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Forget about the achievement gap

The D.C. mayoral race is deeply split on most issues, but everyone agrees on one thing: We must reduce the achievement gap between minority and white students. It is too bad, then, that that the gap is such a mindless measure of school progress.

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray says: “The achievement gap ... really has not been reduced over the past three years irrespective of test scores. It really is an important thing. ” Mayor Adrian Fenty’s campaign web site endorses the gap’s significance but insists the mayor has “narrowed the achievement gap by as much as 20 percent . . . from 2007 to 2009.”

The Post’s splendid columnist Colbert I. King says the gaps in test scores between the children of city’s affluent and poor, between white and black, “go to the heart of school reform efforts.”

The actual numbers tell another story. Here is what my colleague Bill Turque reported in his Aug. 19 story on the education issues in the mayoral race: “Average math scores of white D.C. fourth graders [on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)] grew from 262 in 2007 to 270 last year (on a scale of 500). Scores rose three points for D.C. African American students, from 209 to 212. So the gap widened from 53 to 58.”

He compared students in Ward 7, relatively low income, to the more affluent students of Ward 3 on the DC CAS tests. “In Ward 7, reading proficiency rates for secondary students rose from 17 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2010---11 points,” he said. “But Ward 3’s rate rose almost 13 points in that time, and the disparity between the two wards remains about 50 points.”

So, nearly everyone seems to agree, math scores of black D.C. fourth graders went up three points, reading scores of mostly black and low-income Ward 7 secondary school students went up 11 points, and somehow that’s bad news. Why? Because the scores of white students and Ward 3 students went up more. If their scores had not changed, or gone down just a bit, we would all be celebrating a narrowing of the achievement gap, our favorite measure of city schools.

Here are some other dubious ways to make the gap smaller and be happy: Have no improvement in black scores but a drop in white scores, or have black scores decline but white scores go down even more. We seem to have taken our concern about the income gap in America and adopted the same vocabulary when we talk about schools, even though making more money and learning to read are very different activities. Achieving proficiency in math, and particularly in reading, is key to the futures of both black and white children, both rich ones and poor ones. Focusing on the gap encourages us to ignore or downplay the success of children in one group in favor of comparing their gains to others. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless says this has, among other things, led us to overlook meager improvement in some previously high-performing groups.

Worse, it has denied recognition to the hard-working minority and low-income students, and their teachers, when they score gains but don’t close the gap. We know some D.C. minority children have been improving, but a large chart accompanying Friday’s Post front page story by Turque on the gap made it impossible to determine how much. The numbers were about differences, not gains.

Why not work at raising achievement for every child, in every demographic category, instead of obsessing about the gap? I don’t blame politicians or journalists for enabling this deceptive mindset. Everyone does it. It is woven into the way we think about schools, from the president on down. But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense, or that we shouldn’t try to rethink school progress in a more useful way.


By Jay Mathews  | August 29, 2010; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  Metro Monday  | Tags:  achievement gap, all DC officials say it must be closed, focusing on gains for all, gaps narrow if whites don't improve, numbers show it is a mindless measure  
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Comments

I get your point, but I think the gap is still worth discussing. While we should celebrate any improvement for any group, when we continue to see some groups soaring and others barely eking by we should be concerned. I think relegating the achievement gap to the back of the list will mean we don't pay enough attention to what is happening to poor students. We already don't pay enough, or the right kind of, attention to those students.

Posted by: Jenny04 | August 29, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Jay, those are questions you should be asking Rhee. She is the one who has staked her success on narrowing the achievement gap.

I agree with you that we should be celebrating the rise in scores for all groups (except that they fell in elementary schools this past spring--a direct result of Rhee's so-called reforms.)

With her it's all or nothing and she gives no credit to her teachers. I'm sure, when it's all said and done, that she will blame teachers for the widening of the achievement gap.

However, with all her firings of teachers and the constant churn of principals and with her getting her way in everything to do with DCPS, she should be replicating the miracle she claims (but can't prove) she accomplished in Baltimore.

It's time we start looking at the "gaps" in her own resume and start holding her accountable. I think we voters in DC will do exactly that on Sept. 14.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | August 29, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Forget the man behind the curtain...

I mean ignore the women behind the curtain...


Ordinary people can see through Rhee/Fenty and don;t like what they see

Posted by: mamoore1 | August 29, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

I read the article, looking for a reference to Rhee and didn't find it until I did a word search and found urbandweller's mention.

It's Rhee who has made such a big deal about narrowing the achievement gap and Rhee who needs to acknowledge her failure in narrowing it or convince us why it's not longer important - then apologize to all the teachers she's blamed for it, and change her punitive policies. (Asking the impossible, I know.)

Here are some of Rhee's strong statements relating to the achievement gap:

5/7/09 - “In my second and third years of Teach for America-I taught a group of 70 kids there [in Baltimore] with another teacher-we took a group of kids who were performing at the bottom and took them to the top. What it showed me very clearly is that everything people were attributing to their low achievement levels-poverty, the lack of two-parent households, those sorts of things-were not the determinants of these kids' success. (Their success) could be impacted dramatically by the teachers in the classroom. If I worked my tail off for three years and despite everything I tried, the achievement level of those kids didn't move, I would have left thinking, 'You have to solve these social ills.' But the experience I had was exactly the opposite. That informs and drives everything that I do.” http://www.politicsdaily.com/2009/05/07/reforming-d-c-schools-changes-challenges-complaints/

June 22, 2009 - The reality in Washington, DC is if you live in Georgetown versus if you live in Anacostia, you get two wildly different educational experiences. That’s the biggest social injustice imaginable because what it means is that— we are still in this day and age— we are still allowing the color of a child’s skin and the zip code that they live in to dictate their educational attainment levels, and therefore their life chances and their life outcomes. That goes against every single tenet that this country was founded on. http://www.publiccharters.org/RheeKeynoteNCSC09 National Charter Schools Conference: Leading Change in Public Education, Washington, D.C.

8/26/10 - “If what we’ve done in five years is to grow the enrollment and diversify the enrollment and brought the achievement levels up, but [when] we look at low-income black kids’ scores, they are no different than when I got here, than I would say I have failed,”
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/39647/michelle-rhees-campaign-to-diversify-dc-public-schools-means-wooing#comment-16022

8/18/10 "It's maddening and it's hard… "Have our ward 7 and 8 schools progressed? Absolutely. But the gap is still ridiculous." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/18/AR2010081806726.html

Posted by: efavorite | August 29, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Achievement gap, income gap, I believe it should be viewed as the parent gap, Parents should be evaluated on the level of readiness they present their five year old at the schoolhouse gate when they enter kindergarten.

Posted by: phoss1 | August 29, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

As heterogeneous as this country is, there must be acceptable parameters of compliance, norms to be followed; one of which is school readiness for our children.

If there is not, we may as well surrender our ethos and all go off pell mell into the wilderness.

Posted by: phoss1 | August 29, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

"We must reduce the achievement gap..." Who's we Mr. Mathews?

