Archive for October, 2016

My Alma Mater Abandons Class Rank… Well Done West Chester High Schools!

October 31, 2016 Comments off

An article by Kathy Bocella in in describes a recent decision by the West Chester (PA) school district to abandon the practice of ranking graduates. Why?

Educators who favor dropping the system argue that in the best districts, where the students are highly competitive, the differences in grade-point average between the No. 1 and No. 20 or 25 students can be minuscule. Yet colleges might look unfavorably on that lower-ranked student.

A No. 25 in West Chester might be a No. 5 or 6 in another district, said Scanlon, whose school board voted earlier this month to eliminate ranking and weighting systems – that can push GPAs well above 4.0 – to account for the more challenging courses, effective with next year’s freshman class.

Hanover (NH) High School, the HS in the last public school district I led, abandoned the practice well before I came there in 2004 for the same reason. Given that the graduating class had roughly 20 National Merit scholars or semifinalists among its typical grading class of roughly 175 it made no sense to rank students. Indeed, it makes little sense to use GPA as the basis for any ranking at ANY high school. In virtually every HS in every district I led the difference between the top student and the students in the top 10% were microscopic and there were many instances of co-valedictorians and co-salutatorians as a result. Worse, in some instances the discriminating factor might be an A+ earned in an elective course that “earned” someone the distinction of being the valedictorian.

As the article noted, though, not every community is ready to abandon the practice:

But it was a different story in the well-regarded Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, which took heat from top-performing students and their parents when it eliminated its decile ranking system – in which seniors are grouped in the 10th, 20th, 30th, etc., percentiles, – starting this year. Critics said students were told as freshmen to work hard and aim for the top decile, which is based on three years of grades.

“They believed they would get this recognition if they succeeded, and to pull the rug out from under them is unfair,” said Timotha Trigg, a mother of a senior, who spoke out at several heated school board meetings.

I am certain Ms. Trigg’s position is heartfelt, but I doubt that the external reward of being in the top decile is as important to most students in the school— say those in the bottom deciles— as getting a passing grade or, heaven forbid, learning for the sake of learning… and if the Board in Unionville-Chadds Ford wanted to address Ms. Trigg’s concerns they could agree to phase in the new “non-ranking” system over time. My hunch: the entering Freshman class that DIDN’T have the ranking system would work every bit as hard as the last class that experienced the rankings…

New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

October 30, 2016 Comments off

Paul Buchheit continues his excellent reporting on charter schools… There’s nothing to add to this: read it! 

An earlier review identified the “Three Big Sins of Charter Schools”: Fraud, a Lack of Transparency, and the Exclusion of Unwanted Students. The evidence against charters continues to grow.

Source: New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

Categories: Uncategorized

Public Education Left Behind in Presidential Election… and ESSA is the Reason Why

October 30, 2016 Comments off

New Yorker writer Rebeccas Mead’s article poses a question in it’s title that has a clear and unequivocal answer: “Did Trump and Clinton Get a Pass on Education?” After several paragraphs describing other columnists’ speculation about the appropriate grade level to assign to Mr. Trump’s outbursts, she writes:

Fifty million children are enrolled in public schools in the U.S., yet in none of the debates was there any discussion of the areas of concern that have occupied educators and parents in recent years: the Common Core, teacher evaluation, standardized testing, or the effective segregation of schools in many parts of the country, including in New York City.

Mr. Mead then recounts the marked differences between the two candidates, with Mr. Trump reinforcing out the notion that public schools should compete in an open market. He also rolled out a host of conservative taking points on education from the Reagan years:

 “Competition always does it,” he said. “The weak fall out and the strong get better. It is an amazing thing.” He advocated merit pay for teachers, stated his opposition to Common Core, and spoke in favor of charter schools and against teachers’ unions.

Ms. Mead summarized Ms. Clinton’s talking points as well, and they were full of high minded promises like “preparing, supporting, and paying every child’s teacher as if the future of our country is in their hands,” and

“…funding to increase the teaching of computer science;…fund(ing) the rebuilding of school infrastructure… address(ing) the so-called school-to-prison pipeline,… and fund(ing) interventions in social and emotional learning, to the tune of two billion dollars.”

One question that both candidates would agree on, though, is the promise of for-profit-deregulated-charter-schools, with Mr. Trump inevitably championing them as a means of “breaking up the public school monopoly” while Ms. Clinton would tiptoe around the issue by rattling off a list of such schools that have achieved success and suggesting that it’s too early to foreclose that option…. to sort of answer she’s given on the DAPL, Keystone XL, and TTP.

Mr. Mead accurately cites the reason for the failure of education to emerge as a Presidential issue: the bi-partisan ESSA bill:

The next President, whoever she is, will in any case have a smaller role to play in determining education policy than did her predecessor: the bipartisan Every Child Succeeds Act, which reduces the role of federal government in decisions related to schools, and grants larger autonomy to the states, was signed into law by President Obama almost a year ago.

And ESSA’s restoration of state control means that retrogressive States in the Deep South and Rust Belt will continue their practice of de-funding public education, relentlessly testing children at all grade levels, and offering deregulated charters as the solution to “failing schools”. Meanwhile, the real losers in this country are those who are not old enough to vote. They’ve witnessed a nasty and insubstantial Presidential campaign that failed to address the deplorable and increasingly segregated schools many children attend, the change in climate that they will face, and the need to fund the infrastructure that enabled their parents to experience a great childhood.