No excuses

Eduwonk rightly recommends Tina Griego’s column on how Education Trust consultants are helping a Denver high school improve student achievement.

High poverty, high minority schools finding academic success have common denominators. Rigorous classes, a fair share of the “best and brightest” teachers to all students, a curriculum aligned with state standards from the high school down to the elementary schools feeding them, teacher support and professional development.

“This notion of achievement being determined mostly by socioeconomic background has to be thrown out the window,” (Paul) Ruiz told the committee. “In high-performing places, they don’t make excuses. They roll up their sleeves, and they get to work. They are taking responsibility for learning between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. And they also don’t leave anything about learning or teaching to chance.”

Education Trust staffers are “near-fanatic devotees of data,” Griego writes. They believe student progress toward specific goals must be measured frequently, so problems can be identified and dealt with quickly.

Data don’t simply come from a once-a-year standardized test score, (Stephanie) Robinson said, but include departmental exams and “artifacts.” How does “A” work in a high-performing school compare to “A” work at a “low” school?

Here’s an actual example of a 10th-grade writing assignment at a high-performing school outside Colorado:

“A frequent theme in literature is the conflict between the individual and society. From literature you have read, select a character who struggled with society. In a well-developed composition, identify the character and explain why this character’s conflict with society is important.”

And a 10th-grade writing assignment at a “low” school in that same state:

“Write a composition of at least four paragraphs on Martin Luther King’s most important contribution to this society. Illustrate your work with a neat cover page. Neatness counts.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called cheating kids out of an education, and if it doesn’t anger you, I don’t know what will.

Here are more stories about North High.

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  1. Mike McKeown says:

    The second assignment is not all that different from what happens at a number of high socioeconomic status schools, even in ‘top’ level classes. This doesn’t mean that it is in all classes, but it is in a shockingly high number of classes.

    This observation is based on what I have seen with my own children.

  2. I was actually underwhelmed by the second assignment. I had expected something like “Write four *sentences* …” That doesn’t make it OK, of course.