Back before the US Civil War, standardized tests would have no doubt measured a difference in learning gains between white children and children of color. The vicious Black Codes in force at the time made it a crime for a child of color to even be in possession of a book and for any person to even attempt to teach them to read.

But no one, outside the owners of slave plantations and their political allies, would have addressed the testing disparity so absurdly. An "achievement gap" indeed! The abolitionists, the Quakers, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe and all those of rational mind would have put the blame where it belonged, on slavery! Meanwhile the slavers would have begged for a debate over the "achievement gap" if the existence of the institution itself could be ignored and their profits protected.

Today, while chattel slavery is a historical relic, its racist economic underpinnings are very much alive in our global economy. Racism generates huge profits in sweatshops and farm fields and Wal-Marts every day around the world. Racism generated massive profits for the banks through their sub-prime mortgage schemes. It's doing the same thing for Kaplan's "sub-prime" Universities and the Washington Post Company as they prey upon young people of color.

The new corporate masters of US public education oversee an apartheid-like system where segregation has been restored, where teachers of color are steadily being driven from the classroom to make room for white “Teach For America” missionaries, and where a second-class education for children of color has been institutionalized. Little wonder the modern overseers are so comfortable making their stand on the "achievement gap" while the economy's ingrained racism and the profound and disproportionate effects of severe poverty on children of color are ignored.

Here's a partial list of the new overseers who shed "crocodile tears" over the achievement gap in public exclusively for personal or political gain. It's quite the diverse group of racists and their minstrels but they're hypocrites all.

George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Rod Paige
Margaret Spellings
Ruby K. Payne
Eli Broad
Joel Klein
Arne Duncan
Michelle Rhee
Bill Gates
Paul Vallas
Jeb Bush
Wendy Kopp
Newt Gingrich
Rush Limbaugh
Michael Bloomberg
Armstrong Williams
Al Sharpton
Jay Mathews

Posted by: natturner | August 29, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Racism and inequality to the rights of those with color are real. It not only impacts children gaining access to effective educational environments, schools, teachers, and facilities where minorities are majority, the list of includes our number one college in the U.S. Harvard University where racial issues are still at large.

"It was clear from the day of his inauguration that former Harvard president Lawrence Summers had no interest in increasing the racial diversity of the faculty at Harvard University. Almost immediately upon taking office, Summers signaled an unfriendly policy on race by immediately announcing that Harvard’s black studies program would no longer have “a blank check” to pursue its mission. Later, Summers greatly weakened the African and African-American studies department by triggering an unnecessary feud with Cornel West, which led to the departure to Princeton University of both West and Professor K. Anthony Appiah. Both were serious losses to Harvard."

Late in his presidency, Summers denied tenure to Marcyliena Morgan after the African and African-American studies department, then chaired by the eminent black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., had unanimously recommended that tenure be awarded. This decision drove both Morgan and her husband, the esteemed sociologist Lawrence Bobo, to Stanford University.* Apparently Summers never informed himself that Professor Bobo was not only an important scholar but also that he was in line to head the African and African-American studies department when Professor Gates stepped down.

Summers’ later speculation, that the absence of women faculty in the sciences and mathematics might be due to inherent genetic differences, finally ended his presidency. His suggestion of the possibility that there might be an inherent inferior intelligence in certain groups led many black academics to conclude that Summers probably held similar views about the inherent capabilities of African Americans.

One tenured professor at Harvard told JBHE at that time, “It is readily apparent to those of us at Harvard that Larry Summers actually believes that women and minorities are less capable than white men.”
http://www.jbhe.com/news_views/57_black_faculty_harvard.html

Achievement gap issues should remain focused upon because racism will always exist in society overall.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | August 29, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Why not work at raising achievement for every child, in every demographic category, instead of obsessing about the gap?
-----------
Why not, indeed! Well said.

Posted by: CharlesMcKay1 | August 29, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Mathews, you've never experienced what effects the "Achievement Gap" has had on an entire demographic society.

You're speaking on a subject you have absolutely no real life experience.

Have you EVER been denied access to a library?

Have you EVER been denied access to a decent and effective educational environment to have a real "life experiences" do you have to support your opinion?

Please identify what experiences you have relating to the achievement gap disparities (and its effect on communities)and how it has impaired YOUR right or the rights of your children gaining access to what has HISTORICALLY always been readily available to you and those who "look like" you?

Posted by: PGCResident1 | August 29, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Ridiculous nonsense from Jay.

Jay,
As you well known (and as far as I can tell, believe) Michelle Rhee claimed that she took her students from the 13th percentile to 90% of them at the 90th percentile.
Why hasn't this happened in DC?
She taught 3 years and ran The New Teachers Project for 10 years.
You would think that she'd known what type of teachers to hire.
That should have been her priority.
But it hasn't.
And elementary scores dropped.

As I noted here before, I asked her if she planned to move Highly effective teachers to replace ineffective teachers.
She said NO.

Why Jay?
You've got her ear.

Shouldn't a group of HEts been placed into Stanton Elementary to take those kids upto the 90th percentile instead of turning the school over to a private group whose management won't show up on the DCPS DC-CAS scores?

Posted by: edlharris | August 29, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

"Have you EVER been denied access to a decent and effective educational environment to have a real "life experiences" do you have to support your opinion?"

Correction

Have you ever been denied access to a decent and effective educational environment that supports "real Life experiences" to support your opinion?


Agreed, "raising achievement for every child, in every demographic category" should be standard.

But there are many who wish for that to NOT occur, especially for children of color.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | August 29, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Mathew's suggests that we should just ignore disparity and the achievement gap. "Data" and "statistics" are only convenient to use when they meet your agenda... JUST LIKE RHEE.

If you really want to see disparity and the achievement gap, go to CHEC and see what is really happening in one of those "AP for all" classrooms. Don't cherry pick a teacher that is trying to highlight their successes and make CHEC look to be the model school that every challenging urban school supposedly should strive to be. Interview as many teachers of the present and past that have taught AP classes and see how they feel about their experiences and see how your BS challenge index has influenced the administration to strive to achieve greatness through your index.

My students laughed when there were buttons passed around last year at CHEC when we were rated so high in your challenge index, but at the same time... they said that your ranking would look good on their applications to college.

Nevermind the horrible disparity amongst students that need to be given extra support rather than being in an AP class. Nevermind the fact that many of these students are put into remedial courses when they go to college because their watered down AP course didn't provide them what they really needed. Nevermind the fact that many of these kids would be better served in a class that supports their low skill levels to increase their likelihood of success in the real world.

Jay, you need to face reality. DCPS needs real reform. Rhee did a hell of a job cleaning up the the offices downtown to improve efficiency and services downtown. Since then, she has been a figurehead talking about reform that hasn't done anything, but push a horrible agenda in public education that is full of lies and convenient truths.

Posted by: istheresocialjustice | August 29, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

This column is fine as far as it goes. The real issue is who we hold accountable for student progress, regardless of the race or ethnicity of the student. When we start holding everyone involved with public education...including parents, students and legislators accountable in the same way we hold teachers and principals accountable, we may see "the rising tide that lifts all boats."

