Friday, November 23, 2012

Are the top schools really top schools?

So you think your schools in Desoto and Rankin are sooooooooo good.  Arthur Levine says in the Wall Street Journal guess again.  The suburban schools really don't do that well compared to schools in other countried. Mr. Levine opines:


"Parents nationwide are familiar with the wide academic achievement gaps separating American students of different races, family incomes and ZIP Codes. But a second crucial achievement gap receives far less attention. It is the disparity between children in America's top suburban schools and their peers in the highest-performing school systems elsewhere in the world.

Of the 70 countries tested by the widely used Program for International Student Assessment, the United States falls in the middle of the pack. This is the case even for relatively well-off American students: Of American 15-year-olds with at least one college-educated parent, only 42% are proficient in math, according to a Harvard University study of the PISA results. That is compared with 75% proficiency for all 15-year-olds in Shanghai and 50% for those in Canada.

Compared with big urban centers, America's affluent suburbs have roughly four times as many students performing at the academic level of their international peers in math. But when American suburbs are compared with two of the top school systems in the world—in Finland and Singapore—very few, such as Evanston, Ill., and Scarsdale, N.Y., outperform the international competition. Most of the other major suburban areas underperform the international competition. That includes the likes of Grosse Point, Mich., Montgomery County, Md., and Greenwich, Conn. And most underperform substantially, according to the Global Report Card database of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.



The problem America faces, then, is that its urban school districts perform inadequately compared with their suburban counterparts, and its suburban districts generally perform inadequately compared with their international counterparts. The domestic achievement gap means that the floor for student performance in America is too low, and the international achievement gap signals that the same is true of the ceiling. America's weakest school districts are failing their students and the nation, and so are many of America's strongest.

The domestic gap means that too many poor, urban and rural youngsters of color lack the education necessary to obtain jobs that can support a family in an information economy in which low-end jobs are disappearing. This hurts the U.S. economically, exacerbates social divisions, and endangers our democratic society by leaving citizens without the requisite knowledge to participate effectively.

The international gap, meanwhile, hurts the ability of American children to obtain the best jobs in a global economy requiring higher levels of skills and knowledge. This economy prizes expertise in math, science, engineering, technology, language and critical thinking......

So what do Americans do? We talk a great deal about the achievement gap. We write books and reports about it. We wring our hands at its existence. We adopt a revolving door of short-term reforms in response. But nearly 30 years after the alarming federal report "A Nation at Risk," not one major urban district has been turned around. Many of our suburban school districts are losing ground. We have settled on a path of global mediocrity for students attending our most affluent schools and national marginality for those attending failing inner-city schools.

A Hollywood drama released in September, "Won't Back Down," offered an alternative. It told the story of two parents (one a teacher) determined to transform their children's failing school in the face of opposition from administrators, teachers and unions. The protagonists faced apathy and intransigence at every turn.

Hollywood caricatures aside, the movie correctly conveyed that parents are the key. Parents need to say that they won't stand for these intolerable achievement gaps. The first step is for parents to learn what quality education is and how it is achieved.



This isn't a game for amateurs. Parents need to use every resource at their disposal—demanding changes in schools and in district offices; using existing tools such as "parent-trigger" laws and charter schools; organizing their communities; cultivating the media and staging newsworthy events; telling politicians and officeholders that their votes will go to candidates who support improvement; even going to the courts. If parents want change, they have the capacity to make it happen, but it isn't easy.

At the same time, it is critical to recognize that school districts can't perform miracles. They can't overcome the tolls of poverty and poor housing, but they can close gaps. They can raise the floor and the ceiling of student academic achievement. Some schools in high-need districts and suburbs are already doing this. There is no excuse not to—and, if we hope to compete globally, there is no time to lose.

Mr. Levine, a former president of Columbia University's Teachers College, is president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
Rest of colummn

35 comments:

Shadowfax said...

Well, we don't live in other countries, do we? And Ford truck engines don't compare well with those made in Italy either.

You're expecting too much of education, Kingfisher. It's of no value except that which results from gains which follow it. If the education received produces the value expected, then its invaluable. If we only sit around forever comparing this system with that other one, we wind up farting at windmills.

