One, the author, Carol Tice, says that there has been leadership turnover in SPS and that made it hard to implement new ideas. And that is based on what? There is leadership turnover at many districts throughout the state and the nation. Frankly, I think people get tired of "the latest thing" and actually would prefer to laser focus on maybe 3 things. Whether you agree with me or not, I'm not sure how she can support that assertion.
Two, she says that the population of SPS has a higher percentage of minority students than the general population because of the large numbers of parents choosing private schools. Okay. Then, she staates,
"Observers also say there’s a lack of openness to new programs that work for minority students."
I love when reporters say "observers". Who are these people and why should I place my faith in their observations? I also read that statement to be speaking of TAF.
Then the VP for the Alliance for Education says this:
“We have only around 40 percent of our kids signing up for free or reduced lunch. So you would sort of expect we’d have higher graduation rates. But we don’t.”
Only 40 percent? That seems pretty darn high and what needs to be pointed out is that we have a fairly high number of schools, concentrated in the south end, that have upwards of 50%+ free/reduced lunch AND minority students. When you get those two issues lining up, the challenges are huge. It just can't be overlooked.
The next quote from the article I found lacking:
"The Silent Epidemic, a national survey of hundreds of dropouts commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year, echoes the findings of many studies before it. Kids drop out because schools lack three things: rigor, relevance and relationships."
(Note: I blogged about The Silent Epidemic a couple of weeks back if you want more info.) Rigor, relevance and relationships is Gates' interpretation of the survey results. If you look at what is posted on their website, the reasons are classes are not interesting, too many missed days anyway, not enough discipline to keep them in school, failing school and needing to have a job. What might (and might is their word) have kept them in school might be stated as rigor, relevance and relationships. It bothers me that Mr. Gates wants people to believe his wording as some sort of educational gospel.
Further a good point is made in talking about a program in Lakewood,
"There’s also no remedial math at Clover Park, as there is in most state high schools; all 9th graders take algebra and receive extra tutoring and extended classes if they need it. He says this is crucial, as college success rates are poor for students who don’t take three years of advanced high school math, including second-year algebra. “This is an equity and social-justice issue,” he says. “If where you were placed in math in 6th grade puts you on a track that doesn’t get you access to college, that’s just not right.”That's true. Kids need support every step of the way in the form of some sort of educational triage.
The reporter gets her labelling wrong in this statement:
"Most alternative schools—which primarily serve former dropouts and students who are at risk for dropping out—don’t have this kind of success. In fact, Seattle’s Santorno began a districtwide review of alternative school programs last February. Most have dismal graduation rates—for instance, 30 percent for John Marshall High School, currently slated to close next year."
If she's describing SPS, then the label would be re-entry. Our alternative schools are not mostly serving former dropouts and students at risk. Also, in a recent article in the NY Times, it was stated that, overall, reentry high schools do a better job of getting kids to graduation than shuffling them around from high school to high school.
The article further discusses TAF's efforts and truancy. There was a good front-page article on truancy in the Seattle Weekly a few issues back that's worth reading because it's a complicated subject (depending on the student).