So long as students, parents and legislators bear no responsibility for student success or failure we will be stuck in this race to an equal level of mediocrity.

Posted by: kronberg | August 30, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

"The evidence that tenure laws keep bad teachers in schools is overwhelming. In New York State, outside of New York City, only about 17 tenured teachers are terminated annually. New York City’s Chancellor has revealed that in that city, only ten out of 55,000 tenured teachers were terminated in the 2006-2007 school year. In a year in Florida, scholar Richard Kahlenberg wrote, the involuntary dismissal rate for teachers was an abysmally low 0.05 percent, “compared with 7.9 percent in the Florida workforce as a whole.” In Dallas, even when unofficial pressures to resign are factored in, only 0.78 percent of tenured teachers are terminated. Out of Tucson’s 2,300 tenured teachers, only seven have been fired for classroom behavior in the past five years. Des Moines, a school district with almost 3,000 teachers, has fired just two for poor performance in five years."

"Teachers Agree: Bad Apples Stay
A study conducted by Public Agenda in 2003 polled 1,345 schoolteachers on a variety of education issues, including the role that tenure played in their schools. When asked “does tenure mean that a teacher has worked hard and proved themselves to be very good at what they do?” 58 percent of the teachers polled answered that no, tenure “does not necessarily” mean that. In a related question, 78 percent said a few (or more) teachers in their schools “fail to do a good job and are simply going through the motions.”

"The Union Tax on Firing Bad Teachers
So why don’t districts try to terminate more of their poor performers? The sad answer is that teachers unions have made the process prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. In Illinois, Reeder found, it costs an average of $219,504 in legal fees alone to get a termination case past all the union-supported hurdles. Columbus, Ohio’s own teachers union president admitted to the Associated Press that firing a tenured teacher can cost as much as $50,000. In New York State, the average is $128,941 (Education Week reports that in New York City, the average is $163,142). A spokesman for Idaho school administrators told local press that districts have been known to spend “$100,000 or $200,000” in litigation costs just to get rid of a bad teacher."

"The Bottom Line

Most teachers absolutely deserve to keep their jobs, but it’s absurd to pretend that the numbers of firings actually reflect the numbers of bad teachers protected by tenure. As long as union leaders possess the legal ability to drag out termination proceedings for months or even years -- during which time districts must continue paying lawyers -- the situation for students will not improve."

"Even Al Shanker, the legendary former president of the American Federation of Teachers, admitted, “a lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent.”

http://www.teachersunionexposed.com/protecting.cfm

Posted by: PGCResident1 | August 30, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Statistically, any true improvement in schools will widen the achievement gap in the short to medium term.

If family income has an exponential effect on achievement (which it statistically does), then any gains over the whole system will be greater for the upper income students than lower income students.

The only effective way to "close the gap" is to funnel resources into lower income areas of the district in an attempt to raise low income scores at the expense of high income gains.

This is also only a short term solution, as any high income household will quickly see that they are not getting their money's worth for their children, and will leave the district. Of course, the gap will then be closed, since there is no upper income to compare to.

Posted by: someguy100 | August 30, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Focus on the "gap" distracts from the fact that many children, of whatever race and SES background are not being taught to read and do math. No one looks at what a "gain" of a few points on a test represents. Test scores have essentially remained flat over the years, nudged up slightly by all the emphasis placed on them. But with the rate of change, the 10th of Never will come before schools are "reformed."

It's in the instruction, and instruction remains a black box.

Posted by: DickSchutz | August 30, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Good comments. Certainly Rhee has been pushing for a narrowing of the achievement gap, but the point of the column is that EVERYONE, including her opponents, are doing that. I am a little surprised that efavorite and edlharris would blame this on Rhee when they are clearly aware of the history of this concern, and it goes back way before anyone every heard of Michelle Rhee. Rob Smith, one of my favorite school superintendents, arrived in Arlington in 1997 and vowed that the achievement gap would be his principal concern. Arlington joined a consortium of districts around the country focusing on the gap. I think this was all good work, raising the achievement of low income kids, but the message is weakened by the focus on the gap because you look better if whites and upper income kids don't improve. Look around. Governors around the country, and ed reformers, were talking about this from at least the 90s on.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 30, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

"Why not work at raising achievement for every child, in every demographic category, instead of obsessing about the gap?"

Because we already devote more money and resources to services for upper-income people in this country than we do for the poor, just as we have for over 400 years. American education policy CREATED the achievement gap, just as its economic system created economic disparities. (The only time when both decreased was during the era of forced bussing for desegregation, and upper marginal tax rates of 70% or more. Of course, the very thought that poor and non-white children might actually have equal opportunity killed those successful policies and ushered in increasing inequality over the last 30 years. But instead of returning to successful policies, we prefer to embrace fads, miracle cures or simply blame the poor and working class for the conditions that our social policy has forced on them.) To suggest that now we should just "treat everyone equally" is disingenuous classism and racism worthy of Fox News. Was this written at the Glenn Beck rally?

Also, as others have pointed out, it seems the "reformers" who are most anxious to hold others "accountable," based on un-validated data chosen by others, are unwilling to be held accountable themselves based on their own criteria. Remember, it was Rhee herself that identified test scores and the achievement gap as the important measures of DCPS success. No one forced them on her, but now that she has reversed the trend of improving test scores and widened the achievement gap, we should no longer use those measures? Incredible! (Meaning not credible or dishonest.)

Posted by: mcstowy | August 30, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Check 8th Grade Reading which is the key metric. The only improvements on that NAEP test in D.C. is for the top 10% of students. In 8th grade Reading, D.C. scores have dropped for both low-income and Black students since NCLB and since Rhee arrived.

Worst, the NAEP sample is awfully favorable for D.C., with only 73% of the sample being low-income, 5% disabled, and 4%ELL.

Rick Hess wrote today

“Rhee's team has cleared an enormous backlog in special education, shuttered a slew of underutilized and decrepit schools in a move that saves millions each year, fixed a profoundly dysfunctional system for procuring and distributing textbooks, overhauled a broken data and human resources operation, improved hiring, built a top-shelf research department, ...” Hess then praised Rhee’s use of test scores.

Please think about what Rhee would have meant if she had taken the log out of the eye of the central office before removing the mote’s in individual teachers’ eyes. Had she shown some modesty, and reformed the administration and then allowed collaboration in regard to teaching and learning, I’d be celebrating her.

Posted by: johnt4853 | August 30, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

for johnt4853. An interesting point. Do you know of any school districts who were having trouble with special ed that did that? how did it work out?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 30, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Worse, it has denied recognition to the hard-working minority and low-income students, and their teachers, when they score gains but don’t close the gap. We know some D.C. minority children have been improving, ...
.......................
The usual from Jay Mathews.

"We know"

No we do not know. Ms. Rhee and the Secretary of Education want teachers to live or die based upon test results. So far the test results do not show any great improvement for the three years that Ms. Rhee has been in charge.

At best all that is seen is the same level of improvement that the previous head of the schools was able to achieve without a witch hunt of teachers.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Jay - I relate positively to just about everything you say in your 10:42 comment, except for your surprise at my and edlharris' "blaming" Rhee.

