HIS LATEST COLUMN: Presenting the latest "Schools That Work!"

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23, 2021

A few tiny schools, plus Chicago: As we noted yesterday, we've long been fans of Jay Mathews' work. Despite that fact, we aren't big fans of his most recent column.

The column appeared in Monday's Washington Post; it sang a familiar song.  In print editions, the headline on the column said this:

Surprising gains in five school districts you’ve never heard of, plus Chicago

Mathews is a highly experienced, highly regarded education reporter and columnist. He's done a lot, and he knows a lot. In this, his latest weekly column, he was praising a new book by a former colleague.

According to Mathews' description, the new book walks a very familiar road. (That doesn't necessarily mean that the book is wrong in some way.)

Still, it's a very familiar road, one which has led folks astray in the past. Mathews' column began like this:

MATHEWS (6/21/21): When Karin Chenoweth began a five-year stint as a columnist at The Washington Post in 1999, she soon became one of the best education writers I had ever read. She has gotten better since. Her latest book takes us to the heart of student achievement, and why we so rarely give our most disadvantaged students what they need.

The title is “Districts That Succeed: Breaking the Correlation Between Race, Poverty, and Achievement.” As she has done in previous books and in her work as writer-in-residence for the Education Trust advocacy organization, she explains in detail how some educators have managed to defy low expectations, despite an undertow of mindless routine in our schools.

According to Mathews' description, Chenoweth has written the latest book about those inspiring "Schools That Work." 

Chenoweth has written about schools—actually, about school districts—which have "defied low expectations." About schools in which "our most disadvantaged students" finally get what they need, with very good results.

Here in Our Town, we've been in love with this narrative format dating at least to the 1960s. We love love love these inspiring tales. They never stop popping up.

That said, we've often gone wrong as we've swallowed these tales, which tend to suggest that it should be easy to eliminate the "achievement gaps" which exist in our public schools. That doesn't necessarily mean that anything's wrong in Chenoweth's book, which was written through the auspices of the Education Trust. 

(Full disclosure: The organization isn't called the Education Trust But Verify. Having accomplished that bit of gloomy foreshadowing, let's continue with Mathews' description of Chenoweth's book.)

As he continues, Mathews' names the names of the latest "Schools That Work." Three of the six school districts are "tiny," he correctly says:

MATHEWS (continuing directly): The book has six case studies. In Valley Stream 30, a tiny district on Long Island, N.Y., African American students performed 1.2 grade levels above the national average for all students in 2016. In the Seaford district in southern Delaware, Black third- and fourth-graders in 2019 caught up to where White students had been in 2014. Steubenville, a working-class community in Ohio, had some of the best-performing third- and fourth-graders in the country. The Cottonwood and Lane districts in Oklahoma are tiny, but they got together to boost low-income children.

And then there’s Chicago...

Chenoweth has examined six school districts which allegedly work. As Mathews' headline suggests, you've never heard of five of these districts, three of which he correctly describes as "tiny."

Three of the "Districts Which Work" are tiny. For the record, Seaford and Steubenville are small. 

That said, Chicago completes the gang of six, and Chicago is very large! Advancing claims we've reviewed in the past, Chenoweth is said to have said this:

MATHEWS (continuing directly): And then there’s Chicago. In 1987, Education Secretary William Bennett declared it the worst school district in the country. Its reputation eventually improved enough to be considered a bit better than Detroit’s.

But Chenoweth detected a startling turnaround in the past decade. In 2011, 48 percent of Chicago’s fourth-graders met basic standards for reading. In 2015, 67 percent of that same group met basic standards for eighth-graders. No other urban district measured by federal tests had shown that kind of increase in that period of time.

Chenoweth sums it up this way: In Chicago, fourth- and eighth-graders “now achieve at levels above many other cities and right around the national average.”

Chicago, our nation's third largest district, is also allegedly a "district that works!" Five of these districts are tiny or small. Chicago is very large.

At any rate, there you see the field of play, as described in Mathews' column. For today, as a point of caution, we will only say this:

When Mathews calls three of those school districts "tiny," he isn't kidding around!

