Educational Shock And Awe
"BAM-POWWW!"? That's the detonation of the two major education bombs that got dropped on America this week.
Bomb #1: According to "Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education" only 47% of black males in America graduated from high school during the 2007-2008 school year.
If you live in New York (25% graduation rate), Philly (28%) Pinellas County, Florida (21%) or even Chicago (44%), whether or not you're the parent of a black child, you should be ready to sign up for a protest!
No joke, can somebody (like a superintendent) get fired over those numbers???
The report didn't breakdown specific data about Los Angeles, but when California, with a dismal 54% rate, doesn't look so bad, something's really wrong with education in America.
What's the solution? It's easy to think the solution is for all of us to jump ship to Vermont where 90%
of their 10 black males graduate. It's even easier to think that holding individual teacher's feet to the fire and publicly outing their student's standardized test results is the answer, which leads us to...
Bomb #2: Two reporters from the Los Angeles Times, Jason Felch and Jason Song made a real "shots fired" move by getting seven years of math and English standardized test scores and then using a value added analysis method (which tracks each child's performance from year to year) to, "estimate the effectiveness of L.A. teachers - something the district could do but has not." They plan to post a searchable online database where parents (and anybody else) can look up a teacher's high stakes standardized test score results, forever marrying teacher effectiveness with those scores. You may kiss the bride!
Somebody sound the airhorns because I can't separate these two stories.
My gut reaction to Bomb #1 is that I have two black male children, and in my own family and circle of friends I've seen firsthand the effed up education offered to black boys in America - so I'm in "By Any Means Necessary" mode. That means that when I hear that the head of our local teachers union, the United Teachers of Los Angeles, is calling for the boycott of the LA Times over this story, I'm like, seriously?
Here's the thing - as a former teacher, I would have had zero problem publicizing my student achievement data for my kids in Compton, not just because I was a pretty good teacher either. We're about to start a new school year and I have zero information about what my two son's new teachers are like. What are their strengths? Their weaknesses? Do they have a history of FAILING the students in their classrooms?
Heck, I can look on Yelp and find out more information about my dentist than I can about their new teachers. Is that the way it should be?
On the other hand, no, I don't believe test scores are the end-all-be-all of evaluating teacher effectiveness. I think the Times article makes it too easy to shame and label teachers as "bad"- all the while acknowledging that a real teacher evaluation processes isn't on the table in the United States because we're too busy paying for wars and don't feel like spending money to do evaulations - and skill development for teachers - properly.
Where's the evaulation of all those pricey, craptastic professional development seminars districts pay for - that are often run by people who got into professional development because they suck as classroom teachers? Will those stop being paid for?
Where is the evaluation on the "school leaders"? You know, the principals?
The bottom line - now that it's all over the news (trust me, black people already knew this) that education is failing black kids, and now that teacher's standardized test results are going to be online - what difference will any of this make for our kids?
It's all good to have shock and awe over depressing graduation rates, and yay that I'll be able to see my boy's future teacher's test scores, but I'm all about so what, now what? What's really going to change?