international peers, with dire consequences if we do not improve. The result has been three decades of increasingly high-stakes "standards-and-accountability" reforms, which rely on rigorous academic standards and test-based evaluation systems to hold schools and teachers accountable for student progress. As a comprehensive 2011 National Academy of Sciences report found, there is no evidence that this strategy has produced any meaningful improvement. Moreover, a series of recent reports suggests that we have been misinterpreting A Nation at Risk. Our education system is not so much falling behind as it is pulling apart, and the past decade of heightened accountability measures has likely further widened the gaps."

Not Falling Behind, But Pulling Apart: Race to the Top Reflects Broader U.S. Education Problems | LFA: Join The Conversation - Public School Insights

Friday, September 13, 2013

Study: Michigan cut school funding more than 33 other states since '08 | The Detroit News

Study: Michigan cut school funding more than 33 other states since '08 | The Detroit News

"Michigan has cut investment in K-12 schools by 9 percent since 2008, a deeper cut than 33 other states, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C."

Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

"States’ new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less.  The reduced levels reflect not only the lingering effects of the 2007-09 recession but also continued austerity in many states; indeed, despite some improvements in overall state revenues, schools in around a third of states are entering the new school year with less state funding than they had last year.  At a time when states and the nation are trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, this decline in state educational investment is cause for concern."