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Class Struggle: March 7, 2010 - March 13, 2010

Numbers hide a great high school

I was astonished to see T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria labeled a "persistently lowest achieving school," as reported by my colleague Michael Alison Chandler. This exposes the untruths that can come from sticking to a test-score formula for labeling schools. But it also, in a surprising way, reveals a helpful twist the way this might work out for the school and the Obama administration.

By Jay Mathews  |  March 12, 2010; 3:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (44)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: T.C. Williams High School, a great school mislabeled, great families, strange funding rules, strong faculty  
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Do you remember Equity 2000?

In the 1980s a group of educational researchers, encouraged by frustrated math teachers like Pors, began to present evidence that many ninth graders were ready for algebra, if school districts could be persuaded to teach it to them. Social scientists Sol H. Pelavin and Michael Kane published a landmark paper, “Changing the Odds: Factors Increasing Access to College,” showing that many minority children, even those with disadvantaged backgrounds, could succeed in Algebra I if given a chance to take the course.

By Jay Mathews  |  March 12, 2010; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Trends  | Tags: Dianne Pors, Equity 2000, Michael Kane, Sol Pelavin, Vinetta Jones, after a decade more passing the course than took it before, algebra for ninth graders, major College Board math project, math education  
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Student doesn't like being political tool

I haven't found a response yet to my offer to Oceana High School in California to explain why it scheduled a daylong protest and discussion of school budget cuts, instead of using that time for English, math, science and social studies. I have however received this letter from an Oceana High students, which speaks for itself:

By Jay Mathews  |  March 11, 2010; 2:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: California school budget protests, Megan Rose Pellien, Oceana High School, student rejects protest  
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School budget cuts not such big news

There does not appear to be any significant correlation between annual changes in the amount of the school budget and annual changes in student achievement, but readers still get upset. My colleague columnist Petula Dvorak reported that one Fairfax parent proclaimed, “If this happens, we’ll be just like the other school districts.”

By Jay Mathews  |  March 10, 2010; 10:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Local Living  | Tags: Prince George's County high school gains, annual cuts don't affect achievement, class size, school budget cuts  
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National standards need national tests

We will need tests---they will likely evolve into national tests---that are aligned with the new standards. That means changing the annual tests already used in several states, and overcoming the still widespread view that national testing undercuts states rights. I have talked to some influential governors who think it will take at least five years to have national tests, which they prefer to call common tests in hopes of not raising that federalism issue.

By Jay Mathews  |  March 10, 2010; 12:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: common standards, five years for a national test, national standards, national standards need national tests, social agendas intrude on standards  
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Protesting trumps learning in California

The California student told the columnist that he would not take part in the protest organized by his school---including forming a human SOS on the nearby beach---because he saw "no solutions being offered that will give schools more money. . . It appears to me as if the schools are throwing a temper tantrum instead of protesting." He said he was not opposed to protests but "there is no money in the already overstretched state budget to meet the needs of California schools."

By Jay Mathews  |  March 10, 2010; 5:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: California budget crisis, California protests steal class time from students, Caro Pemberton, Ian Glazman-Schillinger, Joe Mathews, Mark Paul, Ocean High School, The California Crackup  
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Schools like Churchill don't lose prestige

Everybody at Churchill should relax, at least on the prestige issue. Experience and research show it is very hard to change a school’s reputation, whether it is good or bad. The national publicity about the grade-changing scandal will have no effect on the college prospects of any students not under investigation. The eight being looked at (who seem to have fled the school) probably won’t suffer much either.

By Jay Mathews  |  March 9, 2010; 2:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Churchill High School cheating scandal, Churchill reputation is safe, family incomes define school prestige, reputations rarely change  
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Ravitch, unpredictable, still likes NCLB basics

Ravitch is our best living historian of education. In my view she is the best ever, since those who preceded her, including some of her mentors, did not write nearly as well. Her "Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms" is a masterpiece. I was surprised then that she wasn't more patient in this book with the American way of improving education.

By Jay Mathews  |  March 9, 2010; 5:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (45)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Diane Ravitch, Ravitch is unpredictable, Ravitch the best educational historian, Ravitch's new book, charter parents not better than regular parents  
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Who cares who gets the Race To Top dough?

I don't think the feds, led by any administration, have the power to make sure the money they are handing out to schools is well spent.

By Jay Mathews  |  March 8, 2010; 5:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags: Andrew Rotherham, Race to the Top money, good states lose out, tossing money out the window  
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Help schools use non-fiction books

How can we persuade teachers to give non-fiction more prominence? Any ideas? How about a non-fiction week during that limp period after the early May crunch of state, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams? Pick a book and read it for two hours a day. The rest of the time we’ll have lunch and special projects.

By Jay Mathews  |  March 7, 2010; 10:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (42)
Categories:  Metro Monday  | Tags: Dan McMahon, DeMatha Catholic HIgh School, schools need more non-fiction, spring non-fiction week, too much fiction in schools  
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