Speaking for myself, I blame Rhee for making the gap and the scores such a big deal. I blame her for lying and obfuscating about the scores when they don't go her way and I blame her for no longer mentioning the gap except when someone asks her about it and then just commenting on how incredibly dificult it is.

How about apologising for not living up to her promise? (I know - beyond her ken.)

How about telling us what she's going to do to narrow it?

Posted by: efavorite | August 30, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Worse, it has denied recognition to the hard-working minority and low-income students, and their teachers, when they score gains but don’t close the gap. We know some D.C. minority children have been improving,
.......................
Mr. Mathews should read the Washington Post if he wants to know what the black poverty voters think of Ms. Rhee.

Oh and by the way blacks may be a minority in the nation but in D.C. they are the over whelming majority.
..........................
Poll shows D.C. Mayor Fenty getting more credit than support in primary race against Gray

Education is the top voting issue in the poll and one that works toward Fenty's advantage, particularly among whites. White voters overwhelmingly see the District's schools as better than they were four years ago. But black voters are as apt to say schools have deteriorated as improved.

Talk of Rhee's performance and future is a constant on the campaign trail, but the deep polarization over the chancellor does not give either candidate a clear advantage. In the latest poll, 41 percent of Democrats say her record is a reason to vote for Fenty; 40 percent say it is a factor against Fenty. Among white voters polled, 68 percent say Rhee is a reason to support Fenty, but 54 percent of African Americans consider Rhee a strike against him.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/28/AR2010082804224_3.html?sid=ST2010082704169

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Jay - I relate positively to just about everything you say in your 10:42 comment, except for your surprise at my and edlharris' "blaming" Rhee.

Speaking for myself, I blame Rhee for making the gap and the scores such a big deal. I blame her for lying and obfuscating about the scores when they don't go her way and I blame her for no longer mentioning the gap except when someone asks her about it and then just commenting on how incredibly difficult it is.

How about apologizing for not living up to her promise? (I know - beyond her ken.)

How about telling us what she's going to do to narrow it?

Or better yet, how about boldly announcing that she no longer thinks the achievement gap is important and that she will no longer denigrate teachers for not being able to single-handedly raise students' scores to acceptable levels?

Posted by: efavorite | August 30, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

"Because we already devote more money and resources to services for upper-income people in this country than we do for the poor, just as we have for over 400 years."

Wow, delusional much? The tax base covers public schools, and the tax base is paid by upper income folks. We devote enormous resources to our low income population--with very little improvement shown year in and year out.

Jay, while I'm pleased that you are arguing to ignore the achievement gap, it's worth remembering that the entire basis of your Challenge Index and AP FOR ALL is closing the "achievement gap" of AP--on paper, at least. So you seem to be a tad selective in deciding when the achievement gap matters.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | August 30, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Only an allegedly "race blind" ignorant white person could ever claim we should "just forget about" closing the achievement gap (I am also white, but at least I am not "color blind").

Mr. Mathews, you miss the key point that if we stop measuring the achievement gap and root only for increased scores for everyone, our children of color might be left far, far behind in terms of opportunities presented to them in later life (because they did not achieve as much on tests previously).

The reason everyone focuses on the achievement gap is not because everyone else is stupid and you, alas, are the one who will help us all see the light. The reason everyone focuses on the achievement gap is because it is a measure of injustice--it measures the opportunities given whites/people with money vs. people of color/working class.

Posted by: adcpsteacher | August 30, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Cal_Lanier wrote:
"Wow, delusional much? The tax base covers public schools, and the tax base is paid by upper income folks. We devote enormous resources to our low income population--with very little improvement shown year in and year out."

Actually, not delusional, just facts. You should get your history and facts straight if you are going to take others down on "facts"..

The upper income people DO NOT PAY for schools of lower income people. LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES pay most of schooling fees. So, if the LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD (i.e., WARD 8) is poor, WARDs 2 and 3 will not be paying for their schools... each locality pays for itself...

Posted by: adcpsteacher | August 30, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Why assume that the Black-White academic achievement gap can be closed?

Why assume that the Black-White academic achievement gap should be closed?

Do we assume that the White-Chinese academic achievement gap, or the non-Jewish White-Jewish White academic achievement gap (which incidentally is similar in magnitude to the Black-White gap), can or should be closed?

Not even ONE school system anywhere in the world (and that includes all of the racially diverse school systems in the USA, Canada, England, France, Holland, Sweden, Jamaica, Brazil, and South Africa) has EVER been able to close the Black-White academic achievement gap. Perhaps this indicates that the underlying assumption of ethnoracial group equality in mental ability might actually NOT be true.

Until the early 20th century most experts agreed with Francis Galton's theory of innate ethnoracial group differences in intellectual ability. Then the famous anthropologist Franz Boas promulgated the theory that all ethnoracial groups have the same level of innate mental ability. This Boasian theory of ethnoracial group equality in mental ability became strongly dominant and is now a major tenet of modern political correctness. However the Boasian theory has never been proven to be factually true, in fact most or all of the empirical evidence indicates that ethnoracial groups actually show substantial differences in IQ-type intelligence. East Asians (Han Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese), elite Indian sects (high caste Hindus, Parsees, and Jains), and Ashkenazi Jews tend to have higher IQs (with group averages in the 105 to 115 range). Some ethnoracial groups tend to have lower average IQs (Blacks ~85, Hispanics ~89, and Native Americans ~90).

Facts:

1)Academic achievement gaps tend to reflect underlying gaps in IQ-type intelligence.

2) IQ-type intelligence is a highly heritable (i.e. mostly genetically determined) mental trait.

3) Blacks tend to have lower IQs and lower academic achievement than Whites. Similarly, non-Jewish Whites tend to have lower IQs and lower academic achievement than Jews, East Asians, and high caste Indians.

Why is it so hard to accept the fact that high-IQ children (in the DC area they are often White and very often Jewish or Asian) will tend to perform well in school and low-IQ children (in the DC area they are often Black or Hispanic) will tend to perform poorly?

Anti-Boasian scholars include:
Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, J. Philippe Rushton, Michael Levin, Richard Herrnstein, Charles Murray, David Rowe, Linda Gottfredson, Vincent Sarich, Henry Harpending, Heiner Rindermann, Satoshi Kanazawa, and Neven Sesardic.

Several papers presenting the Galtonian/Hereditarian perspective on ethnoracial group differences in mental ability are available at these academic websites:

http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/index.html

http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/rushton_pubs.htm

http://www.ln.edu.hk/philoso/staff/sesardic/publications.html

Posted by: rifraf | August 30, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Cal_Lanier--

I think you're absolutely right to not skirt over "achievement gap." I also think, not that you are disagreeing, to point out the real numbers that say, "everyone is actually learning" and that our education system is actually being proactive. When Arne Duncan left Chicago he said that ten years was the tipping point and he really wanted a couple of more years. Unfortunately DC schools has been the "Hurricane Katrina" of ed systems in this country, it's going to continue to take time.

