"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Strategy

We know that the cons at ED have successfully crafted a policy to use the poor and the disabled to demonstrate the failure of the public schools. However, I am seeing more of this kind of story where states are actually passing laws to end the inhumane practice of expecting the impossible from special populations.

I applaud these efforts, and I do not begrudge the influence that middle class parents have had in getting the attention of their state legislators to make changes for their children. However, there is no clearer predictor of test performance than family income. When does Fairtest and every other like-minded organization begin to make the case that children on free and reduced-priced lunch deserve the same consideration as other disabled students? Is there any disability that can be shown to have a more direct and predictable influence on achievement measured by test scores? Is there any disability that is a more accurate predictor of a child's future opportunities?

How many failing schools across the U.S. would have made AYP if impoverished students were given the same sensible treatment that we now are demanding for other disabled students? Why can't we have high expectations that these students can actually reach, rather than expectations that assure their failure and the crushing of esteem that accompanies that failure?

There is so much research to back this argument that the most devout racist would have to slink away if white middle class educators and scholars and parents were making the case, instead of leaving the heavy lifting to the Civil Rights Project or the Urban Institute.

This, to me, is a strategy that needs to move front and center as we move toward 2007. Katrina offers a window through which the American people can begin see what we are talking about.

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