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Different Cities, Different Results

Grade8mathineligibles_2"Even if all cities did get the level of performance that you see from the best cities, there would still be a problem insofar as poor kids tend to do badly even in "good" schools in the United States."

The Truth About Urban Schools
and Race Matters
Matt Yglesias

Previous Posts:
Kudos To Big Cities For Joining NAEP Pilot Program
A "National" Test For Urban Districts
Urban NAEP Scores Coverage

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And when you look into the details, issues do not get any simpler. (Boston and NYC, I would argue followed very different paths as Boston was led by experienced educators with integrity, while NYC is led by non-educators with extreme chutzpah.) And since Ygelsias seems to be heading towards a Rhee-style diagnosis, I'll make it simple.

If you had eight kids, and seven would benefit from a policy while one would be hurt, you might support it, but you would ask some questions. How much will your seven be helped, and how much will your other child be hurt, and would it matter if it was your most vulnerable who was hurt? That's the best case scenario for NCLB type accountability. It requires your to believe hook, line, and sinker all those state test scores.

In a more real world best-case scenario, based on ALL NAEP scores, would you accept gains for two of your children although one of your children would be hurt? But what if you have middle school children? Then NAEPshows that low performing students were increasing their Reading scores before NCLB but they have declined by 3% since the law. Or NAEP consider 8th grade Math scores where the Black White Achievement Gap has worsened since NCLB. Or NAEP low income scores. Would you support a policy that helps two of your kids if it hurt the other three?

And that still evades the issue of "Do no harm." Would you support policies that increase the test scores of one or more of your children, but at the cost of humilating, stigmatizing, and robbing an education of one or more of your children? As long as we use the blame and shame polcies of BloomKlein, Rhee, and NCLB, we will always be inflicting additional damage on some of our most vulnerable children. If it was Ygylesias' child, would he entrust Michelle Rhee to make the Solomonic decision of where to start cutting? Or would he want someone with more modesty?

We look to The Atlantic for a generalist's perspective. That's fine, and we certainly should listen when outsiders raise tough questions. But when those generalists seek out "experts," to help them make sense of the complexity of education, they need to listen to more sides of the story.

I'm sorry. DId I miss something? He doesn't present any school-level data.

Yglesias must have missed this over at TODAY's Ed Week. I know, facts schmacts, It's education policy. Still...:

Schools With Poor ELL Scores May Share Common Elements
By Mary Ann Zehr


Schools that report low achievement for English-language learners also report low test scores for white and African-American students, and share characteristics associated with poor performance on standardized tests, according to a study released today by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Those characteristics include high pupil-teacher ratios, large enrollments, and high levels of students who are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunches, a reflection of families’ socioeconomic backgrounds.

But the study by Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the Washington-based center, also found that when English-learners are not isolated in low-achieving schools, the gap between their test scores and those of other students narrows significantly.

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