This city has looked for gimmicks and quick fixes for years, from both ed leaders and mayors, inevitably the McDonalds culture gets tired and wants to move on and revamp, continuously.

Posted by: delray | August 30, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

“Average math scores of white D.C. fourth graders [on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)] grew from 262 in 2007 to 270 last year (on a scale of 500). Scores rose three points for D.C. African American students, from 209 to 212. So the gap widened from 53 to 58.”
.......................
Mr. Mathews fails to reveal that the D.C. has the HIGHEST gap in the nation between white students and black students. In fact the D.C. for quite some time has had the HIGHEST gap in the nation between white students and black students.

The reality is that the D.C. public school system for some time has been a jekyll and hyde school system. Superior schools for white students and inferior schools for black students.

One seriously doubts those on the job training teachers from TFA are going to the white public schools.

It is interesting that Mr. Mathews in the past with all his statements of the D.C. school system has failed to mention that this supposedly dysfunctional system has been able to run superior public schools for white students.

The methods of Ms. Rhee have not worked and the national tests clearly show this no matter what type of spin Mr. Mathews tries to use.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I can't say for sure about DC... but in MD, with our countywide districts and property taxes... The rich people in Bethesda are certainly paying for the poor in Silver Spring (especially those that send their kids to private schools)

I think some parent involvement make things look different. If an rich school doesn't have a working computer lab... one of the parents buys one.

Posted by: someguy100 | August 30, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack--

Jekyll and Hyde,yes. TFA teachers going to these schools probably, but the teachers with seniority tend to opt out to go to other schools. There are a certain amount of teachers that have chosen to stay at schools in Wards 7 and 8 (and 5), but many can't move on and are just not the best teachers. On the other side charters are starting to gain ground and are flexing their influence all over this Mayoral election. Do you think charters care that public school teachers are feeling hurt? The KIPPs, EL Haynes, DC Preps are all saying, we'll take your kids and your best teachers and pay them a lot more. After we take more of your kids you will have to close down more schools because you won't have the money to keep them open.

Posted by: delray | August 30, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Time to admit the problem as proclaimed by Ms. Rhee and the Secretary of Education is not teacher but the large numbers of children that have great difficulty in learning.

Moving all of the supposedly "effective" teachers in the white D.C. public schools to black public schools will not mean that the students in these schools will show in two years significant gains on national tests.

The problem is large numbers of children that have great difficulty in learning and not teachers.

Ms. Rhee should go since she has done nothing to deal with this problem.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

What do we think Chairman Vince Gray would do about the gap, other than saying it needs to be closed. What would he do? [The tutoring goes on for the Wednesday debate.]

Posted by: axolotl | August 30, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Time to admit the problem as proclaimed by Ms. Rhee and the Secretary of Education is not teacher but the large numbers of children that have great difficulty in learning.

Moving all of the supposedly "effective" teachers in the white D.C. public schools to black public schools will not mean that the students in these schools will show in two years significant gains on national tests.

The problem is large numbers of children that have great difficulty in learning and not teachers.

Ms. Rhee should go since she has done nothing to deal with this problem.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately DC schools has been the "Hurricane Katrina" of ed systems in this country, it's going to continue to take time.
Posted by: delray
...................
No you are wrong. It will not take time. Simply doing the same thing over and over again does not work.

The problem is not achievement gaps, or improvements in education. The problem is recognizing that there are large numbers of children that have great difficulty in learning.

Since no one want to recognize this is the problem of course nothing can be done to effectively deal with the problem.

The idea that there is a mythical effective teacher that will, on their own, simply work a miracle to suddenly change children that have great difficulty in learning to children that can learn is absurd.

Americans are not in the McDonalds culture but rather in the Disney culture where the children with great difficulty in learning simply are touched by the wand of the mythical effective teacher and changed into mathematical wizards.

Ms. Rhee has to go with her absurd beliefs.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

... tend to have higher IQs (with group averages in the 105 to 115 range). Some ethnoracial groups tend to have lower average IQs (Blacks ~85, Hispanics ~89, and Native Americans ~90).

Facts:
Posted by: rifraf
.............................
I do not need an IQ test to see that RIFRAF has a low IQ.

There are no IQ tests that can measure the IQ of a child at an early age. Because of this any IQ test will be dependent upon the environment of the child that takes the test.

The measurements of the IQ test are dependent upon the environment and education of those taking the test. Take members of any group that supposedly has an innate IQ and simply exclude those individuals from learning and those individuals will not show high IQ's.

Since RIFRAF apparently does not have the ability to reason RIFRAF most probably has a low IQ.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

I have no idea what should be done with special ed in DC or other districts; I'd have a hard enough time figuring out we should do in our system. What about the NAEP sample only testing 5% special ed? what's the story about that sweet deal? I typically had 40% of my kids on IEPs, not to mention ELLs, felons, and mentally ill kids.

Also, what about the evidence I cited that reading comprhension is going down for poor 8th graders of color since Rhee and since NCLB? Under Janey, the decline wasn't as bad, and it was more a little more widespread.

I see a clear pattern. Rhee's methods only have a chance of working with the relatively easier-to-educate kids, despite spending huge amounts of money. This may be counter-intuitive, but it speaks to the power of real-world experience. And yet she reserves her greatest venom for those of us will real-world expereince with those kids and their schools.

Posted by: johnt4853 | August 30, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

For black children, daunting divides in achievement and family life
By George F. Will

By age 4, the average child in a professional family hears about 20 million more words than the average child in a working-class family and about 35 million more than the average child in a welfare family -- a child often alone with a mother who is a high school dropout.

After surveying much research concerning many possible explanations of why progress stopped, particularly in neighborhoods characterized by a "concentration of deprivation," the ETS report says: "It is very hard to imagine progress resuming in reducing the education attainment and achievement gap without turning these family trends around -- i.e., increasing marriage rates, and getting fathers back into the business of nurturing children." And: "It is similarly difficult to envision direct policy levers" to effect that.
.......................................
Well here are direct policy levers that can address the problems in large urban areas.

1.
Government funded birth control centers in poor areas.

2.
Government programs to ensure that the public schools in these areas are safe and with class rooms without the disruptive and/or prone to violence. This will provide an environment where teachers can teach and those children that might escape from poverty will have a chance to learn.

The problem is that in most cases the public schools in these areas are inferior and early on children see and learn that these schools will simply tolerate and accept the chaos of poverty areas. It is not surprising that so many of the students in these school will not overcome the disadvantages of poverty and learn.

Many of these children could be probably saved but are simply allowed to fall prey and become the next generation that will live in poverty.

This nation is absurd with political leaders who want to spend billions on standardized testing and computer systems to evaluate teachers when there are thousands of poverty public schools in urban areas with an environment that is detrimental to learning.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

for johnt4853--we disagree, for the same reason as always, our disagreement over what Rhee's policies are. I think her prime policy was (got to start practicing the past tense) to find the best possible principal for each school and give that person the power to create the best possible team of teachers to raise achievement, in any way that works for them. I can't think of any policy better suited to improve schools. Obviously, she hasn't done that, and if the election goes as seems apparent, never will.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 30, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

for bsallamack---the experts tell me one of the greatest influence on the wide black/white score gap in DC is that unlike most parts of the country, there are almost no poor white people here. That skews the numbers.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 30, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

@rifraf-

You make a few decent points but muddy them with false assumptions. IQ for example IS a hereditary trait but genetics alone do not account for such stark IQ and achievement differences between poor and wealthy children.

