Sunday, March 08, 2009

Urban Crisis

Two posts ago, I challenged President Obama to stay the course with his campaing rhetoric in support of charter schools. One commentor, Joe--who taught for many years in New York City, disagreed with my statement that urban schools are not making a significant difference for a significant number of students. Before providing the data, I need two things to be known up front:
1. I am a public school teacher in an urban environment who believes that the public schools should provide a quality education for every student.
2. I am a public school teacher who recognizes that charter schools (at least the ones described by David Whitman in Sweating the Small Stuff) can fill the gaps created by failing urban schools.

My description of urban schools as failing comes not only from my experiences but also from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center in conjunction with America's Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The conclusions of this study reads as follows:

When they are not being labeled "obsolete," America’s high schools have often been described as existing in a state of crisis. As this report has demonstrated, that observation is particularly apt for the school systems serving the nation’s very largest cities. A significant share of recent public debate in education-policy circles has revolved around the challenges we face as a nation ensuring that all students graduate from high school, diploma in-hand and well-equipped to face the world and excel in their adult lives. This is an aspiration that would apply whether an individual student’s path from high school leads to further education, occupational training, or immediately into the world of work.
If three out of every 10 students in the nation failing to graduate is reason for concern, then the fact that just half of those educated in America’s largest cities are finishing high school truly raises cause for alarm. And the much higher rates of high school completion among their suburban counterparts – who may literally live and attend school right around the corner – place in a particularly harsh and unflattering light the deep undercurrents of inequity that plague American public education.
It is often remarked that knowledge is power. The good news is that a movement is afoot to better arm educators, policymakers, and the public with the information they need to more accurately assess the nature and severity of the graduation crisis in their communities and around the country. Innovative efforts to turn around low-performing high schools are also underway. The bad news, however, is that the challenges we face may be more grave than many had suspected or that some are still willing to acknowledge. And when it comes to providing every student with a high-quality education, we have not come as far or moved as fast as most of us would like.
In forging a way ahead, it will be essential that we not lose sight of the disparities highlighted in this report, which portray two very different worlds that exist within the nation’s public education system. As efforts to understand and combat the graduation crisis advance, this movement must proceed hand-in-hand with a fundamental commitment to creating a public education

I can only judge with the information I have at my disposal. But if there is evidence to suggest that this study on graduation rates lacks accuracy, then I would be interested in reading it.


At 6:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charter schools are good, but I still say that positive reform can occur in urban public schools through creating smaller learning communties within an urban public high school. For instance, this is what has happened at Hope High School in Providence, RI. Things were so bad there that the state took over the school in 2004. Since then, Hope HS was broken into three smaller schools within the building. Each one has a theme and its own administrator. Positive strides have happened at Hope HS. Check out anything online about it. In fact, things have improved so much that the state of RI has given control of Hope HS back to Providence Public Schools. An editorial in today's Providence newpspaper congratulated Hope High School on the great strides that have been made there since 2004. Also, the Gates Foundation is a big proponent of smaller learning communities in urban high schools.


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