In the conclusion of the Chicago Tribune series on a third grader who transferred to a better school, the girl’s mother, Yolanda Carwell, transfers her kids again to a school closer to home. Despite convenient bus service, the children continue to miss school frequently. The mother pulls them out two weeks before the end of the school year to go on a family trip that’s then postponed.
Carwell says she picked Attucks off the school district Web site from what she thought was a list of high-performing schools open for transfers under the federal law. But she is wrong. Attucks is on a list, but it’s the list of schools that scored so poorly for so long they must let pupils transfer out.
Last year, 35 percent of Attucks’ students passed state exams, compared with 56 percent at Stockton.
Now called Rayola once again, the little girl does well at her new school, despite irregular attendance. Much of what the classes is learning in winter and spring was covered in the fall by her teacher at the better school, Stockton.
In the beginning of March, (Barbara) Hodo is teaching her students how to compare and contrast in stories — something Rayola learned in September at Stockton. Hodo is teaching pupils how to use “less than” and “more than” symbols in math, a lesson Fromm went over in November.
And while Rayola and her classmates are learning about place values in math, her old classmates at Stockton have moved on to converting miles to kilometers and adding fractions.
But Rayola seems more content at Attucks, having moved into a world that is less demanding but more familiar.
Most of the children who transferred into Stockton did well or were placed in special education classes. Rayola and her brothers and cousin were the only transfers to leave. Apparently, NCLB transfers did help kids whose parents got them to school regularly. No school can save kids, however bright, whose families are too dysfunctional to get them to school.
For successful schools that accept transfers, a large influx of failing students may lower test scores, despite the school’s best efforts. It’s especially hard to make a difference with older students, who are farther behind.
Daniel Drezner says it’s impossible to generalize from the Trib series, which implies at the start that NCLB fails to deal with poor families’ “complex issues.” Stockton came up with social worker support and money to help the Carwell family with their issues, Drezner writes. The mother didn’t follow through.
Just because some families can’t be saved by social workers doesn’t mean that all poor kids should be written off. Many of them can succeed. We don’t know how many because we haven’t tried very hard. Rayola’s new all-black school has much larger classes than Stockton; it uses a “new math” curriculum instead of Stockton’s traditional curriculum. Fighting is tolerated at the low-performing school. It’s not all the fault of incompetent mothers.