Kids who left catch up

Chicago students who transferred from low-performing schools are doing much better in their new schools, reports the Sun-Times.

Kids who won highly prized transfers out of failing Chicago public schools averaged much better reading and math gains during the first year in their new schools –just as drafters of the federal No Child Left Behind Law envisioned, an exclusive analysis indicates.

And, contrary to some predictions, moving low-scoring kids to better-performing schools didn’t seem to slow the progress of students in those higher-achieving schools.

Even kids “left behind” in struggling schools generally posted better gains in state tests once their peers transferred elsewhere.

The transfer students had been falling behind the national average, and even their classmates’ progress, when they attended low-performing schools. In their new schools, they improved at a much faster rate, beating the national average.

In their sending schools, transfer kids posted 24 percent less than the expected gain in reading, and 17 percent less than the expected gain in math. But in their new schools, transfer kids produced 8 percent more gains than the average student — in reading and math.

It’s possible that these transfer students have more education-savvy parents than others: It’s hard to navigate the transfer process and only the strong survive. But those parents weren’t giving the kids an advantage in their old schools.

Students praise the sense of purpose and the discipline in their new schools.

Parents who landed in three of dozens of receiving schools — Dixon, Galileo Scholastic Academy and Healy Elementary — noticed the difference right away: Teachers sent home more challenging homework, communicated with them regularly through assignment notebooks, called them immediately with good news or bad.

In other words, teachers nipped problems in the bud. Suddenly, there was no mouthing off. Calls or notes came home the minute homework was missing.

Quiana Wilcoxon, 11, said she visited three possible new schools and picked Healy during its open house for potential transfer kids.

“I could just tell, from the assistant principal talking about the school, that I wanted to go there,” said Quiana, whose Healy test scores last year showed strong math gains. “She said if somebody did something wrong, they would be sent to the principal’s office immediately — five seconds later.”

Transfer student Rodney Gandy, now a fourth-grader at Galileo, said his new teacher called home immediately when he repeatedly drummed on his desk during class. At Galileo, Rodney said, teachers “will be right on your behind if you get into trouble. They will be right on you — like that.” And, he said, “That’s good.”

Market forces work, says Orrin Judd.

About Joanne


  1. Isn’t this just evidence that the school those students attended previously need to have its ineffective teachers and administrators replaced for effective ones. It seems clear that the problem is also one of a lack of leadership.

  2. jeff wright says:

    Boy, this is good news. Thanks to Joanne for finding this.

    It would be interesting to hear from those teachers who routinely defend the teachers and blame all of the schools’ woes on administrators, government, politicians and parents. Maybe teachers can make a difference.

  3. Richard Heddleson says:

    The legislature should pass a law so all schools operate like this.

  4. Steve LaBonne says:

    Linden, that’s true. And what better way to smoke out those schools with failed leadership than to give them some competition? Or should kids just be stuck in such a school without recourse until and unless some state education bureaucrat gets around to noticing that the schools is failing and does something about it?

  5. Didn’t anyone else pick up on the comments of the students themselves? They LIKED higher and more rigorous standards! They LIKED stricter discipline! They felt they could learn more and do better.

    Oh, for the demise of the fallacious ‘self esteem’ movement, which is smothering our kids in meaningless and worthless praise that only reinforces their sense of worthlessness. If you want to feel good about yourself, you have to EARN it. These kids seem to know that instinctively. Why is it so hard for teachers and educators to understand it?

  6. I suspect that the culture of a school is a complex thing, and that it arises from the teachers, the administration, and largely from the students. Students who self-select to go to a stricter school are probably the ones who weren’t comfortable with the culture at the failing school they started at. That doesn’t mean you could transplant the administration and teachers at the better school to the failing school and get the same result.

  7. Fuzzy Rider says:

    I think that there is a point in any school where the non-cooperative reach a ‘critical mass’; once that point is reached effective teaching/learning becomes extremely difficult.