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Test Results Are Not a Good Stand-In for Achievement


Dear Diane,

You are right. We agree on the civil rights movement’s history. Schools were never the primary focus—but one of many interconnected ones.

The connection between schooling and the economy interests me—but for different reasons than the usual PR-linkage (you’ll make more money). As long as there are jobs that pay poorly there will be “the poor,” but a well-educated underclass will have a better shot at defending their social and economic interests—as citizens. And a well-educated citizenry in general will give us a better shot at a healthy economy. Maybe. It depends on what we mean by being “well-educated.” And the latest headlines about 46 states joining together to decide year by year school curriculum (and tests) is not the way to decide this.

I was talking about the end of childhood play in Washington last week to legislative aides et al—the hours spent in front of TV and the hours spent at prescribed “literacy” tasks. When we speak of the “information age,” or the “knowledge age,” we act as though the brain lived in a world of its own, rather than one interacting all the time (even in sleep) with the world around it—people and things. When we complain that poor children don’t think in abstractions and have limited conceptual understanding, we imagine “concepts” as disembodied, disconnected, and alien to ourselves. It’s the interplay—the “conversation”—the back-and-forth between ordinary “things” and “ideas” that education must build on. TV and worksheets are not appropriate 5-year-old discourse.

We forget that the American economy lived off the ingenuity of “ordinary” people, including many with limited or no formal educations, and not just “the best and brightest.” They sometimes saw themselves as anti-intellectuals—because we mistakenly created a false divide. Too many so-called intellectuals missed the connection between hand and eye and brain—not to mention ear, feet, and stomach! Americans turned their “ordinary” fascination with the world of work into hobbies and into finding new ways to do old things and old ways to do new things as well. They produced actual goods and products—good decently paid work was a source of pride.

In less than half a century we have lost it. “We” (Americans) produce less and less. We give General Motors our taxpayer charity so they can close factories here and open them elsewhere? I was stunned to read that we put a financier in charge of rethinking the auto industry. We need dreamers and tinkerers to invent a new America, not more fancy financial handlers.

Obama, alas, has surrounded himself with all the financial wisdom that got us into this economic meltdown, people who couldn’t predict it a week ahead of time, and he is, alas, doing the same in education. Hosts of rich or would-be-rich young people are now eagerly planning to save our schools as long as they can own a few. (Eva Moskowitz was paid $371,000 for running four charters with a total of 1,000 students in the 2006-07 school year. And, the retiring leader—not the principal, more like a CEO—of the Beginning with Children charters was paid close to $700,000 for her last year on the job.) Yes, it’s scary.

The leaders of business and industry (of which there are not many left) may have messed up our economy, but they still have enough money left over to bring the same mindset to schooling. The masters of manipulating symbolic goods—money in all its varied forms—are now designing our schools with the same manipulative mindset.

But “if they work, Debby,” say a few of my critical friends, "why not?" But what do we mean by “it works?” Oddly enough, even on the measures they have chosen, the answer is, “they don’t.” But it wouldn’t convince me either way. How kids do on school tests that measure (at best) school learning is petty compared with…. It’s not a good stand-in for achievement. I want to see how those kids “produce”—the books they write, the movies they make, the cars they invent, the families they raise, the gardens they plant, the medicine they practice, the songs they sing, the fast train system they put into place, the better ways they show us to grow food, to produce energy, and on and on and on. I want to see graduates coming back to see us who are good cops, teachers, nurses, architects, furniture-makers, inventors of new products and new ideas. (And powerful, noisy, feisty citizens.)

We need studies on the impact of schools on real life. We need not only the quantitative data on their future lives, but the anecdotal, the narrative ones that help us see our uniqueness, not only our uniformity.

I visited a school last week, a charter in D.C. that I’m enthusiastic about. It’s an outgrowth of the work of Experiential Learning (which grew out of Outward Bound) and the Coalition of Essential Schools. It’s got its feet in both as it seeks to grapple with the conflicting pressures of our times. But for all its immense strengths I worried at the lack of time devoted to work/play stemming from children’s own interests and passions, or even the passions of the particular adults. When I re-read what the CPE/CPESS kids said about our school 10 years later I was struck with how often they reflected on the school’s impact on their strong life-enduring pursuits. My granddaughter referred to something similar when she described a seminar with a particular faculty member at her high school: “I literally felt my mind expanding.” He had passed on something no test can measure. But not everyone in class, she noted sadly, felt the same way about her teacher’s philosophical musings. We are not, conveniently, all the same.

