by Jeff Taylor
Peter Gorman inched closer to flipping the switch on CMS by sending some of his top administrators to some of district’s weakest schools. Next up, ordering the best teachers into the worst schools, which will effectively sign the death warrant for CMS.
Clearly this move is intended to attract the best teachers to trouble spots, and that what Gorman says the move will do. But what if it does not? Gorman has already committed to this “fix” — voluntary or involuntary assignment of teachers seems a minor detail.
And I would love to see the research Gorman believes exists that shows that changing personnel alone at a school can improve performance. This is especially true of a district like CMS where basic discipline and attendance issues still cripple classroom performance at too many schools. Changing staff — yes, even top flight administrators — when such basic issues have yet to be fixed is like finding out your home foundation is crumbling and running out to get a dining room set to fix it.
Your house looks better, you spend some money, and you’ve done something but the fundamental problem remains. Or problems. Administrators and teachers — even the “best” — still tied to bad instructional practices and micromanagement from the Ed Center are not going to significantly impact student performance anywhere in CMS.
This was noticed the other day at the D-Ed Reckoning blog. It picked through a wealthy suburban Philly school district’s performance and found it lacking. And by wealthy, figure about $17,000 in spending per pupil, twice what CMS spends on average. More:
Radnor middle school has a dirty little secret. Despite all it’s money, it doesn’t know how to educate its pupils any better than some failing inner city school. You can tell by the pseudoscience it quoted to the Inquirer. You can also tell by its current academic performance.
The end product of a Radnor Middle School education, i.e., an eighth grade student, performs as well as you’d expect. At least the white and Asian ones do. White students performed at the 94.1 percentile in Reading, 89.3 in Math. This is how you expect the sons and daughters of doctors, lawyers, and the upper middle class to perform academically.
Fortunately for us and thanks to NCLB, we now know that some of these wealthy plutocrats are black. They have to live somewhere to, right? And I can tell you they aren’t living in the badlands of north Philly. Like everyone else who earns a high income they move out to the affluent suburbs. They move to Radnor and they send their kids to Radnor middle school. And, contrary to the wisdom of Jonathan Kozol, their kids scored at the 66.7 percentile in Reading and 55.3 percentile in Math, below the scores of the average white student in Pennsylvania (77.8% and 69.6% respectively).
And, don’t think that the few poor kids (and by poor I mean less rich because truly poor people can’t afford to live in Radnor) performed any better. Poor kids scored at the 54.6 and 36.4 percentiles in Reading and Math, respectively, which is about as well as they performed in the average school in Pennsylvania. By the way, the average school in Pennsylvania spends 23% less than Radnor, money that is apparently not being well spent on academics at least. I’m pretty sure that if Radnor thought it needed to spend more money on academics, it’d be spending its money there instead of spending it acquiring the cutting edge of urinal technology (you did watch the movie like I suggested didn’t you).
Radnor has it all. The best school building. The best teachers, or at least the best paid teachers. The best students. And, the best urinals. And, yet it struggles to educate the black children of the upper middle class and the children of the lower middle class, regardless of race.
Radnor is the rule, not the exception. I could have focused on almost any other affluent school district and gotten the same results. The more money we let schools soak us for education, the more schools we’re going to see like Radnor Middle School. Bright and shiny on the outside; rotten on the inside. The problem is instructional, not financial.
We have the same problem in Charlotte. More money or moving staff around looking for a magic bullet fix will not work.
What it will do, however, is drive the best teachers and administrators out of CMS, shortly followed by parents and students who notice what is going on.