The Projo article below indicates schools in trouble. Obviously, there is much need for improvement, and ESPEC seeks to be part of that effort. But it’s important to dig deeper into what test scores mean. In some cases, the answer is that they are meaningless with respect to any reasonable approach to education. I’d like to offer Nathanael Greene Middle School as a case in point.
Greene is listed as a non-improving school, and thus subject to “restructuring”. This is based on the fact that Greene “only” hit 35 of 37 targets. That’s 94.6%, by the way, which is not usually considered a failing grade.
The two targets Greene did not hit were math and English scores for children with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). Most, but not all, of these students are in special education, with moderate to severe learning and physical disabilities. (Other IEP’s might include speech therapy and the like).
Greene has about 65 such students. If it had less than
50 45 of these students, there would not be a separate category for them, their test scores would be subsumed into the test scores for the school and, like magic, Greene would have met all of it’s targets. It’s no surprise that smaller suburban schools with less than 50 such students meet their targets.
The most bizarre element of this is that the special ed kids are being asked to take the same tests as the other kids and to perform at grade level. If they don’t, the school is “non-performing”. This is nonsensical at best and quite unfair, both to the school and the students. I’ve heard parents and teachers talk about what happens when students with severe learning disabilities are presented with materials designed to see if they are performing at grade level. You can imagine that it’s an exercise in anxiety and frustration, quite likely harmful to the students, and definitely not a legitimate measurement of their progress.
This is not to say that Greene and other Providence schools are not in need of improvement, but we need to measure that need in ways that are fair to both student and schools. Greene is a great school. It has a highly professional administration and excellent teachers. There is no basis for wholesale replacement of staff, privitizing or any of the other dramatic consequences called for by the No Child Left Behind Law. It would be better to urge our our Congressional delegation to amend NCLB to remove unfair provisions.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll note that I’m co-president of the Greene PTO. It’s a great school, and I’m very proud to send my child there.)
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