Anonymous said...

We need a competitive education system because the world buys our highly competitive machinery, vehicles, and aero and we don't want to have to import talent do that. Basic research is a central part with most of that coming from our homegrown academic talent. If the design is done elsewhere you might as well produce it elsewhere too.

Anonymous said...

We don't live in other countries so if another country had invented electricity, we shouldn't use it as gas lamps were working ok?

This anti-anything foreign attitude prevents us from even discussing new ideas and innovations that originate in other countries much less benefitting from those ideas. We should be imitating success not being defensive about and envious of the success of others !

Also, the " if it ain't broke , don't fix it" attitude I hear so often would have had us still using dial up phones.

We ought to be looking at how the successful foreign schools systems work and see if we can benefit from whatever they might be doing differently.

We ought to look at teacher qualifications and curriculum differences and teaching methods to start.

I suspect what we will find is that their systems have not been battered by politics and have not let parents run the schools and have not gone with unproven trendy notions that had political or popular appeal and money making opportunities attached. And,I'll bet they identify their brighest early and made sure they are rewarded and supported even if they came from crappy families.

And, I'll bet they culturally put more weight on the opinions of those who have experience or study in a matter than giving equal weight to any idiot with an opinion!

Anonymous said...

To 10:05 You are right on the money!

And to those of you who say, "We do not live in other countries"; No,we do not live in other countries, but we do compete with them every day! Apathy is a great deal of what is wrong with our country today - out of sight, out of mind! We will never be able to compete until we change this backward way of thinking! It's doing a grave injustice to the present generation and generations to come.

Anonymous said...

And, I'll bet they culturally put more weight on the opinions of those who have experience or study in a matter than giving equal weight to any idiot with an opinion!

By all means let's move to that sort of apparatchik system as soon as possible so that we may be free of having to listen to you much further.

Cute how you responded to your own comment @ 1:40.

Anonymous said...

To 2:49 From 1:40

The 10:05 comment was not made by me. You just assumed that was my comment and we all know about making assumptions - which is further proof of my comment. Obviously, you were educated under this system and the "it ain't broke don't fix it" theory is good enough for you!

Anonymous said...

Last I checked Mississippi has the lowest ACT scores in the country. Our "high" performing district are not all that great in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you say 10:05, 1:40 & 3:57!!!!!!!!! You must be new to these parts.

Anonymous said...

2:49 pm It's not a surprise that you can't believe more than one person holds different views from yours.

You clearly don't understand the difference between mob rule/the tyranny of a majority and a democracy.

You clearly missed that the first group the communists and Nazis and every other tyrannical regime gets rid of is the intelligensia.

The power of dictators often is born with support from the uninformed masses who don't see the dangers until it's too late because they have no knowledge of history or philosophy or how good organizational structures function.

And, sorry, but there's a reason we don't let dog catchers do brain surgery.

Anonymous said...

Intergenerational poverty is a problem in Miss and particularily in Jackson. Our teachers come from the suburbs without any attachment to the community. Social betterment cannot happen with such social distance among professionals and population. Teachers are natural community leaders. American football has some social benefits, but with 600+ head strikes per season for each individual player it cannot contribute to education.

Anonymous said...

6:47 am I agree with you that generational poverty is a factor.

I agree that culture is a factor as the 1:40,2:49,4:09 commenter evidences. His " you must be new to these parts" is classic. He forgets that Afghanistan is mired in the past as they resist new ideas and change as well and also have a tribal mentality.

But, I don't agree that an inspiring teacher has to come from the community. An inspiring teacher is excited about sharing their knowledge and interested in the children as individuals. Some of the best teachers I had communted in from outlying communities. They were " connected" with us in their heart and mind as they wanted each of us to succeed and managed to find in each of us a talent upon which he or she could build. They gave hope to those in despair and challenged those with privilege to exercise their good fortunate wisely.


meople said...

I think the real question is where and when did our school system begin to fail? My answer: 1. when everything had to become pussified, I mean politically correct. 2. we took the power out of the teachers hands and gave it to douche bag politicos. 3. the fed starting offering their grants with more and more strings attached.

Kingfish said...

