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Article of Interest - Education

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Bridges4Kids LogoHigh-achieving Districts are Failing Their Minority Students
by Neil Munro, The Daily Oakland Press, August 5, 2003
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For years the state has been reporting on pupil achievement in local school districts, and for years the story has remained the same.

The schools in the well-to-do suburbs and small cities are at the top of the list and those in the older cities that serve blacks and Hispanics are at the bottom.

The high-achievers get pats on the back and bask in glory, while the others are berated and threatened with various kinds of official punishment.

Now another report - a new state "report card" - is due in September. And this time every district will suffer some embarrassment.

There will be emphasis on something that's been reported in the past, but generally ignored.

It will be pointed out that the high-achieving schools are not, in fact, able to educate all their pupils. Even in the Bloomfields and Birminghams, about one in 10 is not making it academically.

And that's not going to be overlooked anymore.

The fact is that many, many more school districts are going to be found wanting than in the past.

No longer will they be listed among those doing well because they have high percentage achievement numbers. Now they will be listed as failing to educate the rest.

When President George Bush called his federal education program "No Child Left Behind," that's what he meant, that we must educate all youngsters, and not be satisfied with educating just the majority.

And it's about time.

Millions of children are being left behind and have been for years, yet their plight has been overshadowed by above-average achievement by the majority in too many districts.

It's ironic that it takes a "conservative" Republican to at long last publicly rub our noses in the enormous and ongoing failure to fully educate our minority children.

But the state of Michigan still doesn't get it, not entirely.

A key aspect of any effort to correct the problem has not been put in place yet.

And that is the effectiveness, or lack of it, of individual teachers.

According to Tom Watkins, the state superintendent of public instruction, teachers still will be evaluated on the basis of "inputs," not "outputs."

In other words, their fitness in the classroom will be based on what they've supposedly learned, not on what their pupils learn.

That has to be changed as soon as possible. At the very least, we need to teach them - again - how to do their jobs. Too many will be found lacking and are dragging pupils down.

At the same time, poor teaching cannot explain the academic failure of too many minority pupils.

You may recall reading in this space of the Ann Arbor district's effort to correct that, its failure to accomplish enough and its ultimate abandonment of the goal.

Yet it is generally known as a "high-achieving" district.

The Pontiac district, which is not, because it has many minority pupils, is said to actually do more for them academically than Ann Arbor.

Under "No Child Left Behind," districts such as Ann Arbor no long will be able to hide behind their overall achievements and the Pontiacs of the state no long will be unfairly tainted.

That moment can't come too soon.

GOOD MORNING

Forecasts of rain aren't getting it done.

   

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