Summer’s finally here, but just weeks ago students in schools across New York completed state tests that carry bigger stakes than ever before. This is the first year that test scores will feed into teacher evaluations, and with the tests now aligned with the new Common Core curriculum, many observers believe passing rates will decline.
The push-back against testing and increased accountability has grown, and it’s easy to see why. Students, families and schools have seen passing rates decline, felt more pressure to increase performance and wondered whether testing now gets too big a space in education. It’s worth revisiting why and how these changes came about, and examining the long-term trend in performance.
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In 1975, Marva Collins founded Westside Preparatory School in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood, a place of persistent and concentrated poverty. Renamed Marva Collins Prep, the school targeted disadvantaged students, many of whom had been classified by the public school as learning disabled. She was able to spur them to achieve at levels comparable to students in high income neighborhoods. Collins’ success was profiled by CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1979 and became the subject of a movie in 1981 starring Cicely Tyson and Morgan Freeman.
This example (and others like it) proved that concentrated poverty, while predictive of low academic achievement, does not assure it. The Holy Grail of education reform has been the “pursuit of Marva Collins.” For many years, it appeared that you couldn’t replicate Marva Collins’ success without Marva Collins—i.e. someone who combined unusual gifts of charisma, dedication and energy with exceptional teaching and leadership ability. Read more »
In 1940, fewer than one in twenty Americans had a college degree. Now it’s better than one in four. Fueled by a flood of American soldiers returning from WWII’s European and Pacific theaters, the GI Bill sparked an explosion in college enrollment that continues to this day.
Higher education boosts productivity and pay. The earnings gap between those with and those without a college degree is dramatic. According to the Census, individuals 25 or older with bachelor’s degrees earned nearly $22,000 per year (80%) more than those with only a high school diploma.
But what does college cost?
College pricing rivals health care in opacity—most students receive some form of “aid.” Just as in buying a car, few pay the “manufacturer’s suggested retail price.” Bloomberg Businessweek reports that 94% of students in NYS private colleges & universities receive some form of financial aid. Even in public colleges, two-thirds receive aid (in addition to the outright state support to the institution).
The College Board conducts an annual survey and reports that published tuition grew 52% from 96-97 to 11-12 while tuition net of aid (including federal tax credits) rose 22% over the period, suggesting that colleges and universities are increasing the “sticker price” at the same time that aid is also rising. Using the College Board’s figures on net tuition and fees, students beginning four year degrees in 2011 will pay an average of $52,000 in tuition over four years in private schools and about $10,000 in public schools. Many pay more and many pay less, of course. Consider, too, the cost of room and board—another $35-40,000—and foregone earnings. Read more »
A previous CGR Policy Wonk blog, ‘Transforming Urban Education: From Despair to Hope?’ discussed Raleigh, North Carolina’s countywide solution to addressing urban education issues. The Raleigh experience offers a model for breaking down barriers of poverty and uneven resources and opportunities that help create widely-divergent outcomes across city, suburban and rural boundaries in our community.
The Raleigh model, while promising with its documented levels of success, would also be practically and politically difficult to implement locally—not least because of the multitude of school districts in most counties across New York (18 in Monroe County). Merging two school districts in Raleigh/Wake County, while not easily accomplished, seems like a walk in the park compared with changing the current educational landscape in Monroe County. As several responses to the original article suggested, we need the type of strong cross-sector leadership around this issue that surfaced in Raleigh. Is that realistic locally, given our entrenched multi-school-district profile? Read more »
I’ve been reading Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh. And, like many others, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our urban schools in Rochester and elsewhere and how we “fix” them.
In areas around New York and nationally, there seems to be precious little hope for resurrecting our urban schools and kids —and far too much despair. Dedicated people, much smarter and more creative than I, have been writing about and wrestling with this dilemma for years. Despite years of reform, study and advocacy, the problems remain, as most of the available solutions are constrained by limited resources available only within city boundaries—when community-wide solutions and resources are called for. Read more »
Ontario County’s discussion of regionalizing high schools has made a few headlines of late, and dovetails with potential policy moves at the state level. Part of the Rochester metro area, Ontario encompasses urban, suburban and rural communities. Its 760 square miles are home to nine school districts each with its own high school. In aggregate, these districts educate 5,500 students in grades 9-12, spending at least $50 million per year. Read more »
When Eva Moskowitz chaired the Education Committee of the New York City Council, she demanded to know why Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein didn’t do a better job improving public education. Rochester Schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, then a regional superintendent in the NYC schools, remembers his own time on the Moskowitz hot seat. A New York Magazine profile describes her as having “grilled and filleted” administrators in a series of 100 hearings in 2002.
Bloomberg called her bluff. “If you think we’re doing such a bad job, why don’t you give it a try?” So in 2006 Moskowitz founded the Success Charter Network with the first Harlem Success Academy. The network now runs four schools in Harlem with another three approved for the fall. Moskowitz plans to increase the network to forty schools.
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