2000-10-21 / Columnists

School Scope by Howard Schwach School Community

School Scope by Howard Schwach

School Community

% Students

meeting standards

(Levels 3 or 4)

% of Students eligible for free lunch

PS 43

Far Rockaway

26%

85%

PS 47

Broad Channel

69%

51%

MS 53

Far Rockaway

19%

67%

MS 180

Rockaway Park

23%

81%

MS 198

Arverne

12%

84%

MS 202

So. Ozone Park

23%

60%

PS 207

Howard Beach

46%

39%

MS 210

Ozone Park

20%

49%

MS 226

Ozone Park/Jamaica

19%

72%

MS 67 (Dist. 26)

Flushing

65%

14%

MS 172

(Dist. 26)

Flushing

57%

20%

There are those who call this my "annual reading scores" column, and perhaps it has become old hat and repetitive. Given that fact, however, there are things that have to be said and said again before something is done.

For example, I have been writing about the evils of bilingual education every year for the past dozen or so. It is only recently that the move to do away with the racist and destructive program has become a bandwagon that politicians seem happy to jump upon.

The reading scores are in once again and once again the daily papers rile against not only the system, but against individual schools that do not "meet the standards."

There is no doubt that the reading scores in any given school has a direct correlation to the poverty level in the community the school serves. This is not my observation, but results proven over and over again using samples from every large urban area in the nation.

Take a look at the results from the nine schools in this district that have an eighth grade program (and two from District 26 for purposes of comparison). The chart shows the school, the community it serves, the percentage of students who are meeting standards and the percentage of students at the school who are eligible for free lunch.

If this chart proves anything, it is that the fewer kids in a school who are eligible for free lunch, the higher the reading scores. It is equally true for the mathematics scores as well.

It is equally true for elementary schools. For example, in PS 42 (Arverne), where 91 percent of the kids are eligible for free lunch, only 24 percent meet the fourth grade math standard. At PS 42 (Edgemere), where 85 percent of the kids are eligible for free lunch, only 34 percent of the kids met the math standard. At PS 47 (Broad Channel), where only 51 percent of the kids are eligible for free lunch, 71 percent of the kids met the math standard. At PS 114 (Belle Harbor), where only 21 percent of the kids are eligible for free lunch, 86 percent of the kids met the standards.

This is true all across the board, proving once again, that "It’s the kids, stupid!"

What has to be done to change the numbers?

There are some who look at the numbers and say that the way to go is to insure that the numbers do not count.

They are the people who want to do away with standardized tests as indicators of educational progress.

Instead, they want other indicators, such as "portfolio assessment" used in the place of standardized tests.

Hey, if a kid can draw a picture of a math problem, isn’t that as good as actually doing the problem and getting it right?

If a kid can work on an interdisciplinary project where he or she and a few other students actually draw a large map of the battles of the Civil War with small captions and turn in an internet-driven report about the Battle of Gettysburg, isn’t that as good as passing a history test?

If a kid can cut pictures out of magazines representing everything he or she has in a school locker and then labels everything in Spanish, isn’t that as good as passing a Spanish Regents?

If a kid can multiply correctly using a calculator, isn’t that as good as if he or she had not used a mechanical device?

If a kid can show his or her work in completing a word problem in math, shouldn’t that kid get a good grade even if the answer is incorrect?

If you answered yes to all of the above questions, you can go to the head of the class and join most of the district administrators working in our schools today. You are on the "cutting edge" of education as dictated by our schools of education.

If, however, you answered no to all of the above, then you are, like me, hopelessly old-fashioned and ready to be turned out to pasture.

You get a "U" rating for not being in tune with the latest in educational fakery.

You will probably never get tenure, so find something else to do with your life.

The standardized tests have to count for something and so do teacher-made assessments (we used to call them classroom tests).

We have to move away from the new math and the PAM tests (where kids are rewarded for showing work and a kid who shows work and gets the answer wrong gets a better score than a kid who gets the answer right but does not show work) and move back towards multiplication tables and drill. They might have been dull, but we learned.

We have to move away from project-based education and move back towards teaching kids to think. If that takes the old "chalk and talk" lessons, then so be it.

We have to set standards and then actually stick to that standard. We moved last year from an attendance standard that said that a kid could not be absent more than 18 days to a non-standard that said that a kid could be absent as many days as possible as long that that absence was excused by a parent’s note.

We have moved from a standard where a kid who failed either the math or the reading test was left back to one where a kid had to fail both to be left back and where he or she had to fail a subject as well.

We are moving away from standards and not towards them and when the "experts" convince our legislators that they can get more votes by doing away with standardized tests completely, that will happen as well.

It has already started. The legislature, frightened that too many kids will fail the new mandated mathematics Regents, has started a plan to allow for "alternative assessment" for those who do not meet that standard.

This all sounds disheartening, and it is doubly so to teachers who must pass students who did no work and failed every indicator.

What can we do to change all of this? Look for answers in a future column.


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