Re: News media gears up to ram tests down childrens' throats.
- Subject: Re: News media gears up to ram tests down childrens' throats.
- From: Monty Neill <monty@FAIRTEST.ORG>
- Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 10:39:30 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
If you can use the evidence from CA and MA that circulated on this list debunking Ed Trust (and it is on the FairTest website), maybe you can question the Ed Trust study, tho perhaps not the two schools named - unless you have info on them. Then again, you are from GA, so, different state... Monty
From: Anne Nonniemouse <ShopMathEdu@AOL.COM>
To: ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Date: Saturday, February 09, 2002 10:06 AM
Subject: News media gears up to ram tests down childrens' throats.
Dear ARN folks:
The "pro-test" movement is cranking up the lie machines in Alabama.
Link: High Scores: B'ham News-020702
High scores at two poor schools buck expectations
News staff writer
Children in those kinds of schools are not expected to earn those kinds of achievement test scores. George W. Watts Elementary, in the isolated, grinding poverty of Wilcox County, produced sixth-grade Stanford Achievement Test scores in the top quarter of the state. North Birmingham Elementary, an inner-city school with 88 percent of students in poverty, charted high math scores for all grades tested. The school also ranks in the top 10 in the Birmingham system.
Both are among 188 Alabama public schools highlighted in "Dispelling the Myth Revisited," an analysis from the Education Trust. The trust is a national nonprofit group that works to improve school standards and accountability, especially for minorities and poor children.
"For too long people have believed that poor and minority children simply cannot achieve at the same level as other students," said Craig Jerald, the report's author and a policy analyst at the Education Trust.
While there have always been anecdotes about schools that defy that stereotype, "people dismiss those results as oddities," he said. The December report used a new U.S. Department of Education database of achievement test scores for public schools in 47 states.
The results systematically break down that damaging undertow in public education, Jerald said. More than 4,500 high-poverty and/or high-minority schools nationwide charted test scores in the top third in their states.
For Alabama, the report used 2000 Stanford Achievement Test scores to determine which at-risk schools performed better than predominantly white schools in wealthier communities. Researchers found that the best schools shared characteristics. Those include: extensive use of standards and accountability systems to design curriculum and evaluate teachers, increased instruction in math and reading, parental involvement in efforts to get students to meet standards.
Watts Elementary and North Birmingham overcome the odds in vastly different settings.
A visit to a gas station would require a lengthy field trip for children at Watts, in Pine Apple. The squat brick building sits on a bumpy two-lane road. Deer graze in fields and Spanish moss drapes the tree line. Among the closest neighbors are goats, and a few homes involved in a rural sewage-disposal experiment.
"We live in probably the poorest part of Wilcox. This little area over here does not have one factory," said Principal Ollie Holt. His office reflects the scarcity. Bricks replace a missing desk leg. Foam stuffing peeks out of office chairs.
The students ride buses, sometimes catching them before daybreak. It's one of a handful of Alabama schools on this list where 100 percent of students qualify for free lunch because their family incomes are well below the federal poverty level.
Yet, the school has never fallen below the Clear status on the Stanford Achievement Test, the Alabama Department of Education's academic standard.
Sixth-graders at Watts ranked in the 77th percentile in math and the 82nd percentile in language, compared with other American children, according to the study, which used 2000 scores. Fourth-graders also scored above average in math, at the 69th percentile. The 50th percentile is the national average.
Sixth-grade teacher Annie Coleman said the high scores two years ago were something of a fluke. "Those children were eager to learn," she said. "I haven't had a class like that since."
The school's strength lies in the individual attention that comes with small size, 118 students.
"You get to know every child personally, their ability, their background," Holt said. "If a child comes here in kindergarten, when he leaves, every teacher will have taught him."
If a child has poor attendance, someone can drive to her house and find the problem. If a child is having trouble in first grade, Holt holds him back. Every year, some first graders flunk, which puts them on more solid footing in later grades, he said.
On a recent Friday, teacher Donyale Jones' fifth-graders jockeyed for the chance to read aloud. The class practiced comprehension with a passage about children who don snowshoes to find a lost dog. For all their familiarity with snowdrifts, these South Alabama youngsters might as well be reading about China's Ming Dynasty.
Students include 12-year-old Alisha Lymon, one of those who repeated an earlier grade. This year Alisha gets mostly B's and C's, even with the responsibility of getting her 4-year-old brother dressed for school after her mother leaves for a job at McDonald's. "Sometimes I get up at 4 or 5," Alisha said.
The principal is not satisfied with being spotlighted in a national report. "We may be doing OK, but we're not where we need to be," he said. One of his greatest challenges is exposing the children to experiences broader than the pine trees and trailer homes that frame their lives.
The school system has considered closing the school because it is so small, said Superintendent Malcolm Cain, but he believes the family-type atmosphere is a reason for its success.
A world away from Wilcox County, North Birmingham Elementary sits within view of downtown's skyline, and across 27th Street North from boarded-up buildings and repair lots planted with rusted car bodies. Crime and drugs retain a foothold here, but so do generous businesses and convenient resources.
In 2000, third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders all grades tested posted SAT math scores in the state's top third. Fifth graders scored the highest, the 79th percentile.
Academic success has sprung from a broad, concerted community effort: churches, civic groups, volunteers and parents, said Principal Cleo Larry.
Bank employees and members of a sorority provide tutoring and role models. A neighborhood barber occasionally stops by with free haircuts.
North Birmingham uses federal Title I money to pay Donald Williams, a hip, dynamic teaching assistant who drills the students in math. He reinforces what regular teachers have taught and beckons students to chalkboard to prove they've absorbed the material.
Williams has persuaded businesses to sponsor weekly hot dog parties rewarding students who score at least 90 on a math test.
"If a hot dog can keep a child going, let's give it to them," Williams said.
Then there is the formidable Betty Gills. The 11-year veteran teaches math to every fifth grader. She has a reputation for toughness, another teachers strive to prepare their pupils for Mrs. Gills' class.
"The main thing in math is, they've got to be able to see it," Mrs. Gills said. She does not dictate math problems for children to copy, but encourages creativity. Children can find the correct answer in a variety of ways.
Added Ms. Larry: "I always say to parents, if you get them to me, we will teach them and they will learn." d the
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