Monday, September 10, 2012

Virginia recognizes racial differences

For years, Virginia tried to sidestep various provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind education law. No Child’s accountability requirements are awkward because they threaten to shine a bright light on the highly uneven performance of Virginia’s schools and the state’s significant achievement gaps. So when Education Secretary Arne Duncan allowed states to set new performance targets earlier this year, Virginia, along with many other states, jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, rather than taking the opportunity to focus more on underserved students, the state took the stunning step of adopting dramatically different school performance targets based on race, ethnicity and income.

President George W. Bush famously talked of “the soft bigotry of low expectations” in education, meaning the subtle ways educators and policymakers shortchange some students by expecting less of them. Virginia’s new policy is anything but subtle. For example, under the new rules, schools are expected to have 78 percent of white students and 89 percent of Asian students passing Virginia’s Standards of Learning math tests but just 57 percent of black students, 65 percent of Hispanic students and 59 percent of low-income students. The goals for special-education students are even lower, at 49 percent. Worse, those targets are for 2017. The intermediate targets are even less ambitious — 36 percent for special-education students this year, for instance. Goals for reading will be set later.

Because Congress is years behind schedule in updating the No Child law, some provisions are showing their age and revisions to the accountability rules are long overdue. Virginia’s new policy, however, is a step backward, not an improvement. It sends a debilitating message to students, parents and educators because there is no way around the fact that the commonwealth is codifying different expectations for various groups of students. Virginia students of all races and incomes go to school together, but “together and unequal” is the message of the new policy. Assuming that not even six in 10 poor or black students will pass the state’s math test in 2017 reinforces negative beliefs about what should be expected from these students. Virginia’s chapter of the NAACP and the Legislative Black Caucus have already spoken out against the new policy.

There are better ways to design an accountability system. For starters, Virginia could set common targets that assume minority and poor students can pass state tests at the same rates as others and at the same time provide substantially more support to these students and their schools.

It’s important to remember that these accountability rules do not create high stakes for students. They are designed to create performance metrics and requirements for improving schools. The new performance targets do anticipate some closing of the achievement for students groups that now lag behind. Yet little in recent history, state policy or the waiver plan approved by Duncan inspires confidence that Virginia will redouble its efforts on behalf of struggling students.

State officials argue that because these performance targets are not the same as what Virginia uses for school accreditation, this is not really a “together but unequal” policy. Unfortunately, relying on the accreditation system inadvertently reveals the extent of Virginia’s problem. For schools to be fully accredited, they need only pass a fixed percentage of students, usually 70 percent, and there is no disaggregation or accountability by race, income or any socioeconomic group at all.

This approach masks substantial achievement gaps in many schools. It’s also why 96 percent of all Virginia schools are fully accredited at the same time that only 18 percent of black eighth-graders, 18 percent of low-income eighth-graders and 27 percent of Hispanic eighth-graders are proficient in math in the benchmark National Assessment of Educational Progress.

For years, a small band of school reformers in Virginia has tried to point out how the state overlooks too many students, but the flawed accreditation system has made it a quixotic effort; it’s hard to argue with the appearance of 96 percent success.

Now, left to their own devices, school officials have created an accountability system that makes different expectations for different groups of students the official policy. Virginia is not the only state using the flexibility the Obama administration is offering to weaken accountability for at-risk groups of students. Regardless, Virginians can and must do better.

The writer, a partner at the nonprofit organization Bellwether Education and an education columnist for Time, served on the Virginia Board of Education from 2005 to 2009.


British girl, 13, taught in isolation by school because special shoes for her painful tendonitis were the WRONG COLOUR

If she had wanted to wear Muslim garb, that would have been OK, though

A teenage girl who has to wear special shoes due to a foot condition, has been told by her school she will be taught in isolation if she doesn't wear the 'correct' shoes.

Keeley Skov has to wear achilles tendon supports and orthotic insoles as she suffers from achilles tendonitis which causes her chronic pain.

The supports don't fit into standard school shoes, and so Keeley wears a pair of black and white trainers to school.