I suspect there is a connection between such schooling and real-life achievement, between schools that prepare us for "The 2lst Century" rather than schools that expect us to actively invent it.


P.S. Diane, I just re-read "Keeping the Promise?: The Debate Over Charter Schools" * with chapters by Ted Sizer, George Wood, and Linda Darling-Hammond that fit nicely into our conversation.
*A Rethinking Schools Publication. 2008.


There are a few specific things in this post that I would like to comment on. As a middle school teacher, curriculum designer, and expert in financial literacy education, I know that the challenges meeting us in the education field are complex. I am in full agreement that the answer lies somewhere in connecting schooling with real-life achievement; i.e., teaching age appropriate life skills.

My own focus is financial literacy education. Obviously that isn’t the only necessary life skill we should be teaching in our schools, but it is a subject I believe every student needs to be taught. Will financial literacy education make every student wealthy in the future? Of course not. As Deborah says there will always be jobs that pay better than others. But what it will do is make everyone smarter about managing the money they have. I like to think that a better-informed citizenry could have prevented many of our current economic problems. For example, if a person has even a basic understanding of debt he or she would probably know not to borrow too much. And that's just one example of how financial literacy education benefits our society as a whole.

Finally, I'm a strong believer in national standards as a means of giving direction and leveling the educational playing field. I hope CCSSO eventually goes even further and develops national standards for all curriculum areas. Personally, I don't think having states shape their own standards is a benefit because of the disparity between state standards. Some states have excellent standards and others don't. As far as standards encroaching on teachers' ability to shape their own lessons I have never found that to be the case. I use standards as a guideline to develop the lessons I write and teach. Standards are not "scripted education"; they are the essential information students need as learners. How we as educators convey that information is open to many different interpretations. On a related note, I don't believe that national standards automatically mean multiple-choice mandated assessments. I think because of NCLB those of us in the field of education think of national standards and "teaching to the test" as essentially the same thing. They don't have to be. There are many ways to assess student learning and national standards should not be an excuse to dumb down our education system even more. They should be an opportunity to improve our education system and, as I said earlier, level the educational playing field.

Deb, what an interesting mix of thoughts. Play and Production and more.

As you know I work daily to build things. My associates include many craftsmen, some of things physical, some of things which guide electrons.

Together we turn “'ordinary' fascination with the world of work into hobbies and into finding new ways to do old things and old ways to do new things as well."

I would like for you to be able to attend with me the programmers monthly meetups in Cleveland and Columbus. The generation and propagation of new ideas is staggering.

One of the fascinating things about these men (92%) is that they don't all have great relationships with formal schooling. Some are very well educated, but not necessarily in tech. Many really chaffed at school.

Also conspicuous, but sad, is that African Americans are highly under-represented. Especially considering the youth of the group, and the low entry barriers to getting to one of these meetings, it is highly unsettling to see perhaps 1-3 Black participants in a monthly field of 40+.

This is, in fact, one of the most upsetting aspects of the achievement gap. To be among this elite crowd, you don't have to know anyone. You don't have to have any strong credentials. You don't have to have more than bus fare or gas; in fact, you save money as dinner is free.

All you have to do to be among this elite group of craftsman is to have some access to a computer, be curious about how dynamic web pages are created, and have the fortitude to pick yourself up and go. I'm in no way a programmer; I have to travel 150 miles each way, and I'm there. Why aren't more of the minority locals?

Minorities should be over-represented in this group. They have more to gain by getting the good paying jobs which require no special contacts; jobs impervious to racial bias. Like immigrants of all stripes before, current minorities should be jumping at the unique economic chances offered by a collaborative groups like this.

I wrote last week of the School of the Future in Philly. Its not a CES school, as you suggested; it did take a different approach to students. The curriculum, you'll recall, was all project-based.

If we want more production in America, we need more engineers. SOF's approach cannot send kids to school for engineering, I think. Yet I'm not ready to toss it out yet. It may be the compromise we need in inner cities for now. Could project-based learning get more of these young pople into groups like my Columbus Ruby Brigade?

Maybe, if they are staying in school, leaving with high literacy, and not terrified of logic and tech.

Yet who will bring Blacks and urban youth into science, medicine, accounting, pharmacology? Project-based learning can't do that. It takes more rigorous study.