Here's a good little article about how poverty impedes brain development.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/03/poordevelopment/

Posted by: Nikki1231 | August 30, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

for bsallamack---the experts tell me one of the greatest influence on the wide black/white score gap in DC is that unlike most parts of the country, there are almost no poor white people here. That skews the numbers.

Posted by: Jay Mathews
.............................
You miss the point.

How can your previous claims of a dysfunctional school system in D.C. that was in place before the arrival of Ms. Rhee be accepted when the same school system was running public schools in white areas of D.C. schools that were doing very well for their white students?

The D.C. school system simply reflects the same thing that was prevalent before desegregation in 1954 with a school system with superior schools for white while schools for blacks were inferior.

The problem is not teachers and shifting all of the teachers in the white schools of D.C. to the black schools of D.C. will not improve education in these schools.

Ms. Rhee was wrong from the first day since she offers nothing to deal with the problem of poverty public schools.

Perhaps the next head of schools will actually deal with the problems.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

for johnt4853--we disagree, for the same reason as always, our disagreement over what Rhee's policies are. I think her prime policy was (got to start practicing the past tense) to find the best possible principal for each school and give that person the power to create the best possible team of teachers to raise achievement,
Posted by: Jay Mathews
...................
Time to stop rewriting the history of Ms. Rhee.

Ms. Rhee did not start off finding better principals but simply started off firing teachers.

Any experienced educator placed in charge of a school system would first start off by building the best team of principals.

Ms. Rhee had almost no experience in education and simply started off with the idea of firing teachers.

The concept still has not come to Ms. Rhee that simply firing someone does not guarantee that you will find someone better to replace the individuals you are firing.

Ms. Rhee knows very little about education and also very little about management.

She was a mistake from day one.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

for johnt4853--we disagree, for the same reason as always, our disagreement over what Rhee's policies are. I think her prime policy was (got to start practicing the past tense) to find the best possible principal for each school and give that person the power to create the best possible team of teachers to raise achievement,
Posted by: Jay Mathews
...................
Time to stop rewriting the history of Ms. Rhee.

Ms. Rhee did not start off finding better principals but simply started off firing teachers.

Any experienced educator placed in charge of a school system would first start off by building the best team of principals.

Ms. Rhee had almost no experience in education and simply started off with the idea of firing teachers.

The concept still has not come to Ms. Rhee that simply firing someone does not guarantee that you will find someone better to replace the individuals you are firing.

Ms. Rhee knows very little about education and also very little about management.

She was a mistake from day one.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

He compared students in Ward 7, relatively low income, to the more affluent students of Ward 3 on the DC CAS tests. “In Ward 7, reading proficiency rates for secondary students rose from 17 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2010---11 points,” he said. “But Ward 3’s rate rose almost 13 points in that time, and the disparity between the two wards remains about 50 points.”

.............................
Could Jay Mathews stop using the bogus results of DC CAS tests?

The national tests of D.C. for 2009 show very low rates in proficiency that are far below the claims that are being made by D.C.

The DC CAS tests are simply another case of local standardized tests that claim proficiency for students that on national tests would score basic and/or failure.

Time to stop this idea of spending throughout the country billions on worthless local standardized tests.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
Would you remind me again about the "Broom" time cover and how that was part of a well thought out systematic policy of educational reform?


Posted by: mamoore1 | August 30, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

For mamoore1--- She didn't set up the broom photo. It was the Time photographer's idea. If she had been more experienced in the wily ways of us national media, she probably would not have cooperated with that one, and I suspect she regrets she did it. But she would have been unpopular with teachers even if that cover had never been shot.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 30, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

If she had been more experienced

Wow, not knowing what you are doing is seldom offered up as excuse for a leader's performance. Generally an important qualification for a leadership position
IS knowing what you are doing.

But let's let that one pass, how about the comments about child abusers after the reduction in force. Her behavior reflects her character and skill set. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Posted by: mamoore1 | August 30, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

For mamoore1---
But she would have been unpopular with teachers even if that cover had never been shot.

Posted by: Jay Mathews
..................
Apparently Jay Mathews feel that teachers should have been over joyed by a head of a school system that from day one simply wanted to throw all the blame on teachers.

Ms. Rhee still does not have any ideas to deal with the inferior poverty public schools in D.C. These schools are still unsafe and it likely to walk into a class room and find teachers spending a great deal of time dealing with disruptive and/or prone to violence students.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 30, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Real school reform takes skill, knowledge, experience, and the ability lead other along with you. It can be done, has been done, and will be done again in schools across America this year and in the future.

Don't pretend that simply stating a goal like "Find the best possible principal for each school and give that person the power to create the best possible team of teachers to raise achievement"will get that that done. That truly is naive.

As a leader you have to know HOW to do it, and you have no business blustering your way along as a smokescreen for a lack of ability. This election will not really decide her fate as a "reformer" she did that herself a long time ago.

Posted by: mamoore1 | August 30, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
As with efavorite, I am not blaming this focus on the achievement gap on Rhee.
As with efavorite, I simply noted that she claimed to take kids from the 13th percentile to the 90th, yet nothing like that has happened in DCPS.
Why?
and to repeat ,
"As I noted here before, I asked her if she planned to move Highly effective teachers to replace ineffective teachers.
She said NO.

Why Jay?
You've got her ear.

Shouldn't a group of HEts been placed into Stanton Elementary to take those kids upto the 90th percentile instead of turning the school over to a private group whose management won't show up on the DCPS DC-CAS scores?"

bsallamack has the answers to those questions.

Posted by: edlharris | August 30, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

"LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES pay most of schooling fees."

Again, you're delusional.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/backgrounders/school_funding.html

"About 46 percent of public spending on elementary and secondary schools is derived from local government budgets."

Oh, by the way? There's no evidence that spending more money improves results. DC spends more per capita than anywhere--haven't seen it do much good.

I do agree that the wealthy and upper middle class are willing to tax themselves extra to pay for their own schools. But I believe all states mandate a particular level of spending and enforce it. (There may be an exception I'm not aware of, but it's probably in some place like Vermont.)

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | August 30, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Would you like to close the achievement gap - or at least significantly raise African American and Latino scores? Then fully fund pre-school programs to address the language issue at an early age, pay a premium to the most effective teachers and administrators to move into troubled schools and stay there for 5 years at a time. Make sure that school is clean, has adequate meals and health care for the children. Presto! The achievement gap will be considerably narrowed. There is
no secret - simply provide the same type of learning environment available at the "better" schools.

But what do we really do? We try to get by "on the cheap" and just talk the talk without really committing resources while wasting time trying to break teacher's unions. I agree with the other posters that anything less than a full commitment to change is inherently racist at worst, and hypocritical at best.

