Friday, May 23, 2014

The Sad Situation At Gale

CTU has released a statement on the predicament Gale Academy finds itself in. Read the whole, sad thing. As a result of per-pupil finding, and the whole choice-for-the-sake-of-choice mania, the kids who need the most will soon be getting even less.

A forward-thinking people would send the most help to the kids who need the most help, but the kids at Gale are going to lose their librarian, technology teacher, and two classroom teachers.

Just as there are two Americas, there are two Rogers Parks. The neighborhood Gale sit in has lately been described as "the killing fields" by a resident whose son was randomly gunned down last year.

I suspect that if you attended a CPS meeting about Gale, you'd be presented with a Powerpoint with graphs about the reading and math scores, rather than the data that gives you an idea of the world those kids are growing up in.

Here's a ten minute research project on mobility, homelessness, and truancy in the neighborhood. Test scores are always rolled out as some kind of indicator of the special magic dance or lack of magic dance that a particular set of teachers exhibited, but anyone who's actually worked in classrooms can tell you that test scores give you a better idea of who you've got, rather than what you did. My own experience tells me that test scores begin to have a marginal relationship to "what you did" when you as a teacher have autonomy, and the things you do stem from your own ideas of what's right for the kids in front of you.

The other way to baffle the relationship between the impact of poverty and test scores is to drill relentlessly in the kinds of activities that appear on tests, which is a behavior that countries like China are trying to get away from because they've been there, done that.

It's hard to know who you've got until you go into schools and homes, but this is a pretty good indicator of where you're likely to find the distressed families living in our community.

I don't delve into IEP or ELL or low-income because I think these data often hide more than they reveal. The recent study at UIC certainly showed us this phenomenon in special education enrollments; I think it holds true for income data and language data as well.

Anyway, if we were looking at a nation-building situation here, we'd be talking about sending more troops to Sullivan and Gale. We wouldn't be taking away a librarian, a technology teacher, and two classroom teachers. Of course, nation building isn't the way we think about things here.

There's much more to be said, obviously. Currently, the policy solution is to disperse the children who need need the most help so that they get lost in the data, and so that someone can claim a miracle for raising scores back at the ranch. With different kids.

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