The testing was because we weren't giving kids the basics they needed to go on and train for these professions. Yes, the testing is poorly executed and overdone. Yet who is talking about refining it, rather than just moaning its shortcomings and agitating the rank-and-file teachers?

There is another side to what you say about how America "lived off the ingenuity of 'ordinary' people, including many with limited or no formal educations, and not just 'the best and brightest.'"

I think we need to apply this to our urban schools. We need to say that not just those anointed by the College of Education PhD's can help to educate our children. We need more teachers who come from other walks of life. We need more part-time helpers. We need people to read to kids and hear them read. We need professionals between gigs to come in at pay and provide some one-on-one time with students.

We need to say that Americans from the producing side can help. Men who have run a manufacturing company, for instance, and had their workers beg them to lift them above the state of illiteracy the public schools left them with.

Perhaps by rights, I should wax cynical. The lady who bemoans the lack of builders and craftsman offers no personal experience from that sector, yet excoriates those not experienced in teaching for daring to dabble in Education.

I won't wax cynical, though, because I agree that too many under-educated people became bankers and financiers and took the lazy way. I agree that those who moaned about the pathetically small bit of calculus in my MBA Finance class might perhaps have gone further than they ought.

And I won't wax cynical because teachers should be romantic at times, often in fact.

What I will say is that if you want to play in your head with the really fun things, if you want to mentally toss about things like satellites in trajectory and space-based solutions, and desalinization and water-purification solutions, and race cars that go really fast, and magical devices that hold operas and encyclopedia in your earpiece and 3-d representations of the road ahead, why you must learn the hard stuff. In school, its not always the most fun you'll have all day. But the fun does come.

Deb -

This is a wonderful post, one that I think illuminates many of the important distinctions between the approach advocated by those who George Wood calls the "legislated-excellence" movement and the approaches you, and Diane, myself and many others here advocate.

I particularly like the way you turn the education-and-the-economy issue into something true, real and important: the need for education to help us craft, promote and defend policies to advance the economic and political interests of those not elite-enough to be "top achievers".

The mind-set of the "top achievers" toward defining "success" in life and "achievement" in schools reveals a dangerous blindspot toward the education constituencies, a potential deafness toward those voices with other innovative ideas.

There were, I thought, some promising signs during yesterday's Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing with Secretary Arne Duncan. I thought he sounded more balanced on the whole charter schools issue than I'd heard before, especially when he said "we don't need more charters, we need more good schools" -- although he should have said "... more charters per se..." because he definitely wants more charter schools. At the same time, what I fear he really means is more charter schools run by fewer actual charter holders.

I don't know if you heard this from yesterday's hearing, but I'll leave you with it in case you didn't:

Sen. Tom Harkin called for an 11-month school year, to which Duncan responded "Twelve". And I thought they wanted to REDUCE the dropout rate!

Be strong

This blog used to have a full RSS feed, and it was great, and I linked to it all the time. Not it only displays the first three lines, and so I never know what the author is talking about, and now I never link to it. Please bring back the full RSS feed so I can read it in full again without interrupting my workflow.

"But for all its immense strengths I worried at the lack of time devoted to work/play stemming from children’s own interests and passions, or even the passions of the particular adults."

I like this thought very much.

Case in point: Our school recently got a new principal. While reviewing curriculum maps for the following year, she proposed a great deal of changes to one of my colleague's maps, a colleague who is an excellent teacher with at least a decade of teaching experience. I feared similar changes to my own.

Fortunately, a staff developer at my school talked the principal out of such sweeping changes, her rationale being that she has seen us teach these units and the enthusiasm we bring to them enhances learning for the students even if they seem a little unorthodox or not tied to "TCRWP" or any particular cookie-cutter curriculum.

I have worked hard to develop a curriculum for my students that is rigorous and meaningful, but I like to teach things that I like. Anything I have to slog through turns into a slog for the children. I believe that both my students' test scores and their informal feedback to me shows that my strategy is a success. I wish more administrators realized what Deborah seems to: Good teachers must be passionate about what they teach, and that passion becomes contagious.

The leaders of business and industry (of which there are not many left) may have messed up our economy, but they still have enough money left over to bring the same mindset to schooling. The masters of manipulating symbolic goods—money in all its varied forms—are now designing our schools with the same manipulative mindset.

That's a wild exaggeration, at best. Believe it or not, there's a lot more going on in American education than the one or two New York hedge fund guys that you hate.