Goss. V. Lopez. Every kid had to have due process. Great in theory, in reality it meant every parent could run, get a lawyer, and sue a school district if their kid wasn't treated right or if he got a zero for cheating. Had a student at MC that would blatantly cheat during the tests, look off of other papers. Dr Cox said he couldn't do anything because eh didn't have actual proof of it and he could sue the school.

meople said...

Yes KF our sue happy society has caused a lot of this as well. But those of us who sit back and accept it are at fault. At some point the burden lies in the judges hands for allowing such shit to happen in our country's court system

Anonymous said...

LMAO. Now the Pontificators bring in Afghanistan. ROFLMAO.

Anonymous said...

The legal status of pupils has been changed but without any improvement in pedagogy or change in administration that gives the pupil an improved role. No young scholars involved in school governance. No student bill of rights. A violation of rights has to be proved for the pupil to have any true legal standing in the educational process. A standard test or a counselor interview might affect their future or choice of coursework. A test during middle school should give a young scholar an emancipation of sorts and defined rights. A special ed student needs some real benchmarks along similar lines.

Anonymous said...

Obviously we've got a JJ commenter with a big woodrow for "pedagogy".

Anonymous said...

Parents have a large role in the dumbing down - and I mean the over-involved, rather than the uninvolved. Many parents expect A's - they will email, call, conference, complain, and in general do whatever it takes to wear teachers down. The over-involved want their child in advanced courses - with A's. They want details on assignments, and they want assignments that can be completed at home (wonder why.) They want no penalty for a late assignment (can she turn in all the work she hasn't done for the last 4 weeks?) and will complain to higher ups if the answer to that question is no. They want retakes on tests when the score was not high enough. The sad part is schools have given in on much of this.

Anonymous said...

mepeople, our schools began to fail when bright women could get better paying jobs and started being accepted into med schools and law schools and MBA programs based on merit!

Women didn't have to be teachers or nurses or social workers or " administrative ass'ts" anymore.

I put that in quotations marks because it was a euphemisim for running the organization!

Shadowfax said...

The suggestion that most teachers in the Jackson Public School System come from the burbs is outrageous. I'd be willing to bet 85% or more graduated from JPS school and have lived within eight miles of the governor's mansion all their lives.

On a side note, but not altogether unrelated, our school systems and all other employers covered by PERS (except possibly law enforcement) are collectively the largest employers in this state and none of them have pre-employment drug screen requirements, or for that matter, randoms or post accident. And, unless the position applied for involves child oversight, certain credentialing or care of the infirm, none of them run background checks either.

Teachers and state employees in this state have been tootin' weed, snortin' lines and reporting to work intoxicated for decades, while dancing in the PERS lobby, inquiring about benefits.

Anonymous said...

JPS is as good as any district anywhere

Anonymous said...

No doubt 6:49 as a result of their outstanding pedagogy.

Anonymous said...

I was required to take a pre-employment drug test prior to starting work for a state agency. It is also understood (signed statement) that random testing may be performed. This is not law enforcement, a state agency that works with children, the ill, or the impaired.

One should never make broad "none" statements when one does not really know. Ya hear, Shadowfax?

Shadowfax said...

Can you possibly cite a state agency that requires drug screens? It is not a requirement of the State Personnel Board which oversees the application process. Point being, these jobs represent the largest sector of employed persons in this state sitting at desks (etc) without being required to undergo the requirements mandated by a great many other jobs in this state. Require drug screens (post and random) and watch the turnover.

But, back to the those who consider themselves worldly for reminding us this is a global economy: When this country was the manufacturing capitol of the universe, children in China were outperforming those in American classrooms, those coming to college here from India and Pakistan were outperforming American students at a fast clip and (legal) immigrants here were better students than their Superman-cartoon-watching American counterparts. Arguably the best engineers in this country are Chinese and Indian who were educated HERE.

Although education in this country has a huge set of (apparently unsolvable) problems, our perceived inability to compete can be blamed squarely on the factors that drove manufacturing off shore and south of the border. 'Those people' didn't steal, inherit, welcome and borrow our processes bacause their kids are better educated.