Posted by: hotrod3 | August 30, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

I agree with hotrod3. We know that the gap is well established by age five, and we know that it is manifested as delayed language development. We also know that high-quality preschool would help, as would health care, nutrition and experienced and successful educators. However, all of that costs money, and therein lies the problem. Calling for foolish remedies such as merit pay and rookie teachers from Yale is just an inexpensive political ploy to fool the electorate into thinking something is being done when it really isn't.

It IS important to address the achievement gap because that's the source of limited life chances for many of our citizens.

Here's something we can do to narrow the gap and it doesn't cost a penny: Let's stop telling parents that "the school alone" can educate a child. This is a lie and most of us know it.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 30, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

So many posters to this thread are explaining beautifully why the achievement gap persists despite decades of intervention. If you understand the causes that drive the achievement gap, you also know that the reforms touted by Rhee (and Obama/Duncan) will not do anything substantial to change this just as NCLB failed as well.

Instead of seeing lots of poor but high-achieveing students attending well-resourced schools, we see after decades of intervention the same tired ideas. More school choice for the few students that can benefit, more curriculum and instructional changes (we really don't know what works by now?), and more grasping at scapegoats to blame.

Heaven forbid we should go back to the originial problem (poor children & low achievement), examine the causes we actually know exist, and work to remedy them. Yes, we need the most talented administrators and teachers, among many other child development professionals, at the neediest schools. I have yet to see how firing teachers en masse gets us to that point. I have yet to see how pouring public funds into charter schools that either lack a good track record or fail to take on *all* types of students gets us to that point.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | August 31, 2010 6:17 AM | Report abuse

No LindaRT, I don't think anyone agrees that "schools alone" [teachers/administrators] is 100% solution. But teachers/administrators should be held accountable because our children enter school bldgs. and parents expect (and are paying for) effective educational services to be provided to our children. Period.

The responsibility to effectively educate IS the responsibility of Educators. PGCPS is a great example that proves something is occurring to our children's classrooms while in MS.

After decades of inferior education disservice, multiple superintendants, past disfunctional school boards, the test scores in our ES and HS are positively progressing. Most are the same parents that have children in MS that WERE in our ES and successfully graduate from HS.

Parents that have children in the system 5 years or more know EXACTLY what's happening and most of it has nothing to do with social issues and relating challenges.

Prince Georges County candidates, from local, county to state are feeling the heat from PGCPS citizens during the current election cycle as it relates to our school system ranking. It's UNACCEPTABLE. We are tired of it and NOT taking it anymore.

We [parents] DO our part and support our schools but it's overtime that educational disparities are finally addressed.

School systems that host majority minorities should not default to receive minimum qualified teachers/administrators nor inferior services and facilities. Those are the real hard core contributors to the achievement gap in Prince George's County Public Schools.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | August 31, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

adcpsteacher wrote:

"The upper income people DO NOT PAY for schools of lower income people. LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES pay most of schooling fees. So, if the LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD (i.e., WARD 8) is poor, WARDs 2 and 3 will not be paying for their schools... each locality pays for itself..."

No, that is incorrect and I'm surprised that you do no know how schools are funded if you are indeed a DCPS teacher. DCPS works on a per-pupil student funding formula. Ward 3 schools do NOT get more money per pupil, unless parents raise the funds privately. Each ward does not "pay for itself."

Posted by: trace1 | August 31, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

As many of us have so often mentioned, good prenatal health and early childhood development/care are prime factors for academic achievement.

There is certainly a wealth of research from which to design excellent educational framework, but Duncan & Co. are blind to reason. Furthermore, we have seen no evidence that Duncan & Co. seek out the wisdom of those who can be valuable in designing such a framework.

Just follow this link to view a short video from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (scroll down on the website and see video link on the left):

InBrief: The Impact of Early Adversity on Children's Development

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/initiatives/council/

Another link to view an article from researchers at Vanderbilt:

Prenatal exposure to drugs: effects on brain development and implications for policy and education

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777887/?tool=pubmed

We know that proper nutrition (more than just vitamins/minerals in pill form) and a healthy environment in utero has lifelong benefits as well and is evidenced in brain and overall development. We also know that maternal obesity and smoking during pregnancy carry undesirable risks.

Teachers have plenty to deal with in the classroom, and as a society, we should all prefer to do what we can to deliver healthy, docile, and curious children to the school and to society in general.

Posted by: shadwell1 | August 31, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

For Nikki1231---Should we support charters that have a good track record and take all kinds of students?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 31, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

For Nikki1231---Should we support charters that have a good track record and take all kinds of students?

Posted by: Jay Mathews
..............................
Typical Jay Mathews who has supported charter schools for years and refuses to recognize the advantages of these schools to simply dump the disruptive and/or prone to violence back into the public schools.

The reality is that if the poverty public schools could get the disruptive and/or prone to violence out of class rooms with normal students there would be no need for charter schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 31, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

As many of us have so often mentioned, good prenatal health and early childhood development/care are prime factors for academic achievement.

Posted by: shadwell1
..........................
Why can not Americans focus on what is immediately doable instead of something that may never be done?

"Prime factors for academic achievement" are safe schools and class rooms where the disruptive and/or prone to violence are not in class rooms with normal children.

Large urban areas have now enough physical schools and resources to quickly create for all children at any age class rooms of normal children where teachers can teach and children can learn.

Create an environment in the poverty public schools in urban areas that is conducive for learning instead of an environment for bedlam and violence and it might be surprising that many children with great difficulty in learning might be able to learn.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 31, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

PGCResident:

I definitely agree with you that "educational disparities are finally addressed."

One grave injustice throughout the years has been the assignment of unqualified and inexperienced teachers to "inner-city" schools. Sadly this is still occurring today. One thing all parents can do is to insist that DC (and other urban schools) hire experienced teachers with PROVEN TRACK RECORDS OF SUCCESS. Put an immediate stop to the hiring of inexperienced teachers with "alternative" or "emergency" credentials. You can be certain the suburbs don't hire these people. Just this practice alone has hurt poor children more than any other school-related factor. Insist on well-qualified teachers for all children.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 31, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

No, that is incorrect and I'm surprised that you do no know how schools are funded if you are indeed a DCPS teacher. DCPS works on a per-pupil student funding formula. Ward 3 schools do NOT get more money per pupil, unless parents raise the funds privately. Each ward does not "pay for itself."

Posted by: trace1
...................
This is probably correct since property taxes almost always go to the local government and this would be D.C. and not the individual Wards.

The reality is that for quite some time the D.C. school system simply reflects the same thing that was prevalent before desegregation in 1954 with a school system with superior schools for white while schools for blacks were inferior.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 31, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,
Murch Elementary in Ward 3 is about 50% white. Do you call that a "white school?"

Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "superior schools" for whites. Based on what? Certainly not funding. In fact, due to the small school supplement, over-enrolled schools like Murch actually received less funding than some of the very small schools on the other side of the park (many of them now closed). I can tell you that Ward 3 schools have their share of less than adequate teachers, too. So what do you mean by "superior?"

