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The Content of One’s Character Cannot be Measured by a Standardized Test or a Mathematical Algorithm

June 28, 2017 1 comment

NPR re-posted an article on the need for reform in admissions to “elite public schools” written for The Conversation by Faculty Director for Professional Education, BU School of Education, Boston University. The article defines “elite public schools” as those that use test scores as the predominant metric for admission, referencing schools like “New York’s StuyvesantBoston Latin or Walter Payton(in Chicago)”. Mr. Murray decries these admissions standards because they inevitably result in segregation by race due to the high correlation between race and test results. Instead of using test scores and other easily quantifiable data as the primary basis for entrance into these competitive schools, Mr. Murray suggests that “elite” public schools follow the example set by several elite colleges who are part of a Making Caring Common, described as “a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, these institutions are piloting new admissions policies that focus less on numbers and more on “ethical engagement.”” Mr. Murray elaborates:

In a report released in January 2016, Making Caring Common argued for elite colleges and universities to include opportunities for candidates to submit authentic demonstrations of empathy, service to others and commitment to the common good as part of their application. They contend that these important values are worth promoting to students and families. In fact, research suggests that strength of character and “grit” are key determinants of future academic and career success.

Importantly, these new metrics could weigh social and emotional attributes that students across all backgrounds could exemplify in some way.

To date, over 175 colleges and universities have signed on to this concept, seeking to diversify their classes and to offer an opportunity to attend college to a wider pool of students. Mr. Murray suggests that elite exam schools could adopt a similar method for admissions:

A school might give special consideration, for example, to candidates who worked to support their families at an early age, served as caregivers to younger siblings, organized efforts to support a needy classmate or led a food drive to help a local shelter.

Exam schools across the country could team with Making Caring Common and its growing list of higher education partners to determine how best to validly and reliably collect, evaluate and weight these types of student experiences.

Unsurprisingly, one commenter to the NPR article found this whole idea distasteful. Effectively speaking on behalf of many who value “merit-based” admissions, commenter “brian m” wrote:

Why would you want to place kids in the Advanced Placement courses that they do not test ready for and will probably fail to pass without a hand me grade. UGH. Why are we rerunning and rerunning race based numbers and using race as the determining factor! Martin Luther king said it wonderfully . Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Why do we digress to 1963. The liberal mindset is to make the races equal by giving certain races things they dont earn. Take race out of theses decisions! What do you tell the kids that get passed over for placement into these schools and kept high grades that are the wrong race?

My rebuttal to this comment was:

“What do you tell the kids that get passed over for placement into these schools and kept high grades that are the wrong race?”
You tell them that the qualities needed to succeed in school and life depend on more than getting high test scores or good grades… You tell them that the content of one’s character cannot be measured by a neat and clean mathematical algorithm…

And finally, you tell them that they should be grateful they will not be profiled by police whenever they drive a nice car or shop in a good department store…

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Will These Studies Finally Make Betsy DeVos Admit School Vouchers Are a Total Scam?

June 27, 2017 Comments off

More evidence that vouchers DON’T work… but… some will look at these results and focus on the out years and use them to support vouchers…

Source: Will These Studies Finally Make Betsy DeVos Admit School Vouchers Are a Total Scam?

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Fatherless Children Contribute to Poverty, Challenges in Public Education

June 27, 2017 Comments off

On Fathers Day, NPR reporter Claudio Sanchez interviewed author Alan Blankstein on the impact of fatherless children on poverty rates and public education… and the results of fatherlessness are devastating. Among the findings cited in the interview:

  • 24.7 million kidsin the U.S. don’t live with a biological father.
  • Children are four-times more likely to be poor if the father is not around. And we know that poverty is heavily associated with academic success. [Fatherless kids] are also twice as likely to drop out…seven out of 10 high school dropouts are fatherless.
  • Girls are twice as likely to suffer from obesity without the father present. They’re four-times more likely to get pregnant as teenagers. Boys are more likely to act out, which is why we’re more aware [of how they’re affected], but if a young girl is imploding, we don’ t see it.
  • The overall trend [of fatherlessness] is up for all families. So we’re looking at a 20 percent rate among white fathers who are absent in their children’s lives, 31 percent for Hispanics, 57 percent for African-Americans.

There is clear evidence that the absence of a father contributes to the ill-being of children. But it is unclear what action schools can take when this is the case. At the end of the interview Mr. Sanchez asks Mr. Blankstein if he is aware of any effective interventions. Here is Mr. Blankstein’s response:

I don’t see a lot happening in schools. I think [successful] interventions are happening in a random way, at best. Like the case of John Marshall Elementary in Philadelphia. They’re working with a [city-wide] commission on families to include fathers in promoting the academic well-being of students. Most schools don’t recognize or engage fathers [who’ve been absent].

There’s a reason “most schools don’t recognize or engage fathers (who’ve been absent)”… it’s because schools do not have the resources to do so! Indeed, most schools serving children raised in poverty lack the resources to provide counseling to fatherless children let alone the resources to track down absent fathers. Complicating matters even further, schools are often caught in disputes between parents who are separated, needing to decline requests from fathers or mothers who are under court orders to remain out of the lives of their children and, as noted above, often incapable of providing the needed counseling the children need in situations like this.

As is true in so many cases involving societal ills, schools are expected to do more than they are capable of and then criticized for the consequences.