Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are there any schools where achievement scores for all students are rising?

The Appeal of Authority by Charles Hoff

Are there any schools where achievement scores for all students are rising?

Recently the School Board learned that their high schools’ achievement scores in Mathematics have been declining since 2004 and among minorities the decline has been even more dramatic. At the same time the number of students achieving at the highest level on the WASL is also declining. There is one high school that doesn’t have a single Black student who has attained the highest level on the WASL. In addition the entire district has more students in the lowest achievement level, percentage wise, than the entire state and less students in the highest achievement level than the state. There was no comment from the School Board about this at its last meeting.

Coincidentally I got my latest copy of “Education Next,” a publication of Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, and found an article by David Whitman entitled, “The Appeal of Authority,” that describes 6 schools which have very high minority populations and either meet, or exceed, the achievement levels of their districts and states. The Amistad Academy in New Haven, Connecticut is 95% African American or Hispanic. New Haven has about the 85% of its students in these categories. It is funded at the rate of approximately $7500/student, while the New Haven schools are funded at approximately $ 11,000/student! Both systems have approximately the same percentage of free and reduced lunch students.

Here’s where they really differ! In 8th grade reading Amistad’s students score 76 on the Connecticut exam. New Haven’s students score 47 and the state average is also 76! Clearly these minority students, Amistad’s, are doing as well as the rest of Connecticut in reading. In Mathematics the story is even better! Amistad 93, New Haven 55, and Connecticut 81. Connecticut is well recognized as having some of the highest standards in the Nation and usually comes out very near the top on SAT scores when participation is factored in.

What’s the difference between Amistad and other schools in minority/poverty situations? According to Mr. Whitman it is what he defines as “Paternalism!” His highlighted quote is: “Paternalistic programs survive only because they typically enforce values that ‘clients already believe.’ But many paternalistic programs remain controversial because they seek to change the lifestyles of the poor rather than the lifestyles of the middle-class and upper-class families.”

He goes on to state: “The most distinctive feature of new paternalistic schools is that they are fixated on curbing disorder. That is why these schools devote inordinate attention to making sure that shirts are tucked in, bathrooms are kept clean, students speak politely, and trash is picked up.”

He offers 10 habits that make these schools successful. Perhaps if these were in the Federal Way Schools we could also have some striking results.

1. Tell students exactly how to behave and tolerate no disorder.
2. Require a rigorous, college prep curriculum.
3. Assess students regularly, and use the results to target struggling students and improve instruction.
4. Build a collective culture of achievement and college going.
5. Reject the culture of the streets.
6. Extend the school day and year.
7. Welcome accountability for teachers and principals and embrace constant reassessment.
8. Use unconventional channels to recruit committed teachers.
9. Don’t demand much from parents.
10. Don’t waste money on fancy facilities or technology.

With the exception of # 9, I don’t think that Federal Way has this down too well.

In Arizona several school districts have “traditional schools” that have long waiting lists for enrollment. I think that they would be considered “paternalistic” by many parents. The demand is there, is Federal Way any different?

Where’s the problem with this? It might start with the “compassion” that is so inculcated into parents and educators. Drs. Spock and Piaget have been very successful in making us believe that we can lower the bar and still have happy children. They may be happy but they may not be very successful when they have to compete with some of our Asian competitors who evidently haven’t been big readers of Spock and Piaget.

Federal Way schools are now approaching New Haven’s achievement levels and they, like New Haven, don’t seem to be looking at what “works.”

I would urge all who have concerns about our youth to read Mr. Whitman’s article.
It can be found at:

Article by Charles R. Hoff

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are looking for excuses and blaming society for our schools problems. The data from the six schools described by the Hoover Institute suffers from a number of false assumptions.

First, only students who remain enrolled in these programs are counted. These schools are churning students. This means the majority who attend do not graduate and in fact leave worse off than when they started.

One of these schools is the only public boarding school in the United States.

Are you claiming that our children are so radically different from other children that we encounter throughout the world and over time that they must be educated in a radically different fashion?

Lets not forget that we already teach our children using a radical curriculum, based on a theosophical, reformed Christian pedagogy, that identifies with Abelian structuralism - in other words relationships are more important than the terms themselves.

The algorithm a child learns and uses is based on that child's level of maturity. How you learn to multiply therefore is based on your intelligence and this is a uniquely American concept.

The assumption made by curriculum researchers is that given a child's potential for learning, each child learned to multiply up to their full potential. This is a philosophy that has its origins in early Greek philosophy. It is not post-structuralism or continental philosophy as some writers imagine. The doctrine is Natural Slavery which cannot be socially deconstructed. The doctrine appeals to supernatural authority.