I want to see how those kids “produce”—the books they write, the movies they make, the cars they invent, the families they raise, the gardens they plant, the medicine they practice, the songs they sing, the fast train system they put into place, the better ways they show us to grow food, to produce energy, and on and on and on. I want to see graduates coming back to see us who are good cops, teachers, nurses, architects, furniture-makers, inventors of new products and new ideas. (And powerful, noisy, feisty citizens.)

I totally agree. I care about the long-term outcomes too. The problem, however, is that there's absolutely no way to tell whether today's teachers and schools are actually doing a good job at producing the citizens of 2030. We as a society need some way of discerning whether today's teachers and schools are doing a good job or not . . . and if you get rid of tests, it would be all too easy for the incompetent and stupid people within the educational system to make completely unverifiable claims that they are doing a good job creating kids who one day will sing good songs, or whatever.

So given that we need some way of telling whether teachers/schools are charlatans or not, we've come up with tests that measure the bare minimum that they're supposed to be doing. So, for example, kids take a math test that asks them (among other things( if they're able to figure out 10% of 120. If most of them can't, then gee, it's a good bet that their 5th grade math teacher isn't doing a good job.


I don't agree that "schools were never the primary focus" of the civil rights movement. I still remember the historic battles fought around school desegregation and resistance to literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting in the South. It was these battles that led to Brown v. Bd. of Ed 55 years ago as well as to the Freedom School Movement and Citizenship Schools led by such educational luminaries and SNCC activists as Ella Baker, Charlie Cobb, Myles Horton, and Septima Clark.

It many ways, it was the forerunner to the early small schools movement, led by you and others, which (I know it's hard to believe these days) was situated squarely in the movement for equality and social justice.

But rather than get hung up on the question of whether or not "education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century" (ironically posed by one of the more backwards figures on civil rights--Newt Gingrich), let's imagine what would have to happen for schools and school reform to recapture that legacy.

John Doe:

I think sometimes (often) you would lose your bet that a class which cannot figure out what 10% of 120 can be blamed on the fifth grade math teacher. There are lots of other reasons why students could not figure out this math problem. Among them might be a high turnover of teachers, low rates of literacy, major ESL problems in the school, high rates of student mobility, etc. Many of these problems emerged long before the fifth grade math teacher sees them. That still doesn’t say that the fifth grade math teacher is not the problem—it is just that there are many other problems too, and thus quite often you will lose your bet.

By firing all teachers whose students produce such poor results on exams you are likely to lose at least as many good teachers as poor teachers.

Tony Waters

Well, if there are that many students who are incapable of being taught even a single and quite simple idea, then there's really no point in having schools at all.

Hi All....


As i watch the top down movement to "fix" our urban schools i find myself sometimes looking back into our history to view how we have done this in the past.... here is what comes to mind:

Carlisle Indian School- 1860's


Teachers were waiting at the school to begin their work. Pratt had hired a full complement of staff, both for academic and industrial instruction. They had been carefully selected and were ready to begin as soon as the children arrived. Pratt left immediately to collect the second wave of students - the Cheyenne and Kiowa recruited by his former prisoners. During his absence, Mrs. Pratt and several teachers took charge of the children to begin the process of assimilation. One of their first responsibilities was to hire a barber to cut the children's long hair. For the Lakota, the cutting of hair was symbolic of mourning and there was much wailing and lamenting which lasted into the night.

School life was modeled after military life. Uniforms were issued for the boys, the girls dressed in Victorian-style dresses. Shoes were required, as no moccasins were allowed. The boys and girls were organized into companies with officers who took charge of drill. The children marched to and from their classes, and to the dining hall for meals. No one was allowed to speak their native tongue.
Discipline was strictly enforced - military style. There was regular drill practice and the children were ranked, with the officers in command. A court system was organized in the hierarchical style of a military justice system, with students determining the consequences for offenses. The most severe punishment was to be confined to the guardhouse. The old guardhouse, built by Hessian prisoners during the Revolutionary War, still stands.

And now..........

Military-backed public schools on the rise in US
The Associated Press

ATLANTA - The U.S. Marine Corps is wooing public school districts across the country, expanding a network of military academies that has grown steadily despite criticism that it's a recruiting ploy.

