Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rev. McGill dumps on EACS

In this morning's JG a local minister attacked EACS recommendation to close Harding High School citing it as an example of that system's disregard for the education of poor (African American) kids. Most of what he says about the failure of the education system to deal with kids from poverty is true, but singling out EACS is unwarranted. Black students at Harding are doing better on the ISTEP than black students in FWCS. The problem is that having them concentrated in one school shines a spotlight on the problem.

Why dump on Kay Novotny, when FWCS, with a black superintendent, is doing a worse job than EACS educating black kids? Because FWCS has "racial balance" which spreads the problem over all its schools making it much less obvious what's going on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SACS votes money for academics

Yes, people in Aboite may have nicer school buildings, but they also recognize that maintaining the academic reputation of their schools is most important, so they voted overwhelmingly to continue paying for additional teachers. More teachers don't necessarily translate to higher test scores if the aren't used in the right place and the right programs. FWCS' $100 million racial balance expenditure, most of it going for extra teachers, has not achieved any demonstrable effect on test scores. But by and large, in a district where so many kids come in disadvantaged, more teachers, especially in the early grades should make a difference if used effectively.

So why hasn't FWCS proposed a referendum to add teachers in K-3? Maybe they think the academic situation is hopeless and the best they can do is give the kids buildings like Aboite instead of test scores like Aboite. Why not try asking for money for a few struggling elementary schools and demonstrating that it can make a difference? If that works, voters would probably support additional extra taxes to expand it across the district.

But that would also make it harder to ask for a lot more money for buildings.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


In recent years FWCS has cited increases in the number of schools making AYP as an indication of academic progress. Never mind that stagnant test scores made progress in AYP unsustainable, especially when the bar was going to be raised. So when that happened this year, the number of schools making AYP dropped to four. Needless to say, there were no self congratulatory announcements from the district (or the JG) this year.

Granted, defining a school or a district by its ability to meet all of 30 some measures doesn't make much sense. Looking at the list of outstanding scholars in the Sentinel yesterday shows that there are kids doing well. But the fact that one of the FWCS mathematics honorees was able to excel while reading novels during algebra classes, shows that the level of instruction is aimed at too many kids who are too far behind and falling through the cracks.

Redesigning the high schools won't change that. Some major redesign of the entire public education system is needed but that won't happen either. FWCS should be facing some stiff sanctions from the state for failing to meet AYP every year since the inception of NCLB. So far nothing has happened.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

JG telling EAC what to do

Yesterday the JG's editorial page saw East Allen's financial pinch as the way to finally improve that district's "racial balance". While they can never seem to find fault with FWCS, they have no problem going after the redneck district, primarily because of the dismal performance of Harding High School, which is almost 70% black. Presumably if EACS had "racial balance", in other words busing, African American kids would do better, although as Glynn Hines points out, they are primarily the ones who will be bused.

FWCS which has spent $100 million on their "effective" (the JG's adjective) racial balance program (voluntary busing and magnet schools) over the past 20 years had passing rates of 30% for black students on both portions of last year's 10 th grade ISTEP. Harding's black kids passed at 32% and 35% for English and math. For $100 million of taxpayer dollars FWCS' sacred "Racial Balance" program has achieved the same progress with black students as Gary and Indianapolis - NONE.

But then maybe the "Racial Balance" program is really a misnomer. Maybe it's really just a way to slow the exodus of white students from the district by providing a few high performing schools that they can attend (on buses) in areas that wouldn't otherwise have a good school. So why can't all schools be the quality of magnet schools? Because government operated, union dominated school systems are unable to educate kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Whether charter shools are the answer remains to be seen. But we need to find out.