Friday, August 15, 2008

Local Shame

Oakland Mills Middle School missed their mandated targets on reading and math tests for the third year in a row. Given that this is the third year that such a failure was allowed to happen by our public school system, it would stand to reason that some of the students are falling pretty far behind.

What is telling is that one particular group of students, those who receive reduced price lunches, were the ones who missed the mark this year. The same group missed the mark last year, in addition to students in special education as well as black students. In 2006, it was the special education kids that missed the mark.

This is because some students learn differently than others. Maybe that is because of the socioeconomic background of the particular students, maybe it is genetics, and maybe there are hundreds of other variables that affect student achievement. Whatever the reason, it is an argument against the one size fits all approach of our current public education system. It is foolish to pretend that a single school can effectively meet the needs of everyone who attends that school. In all fairness, there is a wide range of students for which public schools are adequate. However, the high achievers and the low achievers can do better in schools more suited to their needs.

I hate to keep beating the school voucher drum, but I don’t think that our public schools are doing so fantastic that competition with private schools would not be beneficial. I had a brief conversation with a school board candidate recently. I asked about the candidate’s stance on school vouchers. The candidate looked at me as if I had six heads and promptly told me that he or she did not support vouchers. I explained that vouchers would give parents more options in selecting the school that their child attends, and I asked the candidate to explain WHY he or she did not support vouchers. This candidate for the school board was completely dumbfounded by the question.

I have heard a lot of complaining lately about how Comcast sucks because they are a monopoly. Meanwhile, the public education monopoly is failing some students but no one says one word about it.


Anonymous said...

AND private schools cost less to educate a student compared with public schools.

Those kids who are failing should be the first to receive vouchers.

Most definitely kids learn differently. For example, many girls will be mystified when asked for the first time to divide 6 by 3, as the answer could be any number of things; 3,2,1 is an answer. The key is telling her to divide 6 into 3 EQUAL parts. Typically, boys don't rely on language to the extent girls do, and so learn math better, I'd argue not because they are more inclined to math, but because they aren't following the specific semantics in the directions received and are comfortable with making assumptions.