Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Phone Call

I’ve been checking the voice mail in the office over the summer. We’ve got a highly mobile population, and there have been several calls from parents during the summer asking questions about the school, wondering when registration is, etc. I try to call them back so we can set a good tone and get on their good side right away.

I had an interesting one the other day. A family is moving in from the mid-west, and mom had gone online to one of the websites like Just for the Kids that rank schools. She knew our test scores, she knew where we compared to the other districts around us (all of which are within driving distance, a couple of which you can bus to), and she liked what we had to offer.

Parents choosing schools based on data is the dream of many; it underlies the charter schools movement, and it’s inherent in the failing schools language of No Child Left Behind. This was the first time that I’d ever seen it directly, and while I’m gratified that it was to our benefit I worry about the future.

The Public Education Network did a series of hearings last winter on NCLB. They were written off as teacher whining about the law, but there’s a great quote from their published report that I liked:

Labeling schools “in need of improvement,” typically interpreted as “failing,” creates conditions whereby schools are abandoned by some students—often the highest performing students; by teachers who transfer to other schools; and by communities unsure of their responsibility for schools most in need of support.

Rather that viewing a school in nee of improvement as an opportunity to rally community support and elicit strategies for ways students in that school can be better served, such labeling initiates blame-games and finger-pointing at whichever group caused the school to “fail.”

This destructive impact goes well beyond the school; it tears at the fabric of community. When a district or school receives a low grade, said an Ohio student, “it reflects on the community. Who wants to attend a failing school? Better yet, what parent wants to live in a community where the schools are failing?”

It’s the down-the-road impact that worries me the most.

We’re doing a pretty good job at my school right now. Our biggest weakness is in science, but that test is pretty new. We’ve done incredible things in reading and math over the years.

Pretty soon, though, it won’t be enough. We’ll only pass 87% of the kids in math when our AYP goal is 90%, and we will have failed. We’ll only get 95% of the kids in reading when the goal is 100%, and we will have failed. This will be in the newspapers and on the internet, and then what? How will I explain to parents who call that while yes, we are failing under the provisions of NCLB, we’re still a very, very good school?

I’m not saying that we can’t do better. We can, and we must. What gnaws at me is trying to figure out what we’ll do when everyone is working is hard as they can, when we’ve made that step from good to great, and we’re still out of compliance. What then?


Blogger Dr. Homeslice said...

Just saw my name under "Great Blogs". Aww, shucks. Thanks!

7:42 PM  
Blogger The Rain said...

You deserve it, especially after the EIA thing you got going recently! :-)

1:29 PM  
Blogger Dr. Homeslice said...

I'm not sure exactly what I got going. I just reacted and people picked it up. Wierd how the blog-o-sphere works, eh?

7:20 PM  
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5:07 AM  

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