Monday, November 12, 2012

Odds and Ends

 There's a sinkhole problem in West Seattle directly on the route that buses to Pathfinder take.  This story from our friends at the West Seattle Blog.

Thought-provoking story this morning on NPR about how Eastern and Western parents view their children and their ability to learn.  (I have often thought that persistence, resilience, and encouragement are more important than what intellectual capacities you are born with.) 

Interesting article from the Huffington Post about who serves special needs children especially those with more severe disabilities. 

The high cost of educating students with special needs is disproportionately falling on traditional public schools as other students increasingly opt for alternatives that aren't always readily open to those requiring special education. 

The issue is particularly acute in districts where enrollment has declined due to demographic changes such as low birth rates and population shifts combined with an influx of charter schools and voucher programs that have siphoned off students.
School district officials say all schools that receive public funds should share the cost of special education.
"It raises an ethical responsibility question," said Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of Cleveland Metropolitan School District. "We welcome our students with special needs, but the most expensive programming is on public districts."

In Florida, they are setting new goals for student performance....based on race.  The story from the Orlando Sentinel.
The new targets approved by the State Board of Education on Tuesday set loftier for Asian and white youngsters and lower ones for black and Hispanic children.

By 2018, 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanic students and 74 percent of black students are to be reading on grade level.

Similar race-based achievement targets sparked controversy in Virginia and Washington, D.C., this summer, with critics calling them a way to legalize low expectations for some students.

Oddly, several of the State Board of Education members, before the vote, asked if this was the right thing to do.  

Florida officials, however, said the targets are not meant to set lower expectations for some kids but to acknowledge current performance and outline a path for improvement. The board approved them after agreeing that an explanation for the race-based numbers be included with the new targets.

So the explanation is that all groups will improve and improvement is what matters.  

9 comments:

Josh Hayes said...

I suppose this is off-topic, but hey, it's an odd, or an end, so what the hey, right?

The SPS middle school ultimate (frisbee) league had its finals this last Saturday, and I am happy to report that a) Aki Kurose swept both the A and A2 division, dethroning the champ from the last several years (Mercer) in the process. I watched some of the play for both of their teams (my daughter's team from Pinehurst was also in the mix), and it was remarkably athletic, intelligent, and spirited, which brings me to the second thing, b) the level of "spirit" exhibited by each and every team was the highest I've ever seen. Every kid was trying hard, but also being sporting, respectful, and joyful in the game. Pinehurst walked off with the Spirit award for the third straight year, but it was a near thing -- and that's great for the game.

Congratulations to all the teams, players, coaches, and parents who participated all season long. It was a pleasure and an honor to be associated with all of you.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And that's Ultimate for you - inclusive and spirited. Great, great sport for boys and girls.

Patrick said...

And I have been pleased at the sportsmanship observed by all teams as well. And also that my daughter's team, Jane Addams, won all their playoff games to be the champion of C division.

what am I missing said...

> In Florida, they are setting new goals for student performance....based on race.

Why wouldn't you set goals for student performance based on current measured performance?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Define "current measured performance?" Do you mean valuing where students in each group start from?

what am I missing said...

> Define "current measured performance?" Do you mean valuing where students in each group start from?

I think so. For reading, current measured performance can be assessed reading level. Goals for improvement could be based on current assessed reading level - with more resources dedicated to those behind to help them improve. Completely straight forward.

Perhaps the consensus is that assessment is impossible without racial bias? But even then setting achievement goals based on race seems counterproductive. Is it an advantage when it comes to funds allocation? It just seems lazy and stereotyping to me.

Jan said...

I think "what am I missing" is exactly right. Back before the MAP days, there was talk of interim assessments that could measure how each student was doing -- relative to how they did last month/year/etc. Giving a nod to the idea that you don't want to use the device to seal a kid in a "lower performing" tier -- measurement against where each child starts is what makes it not an exercise in frustration for kids who are way behind, and an exercise in stupidity for kids who are way ahead. Both groups need to improve from where they start. But the system described? Seems like a whole lot of racial stereotyping that will once again not serve kids well.

seattle citizen said...

Jan, there are no "groups": There are only children.
What Florida wants to measure is "groups" that predominantly White people created centuries ago ("Asians...Blacks....) in order to stratify society.
Children are children are children, and yes, they benefit from being assessed (as they have been in classrooms for centuries) and given what they need, as individuals...not as members of a "race group"...based on that assessment.

I say we do away with the racial checkboxes completely and add, instead, checkboxes indicating generational wealth; recent wealth; generational poverty; recent poverty. These would be much more helpful. But even these are only a tiny bit of what a kid is....

But in order to do away with the check boxes, we (all) need first fix the inequities of generational lack of access to capital, and b) eliminate racism so the "categories" already created don't continue to suffer its effects.

It'll take a lot of work by all of us.

seattle citizen said...

Oh, wait, I misread your post, Jan - the groups you refer to are those behind and those ahead. Got it! But my response still pertains to some degree, at least the part about grouping - if one subscribes to the theory of multiple intelligences, and the belief that a student can be ahead in one concept and behind in another, grouping (especially a mere TWO groups) isn't greatly helpful. This opens the "differentiation" box, which is a complex thing, indeed.
Smaller class sizes and more flexible scheduling and more creative opportunities would help here...