Sunday, July 18, 2010

Race to the Meaningless

The NY Times has a piece today on a principal who was forced to leave her position so that her poor, low-performing school could maintain eligibility for the Obama administration's Race to the Top stimulus funds.  By all accounts, it appears she had been doing an excellent job.  But:
under the Obama administration rules, for a district to qualify, schools with very low test scores, like Wheeler, must do one of the following: close down; be replaced by a charter (Vermont does not have charters); remove the principal and half the staff; or remove the principal and transform the school.
 The story illustrates, tragically, how a school can be doing everything right, yet still be considered failing.  The problem is that many schools simply lack the resources to meet the needs of their students.  Policies like Race to the Top operate from the assumption that no matter what kind of student population a school serves, it is expected to perform as well as any other.  This completely ignores the socioeconomic realities of student capital development.  As long as we continue to ignore it, our attempts at reform will be meaningless.

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