‘Stuck schools’ stay stuck

Most high-performing schools are leaving low-income and minority students behind, concludes Stuck Schools Revisited: Beneath the Averages, a new Education Trust report that analyzes data from Maryland and Indiana.

In Maryland, the achievement gap in reading narrowed from 2005 to 2009, but African-American and Latino students often lag behind.

“In Indiana, gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers have remained both wide and stagnant,” Ed Trust reports. 

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  1. Why should this be a shocker? A child who may have one parent with limited education and on public assistance doesn’t do as well as a child with two parents and double or triple the household income. It’s a fact. Not a mystery. The reason we want children to be educated is that it makes a difference in their values, their life style, their income, and then we are suprised when it works? But the school can’t make up for the parents’ mistakes.

  2. Conventional wisdom says it’s the teacher’s fault. No merit pay for Maryland or Indiana teachers this year.

  3. one must distinguish between gap and proficiency: relative and absolute scales. Closing the gap by having everyone illiterate would also be a failure.

    and of course, the header should read “most high performing schools in Maryland and Indiana are …”

  4. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Let’s talk about this “leaving behind” business.

    Who exactly is doing the “leaving”, and why does it matter?

    If you can answer those questions, we’ll be on our way to a fruitful discussion. A “school” can’t leave a student behind. Only one who is going someplace can leave someone behind.

    I suspect that what’s allegedly going on is that some students, and perhaps the teachers, are leaving other students behind. (We’re already talking in metaphors, so let’s at least try to keep our metaphors to one level.) Teachers, in other words, are going to interesting academic places with some of their students and leaving others “behind” — the left behind students aren’t getting to “go” to the interesting place where people write in coherent paragraphs and such.

    But is it “leaving” someone behind who says “No thanks, I’d rather sit right here.” Sure, in a sense. But it’s not the same sort of leaving behind that one does in, say, combat when your friends are cut off by enemy fire and you have to retreat while they scream “HELP!”. (And even there, there might be good reasons to leave them behind, at least for a while. Marines may disagree.) And that’s the sort of “left behind” that gets evoked when someone says “No child left behind.”

    Leaving behind of the first kind is not any sort of moral issue. It’s a mere fact: yes, we left Suzie behind because she hates the beach and didn’t want to hang out with us.

    Leaving behind of the second kind may be a moral issue, but explanations for why we’re dealing with a leaving behind of the second kind should be forthcoming.

  5. Genevieve says:

    My daughter attends a mixed income, urban elementary school (between 30-40% free and reduced lunch but also with a high number of upper middle class professionals). It also serves children that are learning English. When there is whole class instruction, it is geared toward the average student. This average student is at a much higher level than the school district average, though probably comparable to surrounding suburban schools. What this means is that the children that are learning English and/or are below grade level are left behind. Often so far behind that they have no idea what is going on.
    So I can see high performing schools leaving children behind, even in the second kind that Michael is talking about. I don’t see a solution to this (that doesn’t hurt the other students) unless we do more with ability grouping.

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    I don’t see a solution to this (that doesn’t hurt the other students) unless we do more with ability grouping.

    It’s hard to do things when it’s dark at night. I don’t see a solution unless we use some sort of artificial lighting.

  7. Genevieve says:

    Yes Roger, but good luck convincing the school of that. They keep trying to push differentiated learning within the classroom. So far, I haven’t seen it make a big difference.

  8. Genevieve says:

    I should have added that teachers are expected to serve all students that are within two grade levels of the grade they are in. This means no special education help or extra support unless they are over two grades levels behind and no acceleration outside the classroom unless the student is over two grade levels ahead.

  9. Michael E. Lopez says:

    That means teaching five grade levels at once, right?