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

Monday, March 26, 2007

The New Urban School Solution: Working the Least Advantaged the Hardest

One of the most cherished elements of the KIPP "Work Hard, Be Nice" chain-gangs is the extra time that these kids put in to learn less than the Seths and the Caitlins out in the burbs. From 7 to 5 on week days and then school on Saturday. Work hard, be nice, indeed.

Rising test scores in some of these urban work houses, the ones that have chased out the lowest performing students, leads some to conclude that if you ignore poverty long enough and if you work children hard enough, then you can actually see enough results to justify your continued blindness to the reasons behind the achievement gap to begin with.

It is not surprising, then, to see the KIPPster time schedule start bleeding into the rest of the urban schools. It is so interesting that liberals and conservatives, alike, would not think of having different test targets for these children disadvantaged by poverty, even though poverty has assured the failure of millions of the urban poor.

When it comes to demanding extra work time, however, everyone, including the good liberals, are onboard that train. After all, the sooner these kids learn that they have to pay more for less, the sooner they will be educated in the realities of ghetto living and ghetto working, which is all that is planned for these children schooled in failure from the earliest grades.

Oh, did I say that there is not a single research study to show that it works? The story from the Times:

FALL RIVER, Mass. — States and school districts nationwide are moving to lengthen the day at struggling schools, spurred by grim test results suggesting that more than 10,000 schools are likely to be declared failing under federal law next year.

In Massachusetts, in the forefront of the movement, Gov. Deval L. Patrick is allocating $6.5 million this year for longer days and can barely keep pace with demand: 84 schools have expressed interest.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York has proposed an extended day as one of five options for his state’s troubled schools, part of a $7 billion increase in spending on education over the next four years — apart from the 37 minutes of extra tutoring that children in some city schools already receive four times a week.

And Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut is proposing to lengthen the day at persistently failing schools as part of a push to raise state spending on education by $1 billion.

“In 15 years, I’d be very surprised if the old school calendar still dominates in urban settings,” said Mark Roosevelt, superintendent of schools in Pittsburgh, which has added 45 minutes a day at eight of its lowest-performing schools and 10 more days to their academic year. . . .

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