If America were cultivating the minds of 85% genius level IQ in its schools, government mandates and unions would still make America a manufacturing desert and we would still be at the hind-tit of job growth on the planet.

Anonymous said...

9:42 nicely and succinctly disproved S'fax's delusional assertion, but that didn't deter S'fox from repeating it at 8:02.

OK: here's the name - UMMC (Spell it out yourself).

I don't know if that qualifies as a state "agency" but it is part of the state of Mississippi government, subject to PERS, and I've been told it's the largest employer in Jackson or maybe the state. Some employees even sit at desks, or so I'm told.

And I peed in the cup when I started there in 2000, so the pre-drug testing goes back at least that far at that state "agency".

I am not aware of random post-employment drug testing at UMMC, but testing can be requested based on behavior on the job.

meople said...

Have you ever excepted that sometimes you are just flat out wrong Shadowchin... Without bitching and whining...

Anonymous said...

Have you ever excepted that sometimes you are just flat out wrong

excepted and accepted

Sometimes you are just flat out wrong.

Anonymous said...

This is Anon 9:42 to Shadowfax.

Nope. I will not reveal my state agency. Do some research. You'll likely find several, if not numerous, state agencies that have some sort of drug/alcohol policy.
My agency's five (5) page Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy has been in effect since 2006.

And just in case your thinking "wooo, he's commenting on state time. Bad state employee!", I'm on my lunch break (ate at my desk, mind you) and KF is not a blocked site.

Anonymous said...

... and KF is not a blocked site.

But you are still using taxpayer provided resources for personal purposes.

Anonymous said...

1:24 - Perhaps, like me, 1:13's job description includes trying to educate the more ignorant members of the public, so he's just doing his job (as I am).

Anonymous said...

10:54 AM Simple, well known examples are often best for the simple minded and uninformed but still you miss the point.

Backwards countries stay backwards because they are unwilling to embrace new ideas and innovations from outside their limited cultural experiences. And,they become defensive when it is pointed out that some of their cultural beliefs prevent them from moving forward. Any change in the status quo is also a threat to those who have traditionally held power.

Whether you call the geographical area a country or a state or a principality or a farm, the basics are the same. You aren't going to get anywhere looking behind you and around you instead of moving forward.

As for me, I am sick of our new pastime of arguing about the past and criticizing the present and casting about blame. We have to get past problem identification to problem solution...doesn't matter what the topic of discussion is.

Anonymous said...

Shadowfax, we aren't discussing the decline in our Ivy League universities or our top state supported universities. We aren't even talking about becoming the foreign school sought when a student can't get into a university in their own country.

We are talking about the decline of our public school system and that is well documented.

And, we had best start coldly examining what others are doing that is working and what we are doing that is not working.

We once led the way in not just opening education to everyone but requiring a minimum level of education. It served us well. You have forgotten that education was once confined to the privleged class.

We once had respect for and understood the value of a good education and had a willingness to learn from those who acquire knowledge.

Education was seen as a way to move up the socio-economic ladder.

Now our children think that those paths with a low percentage of success...athletics, show biz..will improve their lots in life. So they are playing with balls and rapping instead of studying the books. They believe, with some justification, that one can get by on "looking gooood" and being glib so beauty pageants for toddlers abound.

It's time we told our children the truth. That the athletes and movie stars and musicians and beauty queens who still have their wealth in their old age usually also hit the books along the way ! They learned how to manage their wealth and make good decisions and choose competent advisors.

Anonymous said...

The pontificating drones descend once more upon JJ.

Anonymous said...

"We once led the way in not just opening education to everyone but requiring a minimum level of education. It served us well. You have forgotten that education was once confined to the privleged class.

We once had respect for and understood the value of a good education and had a willingness to learn from those who acquire knowledge.

Education was seen as a way to move up the socio-economic ladder."

Of course, when US public high schools were thought to be the best in the world, the class sizes were about twice what they are now. Try bringing that back to improve quality :-)

And if I knew we were voting for the Afghanistan school board I would have scrolled all the way to the end of my ballot. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

I'm tempted to agree with Shadowfax's first comment. We teach kids what they need to know. Consumerism. If they are in need of any real knowledge they'll need "higher education".

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