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More Thoughts on Education

Yesterday, I posted on the absurdity of the education industry suing the state because they think they are being shortchanged when it comes to funding. Today there is an interesting article about APS inability to track something as controlled as the number of standardized tests taken in a given classroom:

Data showing Albuquerque Public Schools elementary proficiency rates by classroom apparently miscounted the number of students in some classrooms.

Several teachers reported to the Journal that the number of exams that APS reported for their classrooms was inaccurate. The data, which was prepared by APS, was posted on the Journal’s Web site in late February.

Fourth-grade teacher Cathy Jordan said she and her principal sat down and tried to figure out how the district’s numbers were different from her own.

“I had 21 students last year, and all the students took both the reading and math tests,” wrote Jordan, a teacher at SY Jackson Elementary. “So, I should have 42 tests or 21 tests. How could there only be 32?”

The APS results show the number of math and reading tests, according to the district, so 42 tests in most cases reflects 21 students.

A spokesman for APS said in some cases, tests were considered “spoiled” and not counted, so it looked like there were fewer students who completed the test than were in the class.

In other cases, students’ tests may have been mistakenly assigned to the wrong classrooms in the school.

The troubling part here is that those accountable for accountability are not able to give a straight answer. Overall, our school systems are a mess. That is not to say there aren’t some great public schools. There are. Nor, is it intended to mean that all teachers are bad. The VAST majority are very good. But, the system is broken. It has grown and evolved in a way that no longer makes sense.

Essentially, the education industry is asking for a larger bailout every year to fix problems that cannot be fixed by money alone. And, this is not a New Mexico only problem. This is a national crisis that threatens our future ability to compete globally, and the worst part of all of this is that this inequity impacts those among us with the least resources the most. Consider what is going on in D.C. with regard to the successful voucher program:

The students, almost all of them black and Hispanic, patched together the voucher money with scholarships, other grants and parents willing to make sacrifices to pay their tuition.

What happened, according to a Department of Education study, is that after three years the voucher students scored 3.7 months higher on reading than students who remained in the D.C. schools. In addition, students who came into the D.C. voucher program when it first started had a 19 month advantage in reading after three years in private schools.

It is really upsetting to see that the Heritage Foundation has discoverd that 38 percent of the members of Congress made the choice to put their children in private schools. Of course, Secretary Duncan has said he decided not to live in Washington, D.C. because he did not want his children to go to public schools there. And President Obama, who has no choice but to live in the White House, does not send his two daughters to D.C. public schools, either. They attend a private school, Sidwell Friends, along with two students who got there because of the voucher program.

This reckless dismantling of the D.C. voucher program does not bode well for arguments to come about standards in the effort to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. It does not speak well of the promise of President Obama to be the “Education President,’ who once seemed primed to stand up for all children who want to learn and especially minority children.

My kids are in APS schools, but they have never gone to their “designated” school. We’ve placed them in schools that we felt would best match their educational needs. When those needs have changed, we’ve moved them to other schools. We’ve been advocates on behalf of our children. I spent ten years in education, so I know how to get the most out of the system. But, others are not as fortunate, and the one size fits all approach just doesn’t work – no matter how much money we throw at it.