Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lowering expectations??

Last week a Dallas Independent School District school board member spoke at a meeting I attended.

I have heard him speak before. One thing always bothers me about his speeches to the community and to the wider public. He always talks about how wonderful the South Dallas Area 2 schools are doing. So why am I bothered by their "success?" Because I don't see the progress he is talking about!! Yes, I know Lincoln High School was ranked as the top public high school by Newsweek. I am glad to know that they are giving lots of Advanced Placement tests and that they are "preparing average kids for college." That's good to know.

What frustrates me, though, is that despite these accolades and high rankings, kids are still underperforming.

Lots of kids.

I don't know that we are adequately acknowledging and working on that. When I hear school board or community leaders tell everyone how wonderful we are doing, it always sounds so positive. If I didn't oversee after-school and summer programs for elementary kids where the majority perform below grade level and if I didn't oversee a College Prep Program where high school students still do multiplication on their fingers, don't know basic algebra skills, and can't comprehend a basic reading passage, I would be tempted to pack up and call it a day.

The elementary and high school programs I oversee are not atypical. We don't seek out kids who are behind in their skills. In fact, because of our limited enrollment, along with various other reasons, we probably get more of the "upper level" kids. We have often talked about and lamented that we are leaving out so many that probably need more help than the ones who are currently enrolled.

We can't get too comfortable with reports that tell us kids are doing well. It concerns me that H.S. Thompson Elementary jumped in their TAKS scores (last year to this year) from 62.5% to 86.9% in Reading, 72.9% to 90.3% in Writing, 58.7% to 90.0% in Math and 23.6% to 91.6% in Science. How can one year present such huge gains? I had a 4th grader tell me the other day that the reason he had a 100% in Social Studies on his report card was because they never did it so the teacher just gave them 100's. I'm not sure what led to such high gains at Thompson. I would like to think that it was real-life, practical learning. I have a feeling it has more to do with teaching to the test, which creates little robots that can regurgiate basic facts and have no earthly idea how to translate their learning into real life situations.

I'm glad I've learned not to take statistics at face value. I know we've got a lot further to go in our public schools...especially in our inner cities.
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