Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Diane Ravitch: Obama Picks Worse School as Rhode Island Model

From the Huffington Post. To be fair, perhaps they didn't teach the President how to make valid comparisons when Obama attended the private Punahou School in Hawaii (tuition $17,300 per annum), private Columbia University (tuition $18,735) or private Harvard Law School (tuition $39,325).
President Obama thought it was wonderful that every educator at Central Falls High School was fired. At an appearance before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on March 1, the President applauded the idea of closing the school and getting rid of everyone in it. At the same meeting, President Obama acknowledged Margaret Spellings, who was President George W. Bush's Education Secretary, because she "helped to lead a lot of the improvement that's been taking place and we're building on."

Well, yes, the President is right; his own education reform plans are built right on top of the shaky foundation of President Bush's No Child Left Behind program. The fundamental principle of school reform, in the Age of Bush and Obama, is measure and punish. If students don't get high enough scores, then someone must be punished! If the graduation rate hovers around 50%, then someone must be punished. This is known as "accountability."

President Obama says that Central Falls must close because only 7% of the students are proficient in math, and the graduation rate is only 48%. Sounds bad, right?

But the President has saluted a high school in Providence, Rhode Island, called "The Met" whose scores are no different from the scores at Central Falls High School. At Central Falls, 55% of the kids are classified as "proficient readers," just like 55% at The Met. In math, only 7% of students at Central Falls are proficient in math, but at The Met--which the President lauds--only 4% are proficient in math. Ah, but The Met has one big advantage over Central Falls High Schools: Its graduation rate is 75.6%.

But figure this one out: How can a high school where only 4% of the students are proficient in math and only 55% are proficient readers produce a graduation rate of 75.6%? To this distant observer, it appears that the school with lower graduation standards rates higher in President Obama's eyes.