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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Let's Have Some Accountability for the Slave Masters

Yesterday the Washington Post carried a story on the new and improved high standards that Janey and Fenty have cooked up in DC, with the help of closet fascists at Achieve, Inc. More tests for grade promotion, more "mastery," more rigor. In other words, let's focus closer on the goals inspired by wishful thinking so that we don't have to do anything to make these goals achievable. The only thing that is likely to track with the trajectory of these high standards is the higher poverty rates in DC.

And here is a story from the Times today that brings all of these diversions into focus. It shows the bitter reality that remains in communities even after all the awards are handed out and all the rhetoric of high standards and academic accomplishment fades. To Janey and Fenty: take note of the real problems that your diversion simply mask.

During the spring of his sophomore year in high school here, Jeffrey Johnson took the standardized tests that Florida requires for promotion and graduation. He scored in the 93rd percentile in reading and the 95th in math. That same semester, he earned straight A’s.

Two years later, in May 2006, Jeffrey was about to graduate summa cum laude, having received a full college scholarship. Days before commencement, at the age of 17, he was shot to death at a party during an argument about his car. His graduation mortarboard was found near his body.

For Paul Moore, who had taught Jeffrey in an advanced social studies class at Miami Carol City Senior High School, a terrible question began to emerge. It all turned on the concept on accountability. Jeffrey had proved accountable to the state by passing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. But what about the accountability the state had to keep Jeffrey alive?

Jeffrey was the third Carol City student shot to death during the 2005-6 academic year. By the first semester of this year, two more had been killed in gun violence. It was then that Mr. Moore decided to do something more than deliver eulogies, visit weeping parents and initiate class discussions about all the senseless death.

He drafted a petition, expressing his righteous anger. (“Anger” indeed was the word, for it derives from the Norse “angr,” which means grief at the wrongness in the world.) The petition appealed to the newly elected governor, Charlie Crist, to “make Florida’s schools and the communities around them ‘measurably’ safer” and it concluded, “You are accountable to us for it!”. . . .

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