I’m not an education reporter. I’m just a guy with a computer and a healthy amount of skepticism and internet access. I also am someone whose been in education for twenty years and am fearful about the direction it has been taking.
So when I learn about a new miracle school I get worried since whatever statistics are being used to praise that school are also being used to shut down and fire the staff of another school.
Take the recent article about the turnaround school in Chicago called Marshall High School, recently reported about in The Chicago Tribune.
We learn that the principal just finished her first year there after a successful four year turnaround of another Chicago High School, Harper High School. The article reports that the principal did have to get rid of 161 students as part of her way of accomplishing that turnaround.
But when I researched the school report cards from 2007 to 2010 for Harper High, I learned a few unusual things:
For one, the enrollment in that school went from
1301 in 2007 to only 771 in 2010. That’s a 40% attrition.
Then when I checked the test scores, I saw that they barely changed
English 12.9 13.0
Math 14.6 14.7
Reading 13.2 14.0
Science 14.6 15.1
Here are the report cards for the school from 2007 to 2010
And the new school, Marshall High hasn’t even gotten any test scores back yet. The principal is just finishing her first year there. It seems premature to call that school a miracle already, just because it has a charismatic new leader.
I can’t understand why education reporters do this all the time. Are they that desperate for a story that they have to build up a school to be a miracle school when it really isn’t?
Maybe there have been a lot of improvements in those schools, things that are hard to measure and that don’t show up in test scores. If so, then it’s sad is that these reporters are so close to getting the real story. Rather than take a miracle school with poor test scores and fail to report the poor test scores, why not say “here’s a miracle school. It has poor test scores. Therefore test scores don’t determine how good a school is. Therefore our country should not be pursuing an agenda where teachers are fired and schools are shut down because of test scores.” Now, that would be a scoop.