Previously we've taken an overall look at the EFF school report card, along with the schools that it identified as being the very worst (or, in their words, the losers) in the state. Today I thought it might be fun to take a look at the winners--is there anything that we can learn from them?
For the school year 2007-2008 there were 15 schools that tied with a perfect 10 in the EFF rankings. Of those, 6 have had a perfect 10 in each of the last 5 years. Who are these high achievers?
1) Medina Elementary, Medina, King County.
You know who lives in Medina? Bill Gates.
Go to their census page
and you can read lots of fun information, like how the average family income is well above $100,000, the largest number of families make $200,000+, there wasn't a single "Female Householder, No Husband Present" to be found in the whole town, and 99% of the residents aged 25+ are high school graduates.
I'm going to hazard a guess, but I'm thinking Medina may have it a little bit better
that some other places in the state.
2) Lowell Elementary, Seattle, King County.
From their website:
Lowell Elementary School is home to two of the Seattle Public School District's all-city-draw programs, the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) and education for Low Incidence Special Education students.
Accelerated Progress Program. I wonder what that is?
APP is a program of accelerated instruction in Seattle Public Schools, generally two years above grade level. It serves intellectually advanced students who meet eligibility criteria and whose learning needs are not fully met in conventional classrooms.
Ah. Take the brightest kids in the state's biggest city, put them all together, and see how they do on the WASL. It's not by chance that this is a succesful school.
3) Libby Center, Spokane, Spokane County.
Of the 6 schools that earned a perfect 10 Libby Center has the highest percentage of kids from low-income families: 23.1%. That's a success story, absolutely. The secret to the success
Tessera is a one day per week program at Libby Center for highly capable students in grades 3 - 6 who represent the top 3% of their norm group. Students are selected on the basis of academic, intellectual, and creative ability.
Yeah, but that's a one-day-a-week thing. Those kids probably take the WASL at their home schools. Where do Libby's WASL scores come from
The Spokane Public Schools elementary and middle school Odyssey Program is a full day, every day gifted magnet program at Libby Center for fifth through eighth grade students.
Magnet programs: great for gifted kids. Alas, not replicable.
4) Island Park Elementary, Mercer Island, King County:
Remarkably, all three of the elementary schools on Mercer Island scored a perfect 10 on the EFF rankings for the 2007-2008 school year. There were 15 schools to get 10.0, and three of them are from the same school district. Why could that be?
- Could it be the median family income of about $147,000?
- Or that about 30% of the households bring in $200,000+?
- Or the median home value of $880,000, which compares well to the national average of $182,000?
- Or that about 75% of the residents have a Bachelor's degree or higher?
Look, Mercer Island has a well-deserved reputation as a center of wealth in Washington State, where the high school kids drive nicer cars than their teachers do, where you go when you've made it in life. It's no surprise that Mercer Island has great schools, because Mercer Island is a high-achieving community with money to burn. Thta's why comments like this,
from Diana Cieslak of the EFF, drive me absolutely insane:
“The reason we chose to do this is to equip parents with the very best info available,” she said.
“We feel that the ranking system gives them a useful conclusion that allows them to see how their schools are doing compared to others in the state.”
When asked why Mercer Island performed so well in the study, Cieslak suggested that parents should go and find out the answer themselves.
“That is our goal,” she said. “The school will have the answers.”
Absolutely, on its face, ridiculous. It's the myth of replicability that I've talked about before--a school is successful here, so a school can be successful there, too--and Ms. Cieslak pushes that myth to the most ridiculous edge.
5) Challenge, Mountlake Terrace, Snohomish County:
If you're a terrible cynic you're probably going, "Feh! I bet it's a magnet program in some well-to-do school district! Feh!"
Sometimes, the cynics are right.
Challenge is a special magnet program for gifted kids in the Edmonds School District, admission based on referrals and testing.
6) Cedar Wood Elementary, Bothell, King/Snohomish County:
A school that's proud to be mentioned in the EFF's report card, they trumpet their high ranking
right off of their home page.
Mind you, they don't mention the EFF by name (they call them "an educational research foundation">, nor do they link to the EFF's web page, or to the report itself, but why would I want to read anything into that unless I was being snarky, right?
Anyhow, this looks to be an actual public school, in the Everett School District!
I know, right? Weird! Going off of their school report card
they have 6.2% of the kids taking free or reduced price lunch, about 15% in special education, and 100% fans of locally connected band Death Cab for Cutie
Congratulations to Cedar Wood for what they've accomplished.
So, to review: 3 magnet programs, 2 of the richest elementary schools in the state, and Cedar Wood of Bothell.
There's a quote that I thought was Molly Ivins, but Google attributes to Ann Richards, referring to George Bush: "He's a guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." What the top of the EFF report card is showing us is not a collection of schools that have had to struggle to get their success, but that are maintaining the successes that the kids showed up with in kindergarten.
Another phrase that's been put out is "Cinderella Schools"
; those schools that have socio-economic factors lined against them but that are still succeeding, like Pateros.
I'm still mining the report to pick those out (personal and confidential to the EFF and Fraser Institute: spreadsheets would be nice), and that will be the next post to come.
Hopefully that's where the value will be, because there hasn't been a whole lot to learn from looking at the extremes.
Labels: EFF, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, Fraser Institute, school reform, School Report Card
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