Friday, March 18, 2011

Schools and Testing.

Today's (03/18/11) T&G article  by Jacqueline Reis raised some fair questions regarding the selection of charter school students.  Last night's School Committee meeting raised the following point:
"Information was presented on students at the newly opened Spirit of Knowledge Charter School, which serves Grades 7-9. The district found data on 85 percent of the school’s students from when they were Worcester public school students and found that those students scored higher on the MCAS exams than the district average."
If the selection process is truly a blind lottery, why are they getting the better range of students? Is it because parents of the better performing students are opting out of public schools in favor of charters schools? Is it because charters have a history of pruning out undesirable students?  Or is it merely because our charter schools don't have to educate the more challenging students, like special ed or limited English proficient students? And why did they find data on only 85 percent of the students? These are fair questions to ask and have less to do with pro- or anti-union politics if our tax money is going to charter schools that spend our tax money and keep the profits but aren't accountable to the general electorate.

If charters are more efficient due to better innovations and no union interference, why was a public high school like Brockton High successful in turning around their school? The answer is innovation in the classroom, input from teachers, parents and children, and a cooperative relationship between administration and teachers.  Innovation needs to come from the people in the classrooms, not from administrators, politicians and bureaucrats, as Gary Rosen points out in his most recent piece (03/17/11) in Worcester Magazine. I also recommend this article about the test grading process and hopefully we can turn the current debate on extending No Child Left Behind away from arbitrary testing programs and on actual learning.
And while we are on the subject of learning, would it be too much to ask our local paper to spell Worcester correctly?
I assumed it would be corrected in the online version, but it hasn't been caught by 5:30pm today.

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