I have not had the time today since the release of the California Department of Education posted its list regarding the schools in the bottom 5% of California. In looking at the list though, there were some things I noticed – no, it has nothing to do with race, that is too obvious and for the politicians to trash out. My observations are a bit more difficult to track. If anyone who reads this article has an efficient way to track down this data, please share.
(1) For each school on the list, how many charter schools are within 1, 3, 5 and 10 miles of the school?
(2) How long has each charter school been there?
These two questions, on the surface seem unreasonable, yet one thing charter schools get to do which other schools can not is ‘reset’ the testing data. Example: At an established public school, there are years of data and one can evaluate trends. In charter schools, test data begins slowly, with the grades they open the school with and it takes two years to get data for comparison purposes. If a charter schools starts with only Grade 6, data coming out of Grade 8 would start five years later (year one to get benchmark Grade 6, year two to start a trend for Grade 6 and get benchmark data for Grade 7, year three to have cumulative data for Grade 6 and trend data for grade 7 and start Grade 8, year four would provide three years of Grade 6 data, two years of Grade 7 data and one year of Grade 8 data and in year five, there would now be two years of Grade 8 data). By charter schools effectively creating a new baseline each time one opens, they are not on the list to be monitored as there are no test scores.
In addition to the test scores issues, students who remain at regular public schools may be in dire poverty where parents can not get them to a charter school which may be of higher quality but at a distance and so the charter schools, in essence, cull the parents and their children who would be successful no matter where they went to school, leaving a group of students who would struggle (albeit probably less at a charter school) at any school for a few years.
This footwork has not been acknowledged in the data collection and charter schools are just now on ten to 12 years of age, give or take.
(3) What acccess to REAL grocery stores and farmers markets do the families of students at these underperforming schools have?
(4) What access to affordable health care do the families of students at these underperforming schools have?
It is well known that a child has a difficult time focusing and learning without proper pre and post natal nutririon as well as protein while the child is growing and developing. So essential is the element of nutrition, we tend to give students things such as orange juice on spring testing days. We all know what good nutrition looks like, sadly we do not practice it.
Health care is essential. It is impossible to function with a toothache or any substantial sickness. When children are not able to receive appropriate health care, they tend to ‘never quite get well’. It could be anything from ear infections which prevent aural processing (hearing) to headaches to constant low grade infections. Ultimately, the healthcare becomes a visit to the emergency room when there is no other alternative and this in and of itself does not solve anything but the immediate problem.
(5) In the communities with the failing schools, are there libraries? Parks? Places where kids can safely go to be with other children or is the community so unsafe that kids are either at school or home?
(6) What is the education level of the parents of the children at the underperforming schools and what is being done to get these parents back to school?
Normal development requires physical activity and a time to alleviate stress which causes cortisol to build up in the body. Kids and families who live in highly stressed environments are constantly on ‘alert’ mode and do not sleep well. This can be from the neighborhood, child abuse, poverty and other issues such as poor quality housing.
When parents themselves are behind the eight ball since they may not have made it through algebra or even graduated high school, it is quite ambitious for them to have higher aspirations for their children. The parents may feel frustrated at lack of access to the services and support that “white and Asian, middle class and above families” know about. This clear difference in access is a major issue related to poverty.
After evaluating my questions above (I have some more but need to sort out how to word them), I really wonder if changing teachers and a principal at a school is the total answer, as it should not be. When will we all look at the roots of our problems, rather than the closest thing we see to point a finger at?
I suspect we will keep repeating our errors until we begin to address the not so nice, not so easy to nail down data and fix those problems. Ironically, those problems, in the long run are usually easier and cheaper to fix then re-organizing a school. It is not the actual money, it is HOW the money is spent that changes outcomes.