Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The EFF School Report Card: The Worst Schools in the State

(Second in a look at the 2009 Elementary School Report Card from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. For the first installment, including links to the report, go here.)

The School Report Card sorts out the elementary schools here in Washington from #1 to a four-way tie for #1,127. The Simon Fraser Institute, which carried out the research for the study, says that it identifies the winners and losers, so let's look at the biggest loser schools in Washington State. These are the four that were called out by name in the media.

#1127 Wa He Lut, Olympia, Thurston County. An Indian school in the most basic sense of the word, Wa He Lut isn't a public school at all--it's managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the federal government, and you must be a member of a federally recognized tribe to even attend. Consider, too, that Wa He Lut's low score is based off of one year's scores--they only have WASL results for 2008.

I remember being at an OSPI Summer Institute a couple of years ago where Terry Bergeson talked about the crisis in education surrounding our Native American students statewide, and she was right--less than half graduate from high school. I think it's a problem that needs to be viewed through a different lens than the school reform movement writ large, though.

Here is an example of where I question the methodology of the report--how can Wa Le Hut be called a "loser" school based off of one year's results, when it's not even really a public school at all?

#1127.2: Virgie Robinson Elementary, Pasco, Franklin County: 96.5% low income and 95.8% Hispanic, a fun school where Chicago White Sox jerseys and Ben Davis uniforms are banned because of gang affiliations. Where 75% are in the transitional bilingual program, 1-in-6 are identified special education students, and more than 20% are migrant. It's also 3 times larger than the Pateros School District, which will be important because of something I'll be posting later.

#1127.3: Muckleshoot Tribal School, Auburn, Pierce County: Not really part of the Auburn School District, not really a public school (it's 100% Native American). They're getting a nice new building, which is good for them. They're also at the bottom of the list based on one year's scores-2008-because that's the only year they have scores reported for. My guess is that's because they only have 83 students.

That's right, you 30 or so kids in grades 3 through 5. Mmm-hmm. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

#1127.4: Lummi Tribal School, Bellingham, Whatcom County: The very worst school in the state, says the report. The only school to receive a cumulative 0.0 score for the past five years, which means that in no year, ever, did they score even a fraction of a point in the EFF's system. This article from 2001 seems rather humorous in light of what hasn't happened--academic renaissance--but the humor dies quite quickly when you recognize that this has been an ongoing problem for several generations now.

"But Ryan," I'm hearing someone say, "Ben Chavis. Skooled. It can happen. Soft bigotry, low expectations, et cetera."

And that's fine. What I'm finding ridiculous here is the belief put forward by the report that some how, some way, it's competition that is going to make these schools better.

There are systemic reasons that some schools fail. It's these schools, the outliers, that prove that more than any other. The affirming-the-consequent conceit is to argue that if some schools succeed, then any school can succeed, and since Pateros is doing well, these schools should be too.

But conceit and rankings aren't going to help.

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