Posted by: trace1 | August 31, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@Jay Matthews:

Please point out the charter that takes all students. If you mention KIPP, I call baloney on that. No school that requires parents to fill out applications and sign contracts can possibly say that it also takes *all* students. And let's not forget about special ed students. We know from the most recent study that KIPP is light on ELL's and special ed compared to its local schools. KIPP takes those it wants and those whose parents can be bothered to do the work to get them in.

However, there is one charter group that seems to be walking the walk of public education, so to speak. Here in Philadelphia, we have Mastery charter schools. They just took over a school in the Frankford neighborhood called Smedley. (BTW, Mastery has taken over schools before in Philly as opposed to just opening its doors to a motivated population). Smedley is overcrowded, violent, has a large ELL and significant Autistic Support population. I know because I taught there for a year several years ago. It was *horrible.*

Since Smedley was deemed a failing school (and persistently dangerous unless reports are falsified), it was put through a school turnaround process matching it with a outside provider: Mastery Charter. During the interview process, mastery charter admitted they had NO experience working with Aut. Supp. or large ELL populations, but they were willing to try. They got the contract.

The doors should be opening soon or are open at Smedley for a new school year under totally new admin and teachers. I applaud Mastery for at least attempting to live up to the spirit of public education. I have read that parents need to register their children which is odd. All of the children should have remained on the books, since this is a neighborhood school. Other than that, I am pleased to see a charter starting to share the burden of teaching the most difficult students.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | August 31, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

What I have suggested is a part of the breaking of the cycle of which you are so aware. It is where medical/health research meets education research. Take for instance only smoking - 30% of women at or below the poverty line smoke. Furthermore, attempts to quit smoking are less successful among those with low income. Since maternal smoking is an enormous burden to the health and learning of children, it should be aggressively addressed. Furthermore, some of the behavioral problems in school of which you often write have been linked to smoking. As a whole, income levels are lower for smokers. Nutritional status of offspring of smokers is compromised, and yes, there can be some offset from intervention. Plus, for younger mothers, low protein intake can be an issue too. And then there is poor air quality being associated with poorer birth outcomes, increased risk of illness, and learning problems as well. When children feel behind in class due to learning problems, some children act out in misbehavior. Constant stress affects learning and behavior. Poverty is stressful. Furthermore, if the smoking moms in poverty put $$ into trips to the library or buying new/used books instead of cigarettes, the results would be reflected in school, in varying degrees.

Posted by: shadwell1 | August 31, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

What I have suggested is a part of the breaking of the cycle of which you are so aware.
Posted by: shadwell1
......................
I want to break the cycle of accepting inherently inferior poverty public schools in urban areas which is achievable given current resources.

How many posts on these forums advocate that these schools should be made safe with class rooms where teachers can teach and the normal children can learn instead of class rooms where the disruptive and/or prone to violence are fully accepted and tolerated by being allowed to remain in class rooms with a majority of children that are not disruptive or prone to violence?

This is a problem that can be addressed by the public schools.

All of your ideas are totally meaningless if the poverty public schools in urban areas simply remain as they are today.

All of the ideas you express would take years to show an improvement and it very questionable whether they will ever be implemented.

Making an environment for learning in these public schools is doable and this should be the first priority for these public schools.

It is meaningless to speak of programs that may never be implemented when change that can be accomplished is simply ignored.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 31, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

You say, "I want to break the cycle of accepting inherently inferior poverty public schools in urban areas which is achievable given current resources." I agree. I don't see it as an either/or situation at all, but more comprehensive. I also see current resources inadequately spent on the front-end of the educational/health process.

Posted by: shadwell1 | August 31, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

You say, "I want to break the cycle of accepting inherently inferior poverty public schools in urban areas which is achievable given current resources." I agree. I don't see it as an either/or situation at all, but more comprehensive. I also see current resources inadequately spent on the front-end of the educational/health process.

Posted by: shadwell
...........................
Well you are not doing what is necessary for the front end of public education which is the public schools by simply accepting inferior public schools.

Since there are very few if any public funds spent on programs for the front end of the health process, your argument is flawed in regard to "resources inadequately spent". Impossible to have funds inadequately spent when your not spending money.

Your argument is as valid as the conservatives that argue that the cost are too high to create equality in children from day one of their birth, so nothing can be done in regard to the problem.

Your first post ended:
Teachers have plenty to deal with in the classroom, and as a society, we should all prefer to do what we can to deliver healthy, docile, and curious children to the school and to society in general.

Well I do not want to waste my time on either the conservatives or those with pie in the sky Utopian ideas. Besides your ideas is flawed since docile children are probably not curious children.

Also your "we should all prefer" is meaningless. Yes I prefer to use brand X that gives a better wash as long as I do not have to pay more for brand X. I serious doubt that there are many Americans that "should all prefer" very expensive new programs using funds from the government.

I would rather deal with solutions that are doable.

The reality is that this is actually an either or situation.

Either do nothing as the conservative want and the Utopians want, since there are not the possibility of large amounts of funds, or do something with currently available resources.

Separating the disruptive and/or prone to violence into special classes would cost nothing more in the current school budgets in the poverty schools of urban areas.

One can write and think up all kinds of proposed solutions for problems. The conservatives do this constantly when they come up with all the reasons why nothing can be done. The idea is to come up with solutions that are feasible and doable in regard to public education.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 31, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

for Nikki1231, I love the fact that you gave us an example, with facts that you gathered with your own hands. Now take an extra step and do your homework on KIPP, rather than believe what you read on blogs by people who have never been inside the schools. (In my experience, that is sadly common to most KIPP critics online.) All charters, in fact all schools, require parents to fill out paperwork--you may call them applications--otherwise they would have no proof that the child was a resident of the district. KIPP schools, like all charters, cannot have entrance requirements. It is against the law in most states. They only visit homes of students after they have been admitted. They ask them to sign contracts, but they cannot require it. As far as I know, no parent has refused to do so because it makes so much sense. Would you refuse to sign an agreement to get your kid to school and sign his homework each night? As for ELL and special ed kids, KIPP schools like all charters have to take everyone who applies, and if there is a surplus, use a random lottery to decide enrollment. Some KIPP schools have more special ed kids than the neighboring regular schools. I just checked with KIPP DC executive director Susan Schaeffler. One of its middle schools had 19 percent special ed kids this year. The other two have about 12 percent each. The new high school has 14 percent. Look around. Some middle schools in that area were at 13 percent, last time I looked.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 31, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

Oh, my, you must be in a bad mood today. Folic acid vs. NICU. Federal subsidies to corporate farms vs. WIC vouchers for produce (beyond carrots). I'll not bother to say more.

Posted by: shadwell1 | August 31, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
You ignored Nikki's question about the name of the charter that takes all kids.
I pointed this out a month or so ago when I asked if KIPP went in, took over a school and kept the kids that were there, didn't remove any, and took kids who moved into the school's boundaries.
You acknowledged that they don't.

Posted by: edlharris | August 31, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

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