As Mathews notes, the Cottonwood and Lane School Districts are located in rural Oklahoma. According to this profile from Education Trust, the Lane district serves a total of 274 kids, full stop, spread through ten grade levels (PK through Grade 8).

That's a truly tiny school district, but Cottonwood is smaller! Indeed, it's hardly a "district" at all. According to that same profile, it operates only one school, another PK through Grade 8 school which serves a total of 180 students. 

Although we share the old school system tie, we've never met or spoken with Mathews. We've long admired his approach to public school issues, largely because his demeanor and instincts are different from our own.

Concerning this current issue, we learned, long ago, in the early years of our time in the Baltimore City Schools, to be cautious concerning upbeat claims about those "Schools That Work." 

We were among the first to note that claims from such schools may not always be what they seem. In this case, a skeptic might offer this thought:

Our of all the school districts in all towns in all the country, Chenoweth had to walk into three tiny districts just to find six that allegedly work. You'll also note that we keep including that one key word, "allegedly!"

She had to include three tiny districts just to name six we can talk about! That doesn't necessarily mean that anything's "wrong" in her book. 

We do take that as a warning sign concerning the latest appearance of this very familiar old framework. And yes, we return to that nagging key word: "allegedly."

Three of the districts in question are "tiny." Two other districts are small.

Chicago would, of course, be a much larger story. Before the week is done, we'll examine the claims about the Chicago schools which Mathews reports, as we've done in the past.

Eventually, we'll go to Chicago! First, though, we'll discuss a blindingly obvious point of caution. 

We'll discuss that point tomorrow. It's a blindingly obvious point of concern, one which routinely disappears when we fall in love, once again, with those schools which (allegedly) work.

Tomorrow: A remarkable lack of concern


22 comments:

  1. ma0 ma0 * ,!, ,!, VVV

    ReplyDelete
  2. It isn’t enough to use the word allegedly without asserting some specific basis for skepticism.

    Education Trust is using that word in a legal/financial sense so Somerby’s snipe about verifying is malicious.

    Someone once cheated on a test. That doesn’t mmean everyone does. Further, being small can mean a district can provide the attention needed for improvement. It doesn’t have to suggest statistical artifact. Unwavering negativity is not good science.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you a stutter problem, Corby? Well, if you had gone to a proper school, there would have been a speech therapist to help you. It happened to me: Two sessions,and my lisp was gone.

      Of course, the tax base in my community was substantial, so I went to an above-average school, though I admit, it wasn't my idea to go there.

      Leroy

      Delete
    2. A typo problem when using my cell phone. Nice of you to mock those with speech defects though.

      Delete
    3. DR EMU WHO HELP PEOPLE IN ANY TYPE OF LOTTERY NUMBERS
      It is a very hard situation when playing the lottery and never won, or keep winning low fund not up to 100 bucks, i have been a victim of such a tough life, the biggest fund i have ever won was 100 bucks, and i have been playing lottery for almost 12 years now, things suddenly change the moment i came across a secret online, a testimony of a spell caster called dr emu, who help people in any type of lottery numbers, i was not easily convinced, but i decided to give try, now i am a proud lottery winner with the help of dr emu, i won $1,000.0000.00 and i am making this known to every one out there who have been trying all day to win the lottery, believe me this is the only way to win the lottery.

      Dr Emu can also help you fix this issues

      (1)Ex back.
      (2)Herbal cure & Spiritual healing.
      (3)You want to be promoted in your office.
      (4)Pregnancy spell.
      (5)Win a court case.

      Contact him on email Emutemple@gmail.com
      What's app +2347012841542
      Website Https://emutemple.wordpress.com/
      Https://web.facebook.com/Emu-Temple-104891335203341

      Delete
  3. What we never discuss is not the school systems that allegedly don't work, but the family structure (usually one parent) that makes it difficult for kids to succeed. Stop blaming the schools, if parents (both of them) were involved with their kids education they would get a better one

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point about how businesses screwing labor has led to both parents working (often multiple jobs), which take time away from good parenting.
      Ready to support the $25/ hour minimum wage now?

      Delete
    2. Also, the #1 cause of marital discord is lack of money. Families headed by women are much poorer too. That makes it hard to know whether school problems are caused by lack of parental involvement or poverty. When you compare such kids to those with two parents who are also poor, poverty seems to have the bigger effect.

