My stepdaughter is probably reading at a middle school to high school level already despite only being in the third grade. Her mother was such a precocious reader that, in her K-12 private school, she was once brought into a high school class as a first grader to humiliate (Nun move!) the students there by reading from the New York Times.
So my stepdaughter’s school gets no credit for her amazing abilities?
Not in my mind. We’ll never know how differently or similarly her reading skills might have progressed had she been educated in a different environment that is true, but it is absolutely true that she did not read at all before entering kindergarten at the Milton Bradley Elementary School and all of the instruction she has received about reading has been given to her at that level 4 (the lowest you can go before a state takeover) institution.
Even as her teachers prepare most of her classmates for a significant standardized reading test she has been given a separate assignment involving a much more in depth study of a series of novels that she has been reading. Her language arts teacher has confided to us that LuLu is fast approaching a level of reading which goes beyond her formal training to instruct. Is that a failure of the system, or is it indicative of teacher who have recognized and fostered a special gift of one of their students?
By the standard metric, LuLu’s school is a bad school, but you’d be hard pressed to demonstrate that any other school could have done a better job in just over three years of taking a non reader and turning her into a voracious and insightful one.
As it relates to Rational Urbanism the takeaway is the following: Urban schools are often referred to as bad schools because their student outcomes are perceived as being low. As likely as not they are low not because the teachers, administrators, physical plant, and curriculum are below par, but because the students attending those schools come from demographic groups which are known to struggle academically. Data shows both that students from more middle class backgrounds tend to perform at the level of their demographic even when attending those schools, and that the overall impact of schools and teachers on student outcomes are much less significant than the individual student’s characteristics.
As a parent of two graduates of the Springfield Public Schools who have gone on to be very successful in their academic endeavors in college I can add my anecdotal evidence to this statistical evidence.
STOP SAYING “BAD SCHOOLS” WHEN YOU HAVEN’T DONE THE ANALYSIS NECESSARY TO CONFIRM THAT A SCHOOL’S STUDENTS UNDERPERFORM ITS DEMOGRAPHIC.