Friday, May 8, 2009

In the news

David Brooks had a piece in today's New York Times that struck me as timely, since I just wrote about Ruby Payne a couple of days ago. In "The Harlem Miracle," Brooks describes a charter school whose test scores have increased far more than the standard deviations typically seen in education reform. A Harvard economist and his team
found that the Harlem Children’s Zone schools produced “enormous” gains. The typical student entered the charter middle school, Promise Academy, in sixth grade and scored in the 39th percentile among New York City students in math. By the eighth grade, the typical student in the school was in the 74th percentile. The typical student entered the school scoring in the 39th percentile in English Language Arts (verbal ability). By eighth grade, the typical student was in the 53rd percentile.
The school succeeds, Brooks says, because it is a "no excuse school":
The basic theory is that middle-class kids enter adolescence with certain working models in their heads: what I can achieve; how to control impulses; how to work hard. Many kids from poorer, disorganized homes don’t have these internalized models. The schools create a disciplined, orderly and demanding counterculture to inculcate middle-class values.

The article has many valid points, but the one reason I become skeptical is because here in Cincinnati we had a "very successful" charter school. Test scores improved wildly, and school days were far longer than the typical school day. In the years since the school received its accolades, the founder of the school is now in jail for embezzlement and records tampering.  I always fear that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

1 comment:

Ecocandle said...

Did the charter school in Cincinnati cheat to get their results? Or was it just the administrator who stole money, and the children still got better? I am not familiar with the story, so I am interested.