But can they read?

To qualify for federal school improvement funds, a high-poverty Vermont school had to replace its hard-working principal, reports Michael Winerip in the New York Times. The story blames African refugee students who speak little English for the school’s low scores. Winerip writes that 37 of 39 fifth graders are refugees or disabled, although only 22 percent of students are black.

Alyson Klein of Politics K-12 summarizes the reaction of the education blogosphere — negative — and focuses a critical element:  The school’s scores are very low for all students, not just English Learners or special education students.

Winerip implies newly arrived immigrants’ scores count for No Child Left Behind purposes. That’s not true, points out This Week in Education, who adds that the principal was transferred to a job in the district office. Test scores fell during Irvine’s tenure, notes Eduwonk.  Klein adds:

The story includes all of these anecdotes about the great strides Wheeler Elementary School is making in the six years since (Joyce) Irvine became principal, from offering a dental clinic to teaching kids to play the violin to offering field trips for the school’s staff to the Kennedy Center in Washington to learn more about the arts.

But can these kids read?

Klein links to the school’s scores for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

In 2006, 31 percent of Wheeler’s kids scored in the lowest achievement tier on reading tests. In 2010, 52 percent were in the group at the bottom. (2010 wasn’t a blip either, as the group of kids scoring at the bottom has gradually grown.) If you take out English-language learners, who have more challenges to overcome in learning to read and then taking a test, 23 percent scored at the bottom in reading in 2006, 44 percent did so in 2010. The same trend is seen for non-disabled students.

The district’s turnaround plan was to convert the school to an arts magnet, thereby attracting more middle-income students, reports the Burlington Free Press. Changing the demographics may raise overall test scores, Klein writes, but it does nothing to improve the reading, writing and math abilities of the school’s low-income students.

Will these Integrated Arts Academy students be able to read?

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Of course, they will be able to read … after you change who “they” are.

    “The district’s turnaround plan was to convert the school to an arts magnet, thereby attracting more middle-income students … Changing the demographics may raise overall test scores, but it does nothing to improve the reading, writing and math abilities of the school’s low-income students.”

    On the contrary. Changing demographics will work to accomplish the limited goal of raising scores because there won’t BE any more low-scoring, low-income students. Low-income parents want their kids in an academic program, not an Arts magnet. Same for refugee parents.

    Remember, we are talking about a class of 39 fifth graders here. 37 of those were refugee or SpecEd. The whole group will transfer out, with a possible exception of a SpecEd kid who is big into Arts. In fact, you will automatically have an increase next year because you will be testing a NEW group of kids – all from the area and totally different from this year’s kids who didn’t even speak English.

  2. Cynical says:

    Always, the reason for the massive numbers of non-English speakers is ignored by the media.

  3. “Will these Integrated Arts Academy students be able to read?”

    No, they will not. But, that’s ok–they can still graduate and attend college. In fact, many of them are in my college classes right now.

  4. I’ve read a lot of articles about strategies for turning around weak schools and this ones seems typical; no mention of changing instructional methods, the curriculum or the format (maybe having some teachers teach only math or reading- to ensure all kids have teachers with expertise in those areas?). As others have said, adding arts doesn’t fix inability to read or do math, but it might change the student population. Ditch the groupwork and discovery learning, have the teachers teach and use a strong curriculum. Singapore Math and Core Knowledge or the classical curriculum might work and certainly couldn’t hurt.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, Joanne Jacobs. Joanne Jacobs said: New blog post: But can they read? http://bit.ly/dlTK1p […]