Working against time

This year’s Washington state sophomores will have to pass the state exam to earn a high school diploma. Failure rates are very high for low-income black and Hispanic students. The Seattle Times talks to the principals of two high schools with low-income Hispanic students and low test scores. One is confident his students can pass the test; the other thinks there’s not enough time to bring them up to speed.

(Principal Richard) Esparza is one of the optimists. The pressure of the WASL, which 10th-graders finished last week, is just what’s needed, he says, to bring attention and resources to his Latino students — the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in Washington schools.

Thirty miles up the highway, however, Yakima schools Superintendent Ben Soria says it “borders on the inhumane” to withhold diplomas starting in 2008. In his office, he has big charts showing test scores going up and up. But not fast enough, he says, to get close to 100 percent in two years.

Maybe I’m just a glass-half-full kind of gal, but I see principals working hard to raise the achievement of students who’d otherwise end up with skills that will qualify them to mop floors for the rest of their lives.

About Joanne


  1. trotsky says:

    When you say “will have to pass,” keep in mind stories like the one about that Oakland judge. Sigh.

  2. Joanne Jacobs wrote:

    I see principals working hard to raise the achievement of students

    How does the advent of the state exam cause the principals who, previously, didn’t work hard to raise student achievement to change their priorities?

    I can see a certain amount of embarrassment occurring from high failure rates but that seems like pretty tame stuff against the blight on the lives of the kids.

    Provided pass/fail rates are aggregated by school and made available in a form which allows for ranking the schools, I can see some parents being upset at the knowledge that their kids go to the lousiest school in the state.

    That might generate enough of an outcry to get a lousy principal fired but it’s a pretty uncertain series of steps. A school board might decide to dig in it’s heels to protect a lousy principal. Then you’d have to wait for the next board election to do something.

    Be nice if there were some more direct method of improving the principal’s attitude.