Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 29, 2015

Changed for the better?

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

The staff report and supporting documents have been released in advance of the City Council meeting, it’s a lot to get through so I’ll try to start tackling it tomorrow.

I’m deeply disappointed in a piece that recently aired on NPR.  In discussing what worked and didn’t work about the No Child Left Behind law — honestly though I’m pretty sure most people would find very little to recommend NCLB — the reported honed in on one school in North Carolina that was held up as a shining example of NCLB working.

This school lost its principal (who was retiring anyway), changed to a Montessori model, and became a magnet school.   From the narrative.  While the school itself is heralded as having changed for the better, what really changed were the demographics: ethnically and socio-economically:

Before the makeover, more than 80 percent of Watts students were black and 8 percent white. Today, 21 percent are black and 37 percent white (35 percent are Hispanic). Roughly 90 percent used to qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch. Since the change, that number has dropped by more than 30 points.

As many commenters mentioned, the success of the school would have been a lot more meaningful had the changes been made with the population that existed previously.

And even though the reporter recognized this:

Today, Watts is a vibrant, beloved neighborhood school. It’s also more diverse. Segregated, high-poverty schools aren’t just bad policy; they’re wrong.

He failed to recognize that schools that ended up on the wrong side of NCLB ended up more segregated and with higher level of poverty because as soon as those schools ended up in Program Improvement status the families with the means not socioeconomically disadvantaged would immediately abandon the school for greener pastures.  We see the same phenomenon still happening today in Alameda even with NCLB being shelved, its legacy still impacts schools today.

To surmise that an almost completely different school is a success story is not a reasonable thesis.  The reporter even wrapped up by indicating that not much improvement was made in surrounding schools that still were performing at pre NCLB levels.  Which is where all the children who used to go to the school ended up to make room for magnet students.

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2 Comments

  1. I listened to that story, too. If NCLB accomplished anything, it stopped teachers and educators from claiming their school was “good” just because they had a high scoring group which balanced out (hid from view) the marginalized groups of socio economically disadvantaged students, special education students, English language learners and various minorities who struggle under the current system to meet even low standards. North Carolina went from having 12 struggling schools to hundreds of struggling schools under the NCLB standards. But here’s the new problem- now the Common Core test results show schools are struggling more…and not just the previously marginalized groups, and the underlying problems of poverty are the same. Arne Duncan said the Common Core transition will take 10 years to balance out. Won’t your child have graduated by then?

    Comment by Captain Obvious — October 29, 2015 @ 6:30 am

  2. What is disappointing to me is that after years and years of throwing money at a lot of our social programs intent on making a difference – the poverty rate continues to increase, not decrease. I’m seeing generations of poverty — that’s even more disturbing to me.

    It strikes me that we need to do something radically different than what we’re doing now.

    I favor programs that empower people to radically change their lives for the better. My granddaughter’s school had a motto: “Impossible is Nothing”. She told a story on her high school application about a retreat her school class went on where they had to climb a mountain (it was more like a steep hill, but she describes it as mountain).

    Towards the middle of the climb, she shares that she wanted to give up. But the students encouraged each other, and the teachers reminded them that ‘Impossible is Nothing’, and somewhere deep inside of herself she found the strength to continue — and she reached the top of the mountain.

    The experience and the joy of reaching the top of the mountain is something she will always be able to draw on as she moves through life’s challenges. But I can tell you that: it is this experience and the many other empowering lessons she learned at her school that has made a huge impact in her life. Leaving this school for high school was one of the most difficult things she has had to do – but she tells me that one day, she wants to return to her school to give back.

    Her school by the way was 90% black and Hispanic, so I learned that it makes no difference about the racial make up of a school; it’s the content, the quality of education; and most importantly, the commitment from staff to nurture, educate, and empower their students to change their lives for the better.

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 29, 2015 @ 7:42 am


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