      Delete
    3. "...if parents (both of them) were involved with their kids education..."

      Both parents involved with their kids education is the essence of WHITE SUPREMACY.

      Delete
    4. And especially Asian supremacy.

      Delete
    5. How does your comment add anything to discussion here? You don't belong here. Go away.

      Delete
  4. 'we learned, long ago, in the early years of our time in the Baltimore City Schools, to be cautious concerning upbeat claims about those "Schools That Work." '

    Somerby only suspends skepticism when dealing with statements from Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Devin Nunes and Matt Gaetz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you are always cautious about upbeat claims, how will you ever be able to recognize true progress when it occurs? How will educators know what works and what doesn't?

      Delete
    2. They know by the results which take time to garner and to gauge.

      Always be cautious about claims.

      Delete
    3. Fuck off. You do not belong here.

      Delete
  5. I'm gonna get cooking tonight.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I miss face to face classes, hoping this pandemic already pass.

    We found deals on Things to do in Honolulu

    ReplyDelete
  7. LOTTO, lottery,jackpot.
    Hello all my viewers, I am very happy for sharing this great testimonies,The best thing that has ever happened in my life is how I win the lottery euro million mega jackpot. I am a Woman who believe that one day I will win the lottery. finally my dreams came through when I email believelovespelltemple@gmail.com and tell him I need the lottery numbers. I have spend so much money on ticket just to make sure I win. But I never know that winning was so easy until the day I meant the spell caster online which so many people has talked about that he is very great in casting lottery spell, . so I decide to give it a try.I contacted this great Dr Believe and he did a spell and he gave me the winning lottery numbers. But believe me when the draws were out I was among winners. I win 30,000 million Dollar. Dr Believe truly you are the best, all thanks to you forever













    LOTTO, lottery,jackpot.
    Hello all my viewers, I am very happy for sharing this great testimonies,The best thing that has ever happened in my life is how I win the lottery euro million mega jackpot. I am a Woman who believe that one day I will win the lottery. finally my dreams came through when I email believelovespelltemple@gmail.com and tell him I need the lottery numbers. I have spend so much money on ticket just to make sure I win. But I never know that winning was so easy until the day I meant the spell caster online which so many people has talked about that he is very great in casting lottery spell, . so I decide to give it a try.I contacted this great Dr Believe and he did a spell and he gave me the winning lottery numbers. But believe me when the draws were out I was among winners. I win 30,000 million Dollar. Dr Believe truly you are the best, all thanks to you forever

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello to everyone out here, I am here to share the unexpected miracle that happened to me … My name is Susan Christian , I live in London, UK. we got married for more than 9 years and have gotten two kids. thing were going well with us and we are always happy. until one day my husband started to behave in a way i could not understand, i was very confused by the way he treat me and the kids. later that month he did not come home again and he called me that he want a divorce, i asked him what have i done wrong to deserve this from him, all he was saying is that he want a divorce that he hate me and do not want to see me again in his life, i was mad and also frustrated do not know what to do, i was sick for more than 2 weeks because of the divorce. i love him so much he was everything to me without him my life is incomplete. i told my sister and she told me to contact a spell caster, i never believe in all this spell casting of a thing. i just want to try if something will come out of it. i contacted Dr Emu for the return of my husband to me, they told me that my husband have been taken by another woman, that she cast a spell on him that is why he hate me and also want us to divorce. then they told me that they have to cast a spell on him that will make him return to me and the kids, they casted the spell and after 24 hours my husband called me and he told me that i should forgive him, he started to apologize on phone and said that he still love me that he did not know what happen to him that he left me. it was the spell that Dr Emu casted on him that make him come back to me today, me and my family are now happy again today. thank you Dr Emu for what you have done for me i would have been nothing today if not for your great spell. i want you my friends who are passing through all this kind of love problem of getting back their husband, wife , or ex boyfriend and girlfriend to contact Dr Emu , if you need his help you can contact him through his private mail: emutemple@gmail.com or you can contact him through his website https://emutemple.wordpress.com/ fb page Https://web.facebook.com/Emu-Temple-104891335203341 and you will see that your problem will be solved without any delay.

    ReplyDelete