Transferred again

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.

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  1. Well, there you have it. Proof that parents are not competent to make decisions about their childrens’ education. I guess the NEA was right all along.

  2. Of course they were, but so were their critics. Getting a good education is the responsibility of the Federal Government, state governments, school districts, test publishers, taxpayers, communities, textbook publishers, school administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, and (though some fail to admit it) students.

    Gee, everyone gets credit and everyone gets blame. And the students get a free ride to hell in a handbasket.

  3. dhanson says:

    You’re right. Given the opportunities, some poor kids will succeed. Maybe many of them will succeed. As you said, we don’t know how many because we haven’t tried very hard.

    Kids of ditzy, clueless, uninvolved parents are going to have a tough time though, no matter what school they attend.

    And that’s my concern with NCLB. It doesn’t differentiate between the kids who can succeed given better opportunities and those kids whose life away from school makes success virtually impossible.

    Until NCLB adds a parental responsibility component —-one with teeth–it cannot come anywhere close to achieving its goals of 100 percent quality education.

  4. corndog says:

    This story made me very angry! I don’t often disagree with your assessment, but I do today. There was nothing wrong with the school, the teachers, the social work program in this story. The problem was the mother! I’m all for accountability, but it’s stories like these that rightfully make teachers worry about the new law. This child was able to learn in spite of the fact that she missed over 30 days of school, missed breakfast on a regular basis and didn’t get enough sleep! You can talk about larger class sizes, less discipline, curriculum, but in the context of this story those weren’t the issues. Remember, she did pass her test although the odds were against it.

    I agree though, that the schools did fail this child, but it was both schools. There are laws in Illinois about truancy and they could have reported the mother. Neither school did. No amount of transferring this child to schools solves that problem.

    Bill Cosby has this right. These people have got to wake up and see that they are the problem. This mother insists she wanted her child to have a better education, but takes no responsibility in making sure she gets one – she wants other to do the work. It is time there were consequences because society is paying a heavy price for the inadequacy of the parents.

  5. I just have to comment on this.

    I was raised by a ditzy, uninvolved mother (no dad) who frequently allowed me to miss school for no good reason. I missed a ton of school, rarely did my homework and had an all around rotten attitude. What I did have was a public school system that maintained fairly high standards.

    After I graduated, moved to NYC, and got an administrative job with a large insurance company I found I was much more prepared and “educated” then my co-workers who, for the most part, had attended NYC public schools.

    Schools obviously cannot replace a caring, involved parent but articulating and maintaining high expectations and standards helps. Even the kids who don’t have the benefit of involved parents benefit from such a school. I did.

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    I side with Corndog. The incredible thing is that this child managed to move forward in spite of a mother who clearly is not competent to organize a shopping trip, let alone raise a child.

    Should the government step in, in this case, asnd remove the child from the home? I VERY reluctantly have to say, sometimes, yes. It would have to be on a case by case basis, and I’m sure that the ACLU and other useless legal personages would file briefs, but look: common sense tells us this child likely would be better off somewhere other than with her mother.

  7. Bill, the child might be better off, but (1) you can’t remove people’s children from them without something more substantial, i.e. outright abuse or criminal negligence; and (2) there are too many children who live in these exact circumstances; what would you do with them all?

  8. The government shouldn’t remove the children from the home, just cancel the cable TV. An extra $75 a month would have paid for gas and the kids would have had no reason to stay up late, thus missing school.

  9. Richard Brandshaft says:

    “implies at the start that NCLB fails to deal with poor families’ “complex issues.” …

    That’s a normal (unusually but not always conservative) argument: perfection is impossible, so do nothing. Ms. Jacobs summed it up best in her Mercury News days. I forget the context, but she responded to arguments about some test not measuring some quality with something like, “Yes, and it doesn’t tell you whether the child’s teeth are clean either.”

  10. Nature verses nuture, each of us is the product of “natural” ingredients and a variety of recipes. Rayola thankfully seems to have some good ingredients which may allow her to overcome the endless bad recipes she has had to grow up with. The scary thing is across America most of the Rayoal’s are not blessed with good ingredients. Hopefully in this case nature will be strong enough to overcome the lack of nurturing in this young girls life. One other thought on this story, if all of these schools are part of the same district than why the great disparities in services provided? If someone can clear this up I would love to know.