The Marines are talking with at least six districts , including in suburban Atlanta, New Orleans and Las Vegas , about opening schools where every student wears a uniform, participates in Junior ROTC and takes military classes, said Bill McHenry, who runs the Junior ROTC program for the Marines.
Those schools would be on top of more than a dozen public military academies that have already opened nationwide, a trend that's picking up speed as the U.S. Department of Defense looks for ways to increase the number of units in Junior ROTC, which stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Last year, Congress passed a defense policy bill that included a call for increasing the number of Junior ROTC units across the country from 3,400 to 3,700 in the next 11 years, an effort that will cost about $170 million, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said. The process will go faster by opening military academies, which count as four or more units, McHenry said.
Other military branches also are aiming to increase their presence in school hallways, but the Marines are leading the charge.

The first public military school in the U.S. opened in Richmond, Va., in 1980. Since then, about a dozen have been added with the number increasing over the last five years as struggling districts look for innovative ways to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards.

In Chicago, the nation's third-largest public school district began opening military academies in 1999 with encouragement from Mayor Richard Daley and then-Superintendent Paul Vallas. Vallas left in 2002 and took the idea with him to Philadelphia, where two military schools have since opened.
Chicago has six public military academies and is the only district with schools representing all four branches of the military.

School districts in St. Louis, Mo.; Sarasota, Fla.; Kenosha, Wis.; Sandy Hook, N.J.; Charleston Heights, S.C., and Forestville, Md., have also started similar academies with the U.S. Department of Defense.
The academies have the support of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who ran Chicago Public Schools before being tapped by President Barack Obama. Duncan sees the schools as another option for kids who don't fit well in a traditional educational setting.

be well...mike

It is interesting how socialist systems take on aspects of feudal ideal types. The giant, wasteful and destructive bastion of tax-feeding, political privileging, and coercive heirarchy defines the Chicago Public School System.

CPS is indicative of a closed system where the politically strong feed on the weak. Initiative, ambition and opportunity are squeezed into the predatory order.

Children in general fall rather low in that order. They tend to be predated more than they predate. Parents, who usually want the best for their kid, are willing to make the feudal bargain: donate their children to military service in exchange for a higher position in the political/social heirarchy at a military school. Who can blame these serfs for having hope?

Arne Duncan, in his role as Lord of CPS- but vassal to still higher feudal powers, delivers more meat to the Pentagon in exchange for increasing his privilege. He is even rewarded with becoming a King's Minister.


I have been thinking about these words you wrote (among others):

"My granddaughter referred to something similar when she described a seminar with a particular faculty member at her high school: 'I literally felt my mind expanding.' He had passed on something no test can measure. But not everyone in class, she noted sadly, felt the same way about her teacher’s philosophical musings. We are not, conveniently, all the same."

You have said so much here, but what do we make of it? Yes, it is true that even when teachers teach passionately, not all students will respond. No matter what the approach, not all students will take to it. But does this mean that they are not learning, or that they simply do not enjoy the teacher's particular approach?

If they are not learning, then something is wrong. It could be any number of things, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed.

If they are learning but do not enjoy the teacher's style, well, that is a different matter. All of my favorite teachers in my live have been revered by some and disliked by others. Perhaps it is what made them great. They had character, and character evokes strong reactions. And perhaps it is worthwhile to have a teacher one does not like.

So how does one create and maintain a school that supports both common learning and character? I believe that some of this can come from a common curriculum, where teachers have the freedom to teach and build on it in the way they deem best, within reason and with regard for the students in the room.

I have seen students benefit from such a curriculum. Yesterday I was leading the fourth grade literature club. The group is just finishing Alice Through the Looking Glass. We were discussing the Knight and his inventions, and I asked them what they knew about knights. All hands shot up, and they excitedly told me what they had learned about the Middle Ages. They also knew that the knight was a chess piece. This knowledge allowed them to enjoy the "tinkering" of this Knight and the playfulness of the whole book.

Diana Senechal

Diana: Yes, but I and many others made it through graduate school without knowing a thing about knights, much less whether the Middle Ages existed before or after ancient Rome, or whether Jesus, Paul, and David were more historical than Zeus.

That's how we came to have intervention from the outside, standards, and testing everywhere. And that's why the title of this post is is at once self-obvious and tritely unhelpful.

Daniel, "meat to the pentagon" is remarkably bigoted, uninformed, self-indulgent, and highly offensive rhetoric. Every person here would rightly ask you strike this slander.

That type of low insult to the intelligent, purposeful, courageous men and women who serve us and others of the world has no place in thoughtful conversation like this.

It shows a level of profound un-learnedness and mean sprit.

Yet, there is gain to be had here. Such writing exemplifies another reason the public at large is so unhappy with its school systems. These systems regularly turn out credentialed psuedo-intellectuals who proffer such dung to a new generation of similarly mis-informed Ivory tower types. The people are tired of it; they want more realistically informed faculty, and they're not unhappy with draconian efforts to shake up the stagnant systems.

Tony: "By firing all teachers whose students produce such poor results on exams you are likely to lose at least as many good teachers as poor teachers."

Indeed. Welcome to the life the rest of us live.

My, Ed, a surly sort of start after a great weekend of ribs, music, and comradery. Well, the sun shines. Perhaps the day will fare well.

Ed. I'm delighted that you keep reading our blogs and responding. But... It's unfair to claim that attacking "the pentagon" is a slur on our troops! That's a pretty far stretch. We teachers have been attacking "100 Livingston Steet" since it's inception, and it's even okay to attack the President of the U.S. without being deemed unpatriotic. That was unthoughtful rhetoric, Ed.

We work hard because we love getting good grades and pleasing the teacher which we are good at when we are even quite young OR because the matter at hand excites us, we can imagine where the pleasure will someday come, why someone might spend a lifetime at it, etc. Kids who spend lonely hours practicing shots don't practice to please anyone but their future imaginary lives as great basketball players. We haven't done much to make either science or math--or history or literature--something kids can imagine enjoying. They don't get a glimpse of the "real" stuff unless they do the grind for years and years in the absence of any hint at what experts get such pleasure from. That's a mistake, even stupid, as MIT recently noted in criticizing secondary school science for ignoring the pleasures of real discovery, lab work, controversy, etc. It narrows the pool of talent unnecessarily.

Best, deb

Hi All...

Certainly agree that rigor does not have to match with the idea that "harder is better".... there can be and should be pleasure in hard work.

Of course this would require us to consider student interests and broaden rather then narrow our offerings.

On another note: I still believe that until we start to think outside of the box a bit we will continue to have an either or debate. There are also many poor school districts outside of our major urban districts that are surrounded by wealthier districts.

Recently finished reading:
Hope and Despair in the American City by Gerald Grant.

Breaking out of Old Debates: Raleigh's Innovative Education Plan Richard D. Kahlenberg

In Wake County (which includes Raleigh and the surrounding suburbs), the school district adopted a goal of ensuring that no school have more than 40 percent of its students from low-income families. As Alan Finder reports, test scores have risen dramatically: "only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight scored at grade level on state tests a decade ago. Last spring, 80 percent did. Hispanic students have made similar strides. Overall, 91 percent of students in those grades scored at grade level in the spring, up from 79 percent 10 years ago."

Why is the Raleigh income integration plan working better than racial integration or equity in school spending? Racial integration has a mixed record because it improved test scores in some places, like Charlotte, North Carolina, and didn't in other places, like Boston. A host of studies going back to the famous Coleman Report of 1966 have found that black students don't do better when they sit next to white students, per se, but that low income students of all races do better in a middle class environments.

In Charlotte, wealthier suburban whites took part in racial integration; in Boston, it was poor and working class whites who mixed with blacks. Likewise, spending equity, while important, is insufficient to produce equal opportunity because the "resources" in a school go far beyond per pupil expenditure and include such factors as access to motivated peers, who have big dreams and work hard to achieve them; active parents, who volunteer in the classroom and make sure the school is running well; and high quality teachers, who have high expectations. Mountains of research find that all these non-monetary resources are much more likely to be found in middle class schools.

The good news is that Raleigh is raising achievement. The bad news in the Times story is that there is substantial resistance from some better-off families, who don't like the longer bus rides required to achieve economic integration. People with means are used to a system in which they can effectively purchase an exclusive public education by buying a home in a wealthy school district. The Wake County plan, which recognizes that the neighborhood school is not such a great deal for students whose parents can't afford to live in a good neighborhood, arouses the ire of some privileged families.

Wonder why we hear very little concerning this type of school transformation?

be well..mike

Headline: 1 in 100 US high school students learn leadership, character, and self confidence in JROTC units. They are not "meat".

Deb, it seems you responded here to my questions above on Project Based Learning, and they are questions, and working out answers seems useful and fun and helpful indeed.

Yet first we must deal with the sorry and shameful rhetoric introduced here, which I am shocked you would tolerate. The idea that my friend young Brad, aged 19, just finished his first year of college and ROTC, after a four year program with JROTC, is “meat for the Pentagon” angers me to my core. You, who talk so often of democracy, should be deeply angered too.

OK, Ed, deep breath. Maybe he just didn't know what he said. Try for an open smile. We're all learning here.

Deb, as you wisely note, kids aren’t stupid. They do good work for various reasons. In the case of JROTC, they do good work because the content is interesting, the values solid, and the comraderie there for students who might not otherwise excel in football, choir, debate, or cheerleading.

Their parents must agree. In 1963 SecDef McNamara attempted to eliminate the JROTC program; the outcry from parents and Congressmen was so overwhelming that in fact the reverse was accomplished. President Kennedy signed the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964 requiring the services to increase the number of JROTC programs under their jurisdiction and also to spread them more evenly across the nation.

In the seventies, as the nation switched from a draftee force to an all volunteer force, further measures were needed to introduce young people to the pluses and minuses of military service. Funding issues, however, meant that JROTC growth was slow.

‘Twas young ladies who made the difference! In the 1970’s, females were permitted into JROTC. Their participation grew, and by 1994, 40% of JROTC cadets were female.

Today, participation stands at 281,000 cadets. The Services pay for 4,000 professional instructors to work with kids in the classrooms. There are 1625 units (not 3400). They study ethics, citizenship, communications, leadership, life skills and other subjects.

Lets’s repeat that: of the 17 million HS students in the US, 281,000 are learning leadership, character, and self confidence in JROTC units.

Perhaps two in five will go on to serve. And Daniel will not from me get a pass at calling these intelligent volunteers “meat”.

As to Duncan’s Chicago Public schools, they last year had to reject over 6,800 applicants to the 700 academy positions.

Let's later talk about what kids can and can't learn from non-core work like project based learning, choir, JROTC, etc.


I am a bit apprehensive taking a number of state tests scores as gospel.

Too many states are currently administering "feel good" tests relative to the federal tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly referred to as the "nation's report card."

In 2005 Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math and found eighty-seven percent of students performed at or above proficient while the NAEP test indicated only 21 percent of Tennessee's eighth graders proficient in math. In Mississippi, 89 percent of fourth graders performed at or above proficient on the state reading test, while only 18 percent demonstrated proficiency on the federal test. In Alabama 83 percent of fourth-grade students scored at or above proficient on the state's reading test while only 22 percent were proficient on the NAEP test. In Georgia, 83 percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficient on the state reading test, compared with just 24 percent on the federal test.

Oklahoma, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Virginia, and Texas were also found guilty in their determinations of proficient when compared to the federal NAEP test.

While the Wake County numbers sound good the reality is another story.


Hi Paul... hope this finds you well.

Paul...i am not saying this will completely even the test scores of students from various SES backgrounds
( we could say the same for white scores and income on the SAT tests ) but it does effect the over-all performance of the students in the schools.

SES and standardized testing as you know Paul line up in a fairly predictable manner, just look at the states listed on the NAEP results.
The 10 poorest states

The states with the lowest median household income

State Income
Montana $40,627
Tennessee $40,315
Kentucky $39,372
Louisiana $39,337
Alabama $38,783
Oklahoma $38,770
Arkansas $36,599
West Virginia $35,059
Mississippi $34,473

Do any of these states have outstanding NAEP scores????


Hi All..

for more information on Wake County NC go here:

Wake County's dilemma: Diverse schools vs. neighborhood ones


be well..mike


Good data. I quoted the same figures earlier this spring for Diane when she contended that states without teacher unions didn't perform as well as states with unions. I attempted to point out to her that it could be more than teacher unions. It could be the SES of the students that led to poor performance.




I so agree with your post. Suppose, somehow, according to test scores, we do "close the gap." Then what? Will society look different? Unless we pay close attention to all human rights (ex. a living wage, access to health care) there will still be people "at the bottom." But then, perhaps those in power will then be able to make a shallow case that the playing field post K-12 was more level...

Yet, when some advocate for politically neutral education in our classrooms (which is impossible) where we cannot engage in open dialogue about these existing issues and give space for the student voice, we squander the possibility that bigger change will happen and instead, we choose to reaffirm the status quo.

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