But Wilnecote High School in Tamworth, Staffs, have told the 13-year-old she must wear regulation black school shoes - despite Keeley having a medical note to explain the situation.

The school will not accept the letter and have said they will keep Keeley in isolation until she wears a pair of plain black shoes.

Mum Carrie Skov said: 'Keeley is a shy girl, she works hard at school and she was devastated. She was in floods of tears.

'I was told by a teacher that she would be in isolation until she wore the correct shoes and that they would not accept the letter from the hospital.

'I want an apology for how she was treated - there is a medical reason for why she wears these pumps and I provided medical evidence.  'She should have been treated differently - she cried all day about it.'

Headmaster Stuart Tonks said that at the end of last term, pupils were given new letters reminding them of the strict school uniform policy and parents were reminded of this by text last week.

Stuart said: 'Wilnecote High School is reinforcing its uniform policy at the start of the new school year and footwear needs to be black.

'Keeley was in school with shoes that were black and white. This pupil has medical reasons why she has to wear a certain type of footwear and we appreciate that.

'We want to work with the family to help her fulfil our uniform policy.'


Australia:  G_d!  Leftists talk a lot of sh*t at times!

And surely they know it.  They cannot be unaware that they are making huge and improbable assumptions.  That smart people tend to get rich and that their kids tend to inherit their smarts ought to be apparent even to the average Joe -- and politicians not knowing it is wilful ignorance.  But knowing those things  is all you need to understand that the children of the poor will, on average,  ALWAYS do worse at school than the children of the rich do.  The education system has a role but it will never be a Canute that will roll back the tide, no matter how much money you spend on it.  Money can't make an Einstein out of a dummy. 

And it's a wonder that the poisonous Carmen Lawrence  -- she of the bad memory -- is still opening her deceitful trap at all.  At least one person below mentions intellectual ability

Increasing segregation of students has led to a two-tiered education system with a widening gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots".

Australian students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are up to three years behind students from more privileged backgrounds in literacy levels, according to figures compiled for the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling. Poor students also lag well behind their wealthier peers in science and maths and are only half as likely to attend university.

Carmen Lawrence, the director of the centre for the study of social change at the University of Western Australia and a member of the Gonski review panel, said the figures busted the myth that Australia offers a fair go for all.

"For a long time there has been a willful denial that there is a problem," she said. "But we assembled all those data and they don't make pretty reading."

Disadvantaged children are concentrated in the public system, according to Gonski, with 80 per cent of children from low socio-economic backgrounds, 85 per cent of indigenous children and 79 per cent of children with disabilities in government schools.

Australia is achieving only average equity compared with other OECD countries, according to figures from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment survey, which ranks us behind Hong Kong, Shanghai, Finland and South Korea, which are rated in the top five performing places overall, compared with Australia at ninth spot.

The OECD reports that, among its member countries, differences in students' backgrounds accounted for 55 per cent of performance differences between schools; for Australia, the figure is 68 per cent.

Educational inequity starts when a child reaches kindergarten, according to leading experts in the field.

David Zyngier, a senior lecturer in the faculty of education at Monash University and a former teacher, said disadvantaged children have a vocabulary of 2000-3000 words at the age of six, compared with between 10,000-20,000 for wealthier children.

"When a child comes into school 50 per cent of their academic achievement is already determined by what they bring into school, that is their family background, their home, their culture and intellectual ability," he said.

"Children come to us in our classrooms with what has been called the 'invisible backpack' and some come with their backpack full of privilege and others come with a backpack of disadvantage."

Research from the UK shows that even bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds struggle to perform well academically. By the age of eight, they are overtaken by less intelligent children from more advantaged backgrounds.  [Given the "sink" schools that Britain's poor get sent to, that is no surprise]

The inequity is compounded by an education system which siphons more affluent children into the private system and high achievers into the selective system, says Chris Bonnor, a former high school principal and a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.

"We subsidise kids to leave low socio-economic status schools to go to higher socio-economic schools," he said. "The disadvantage at the bottom end gets worse because all the aspirant kids have gone."


No comments: