Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't Forget the Rest

Sometimes seeing what a report says and seeing what it actually says are two different things. Then, knowing what to do about it is something else altogether.

A few weeks ago, the New School's Center for New York City Affairs released a report that basically says that while New York's small high schools movement has made things better for kids at the small schools, it's made things worse for the kids at the big schools. This feeds right into the idea that small schools, charters, etc. take the top kids for themselves and leave the troubled kids, ELLS, and the rest in the other schools. That seems to be what the report is saying.

But what is it really saying?

If you really look at the results here, the conclusion you almost have to draw is that schools don't matter. The good kids do well and the less good kids do less well. When you take the good kids and put them all together at a small school, they do better. When you take the less-good kids and put them all together at a large school, they do worse. In neither instance does the school and the education being provided there seem to be the deciding factor. Rather, it's the sorting that makes the difference. And that's a really depressing thought.

I'm not one to say that schools and schools alone can reverse the achievement gap and all of society's wrongs. I think you need major investment and changes in communities to really achieve that. But I also think that schools can and should play a big part in that change. I would even go so far as to say that schools play an integral role in that process. So what to do about this report?

As always, the "what next?" is the hardest part. All I can offer for guidance is that you'll know we're serious about fixing education in this country when we stop focusing on efforts that benefit only a few in need while leaving the rest behind and start focusing on efforts that help everyone who needs it.

No comments: