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February 26, 2009

Brown Center report gives Baltimore schools poor marks

The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution issued a major new report on education yesterday. It examines the performance of 37 big city school districts in the 2006-07 year and compares their test scores against the averages in their respective states on whatever standardized tests the states were using for NCLB. Generally, the results are positive, indicating a narrowing of the achievement gap between urban districts and their suburban counterparts. But Baltimore is one of eight districts where the report concludes that's not the case. In five districts -- Baltimore, Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis and Philadelphia -- scores were more than two statistical standard deviations below the state average. Keep in mind that Baltimore's test scores improved more than the state average last year.

The report also compares the 06-07 results with data from 2000-01, which, in Maryland at least, seems problematic since the state switched the test it was using during that time period.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Nation, Baltimore City, Study, study!


From another Brown Center report:

"The Problem: Separate and Unequal"

"Defenders of the present government monopoly can conjure up whatever images they may of a future shaped by greater choice in education. But the system they propose in its stead offers little hope for many children who come from minority and poor families. Notwithstanding the promise enunciated by the Supreme Court in the Brown decision years ago, the condition of public education in the United States still can aptly be described in two words: separate and unequal. David Armor gives an account in his recent book, Forced Justice: despite the best efforts of civil rights advocates and the federal courts over the past four decades, most black children today attend de facto racially segregated public schools, the condition improving minimally since 1968. Moreover, a substantial body of empirical research and a flood of litigation in the state courts (in nearly two-thirds of the states) shows wide disparities in per-pupil spending between poor and middle-class districts. No resolution to either situation appears in sight. Public schooling, for all its virtues, just hasn't been very kind to some children. The same system that helped assimilate generations of European immigrants is not working very well today for the most disadvantaged members of society.

Yes, there has been some notable progress in American education. De jure segregation has been all but eliminated. Ambitious compensatory programs have been spun out of Washington and the state capitals. After a precipitous 15-year decline in national test scores that began in 1964, student achievement is beginning to show signs of gradual improvement. But these victories tell only part of the story. Our system of public education betrays a persistent gap in student performance defined by race. In 1995, black students trailed white students on SAT verbal scores by 92 points. The disparity in mathematics was 110 points. The data on Hispanic students is only slightly less discouraging. If we are serious about education reform in America, then the first order of business is to meet the needs of those students whom the existing system has failed the most. We must move aggressively to close the learning gap between the haves and the have-nots."

Reformers like Alonso, TFA, New Leaders, Transformation Schools, site based budgeting, disaggregated data, etc. will produce incremental betterment with regular returns to the status quo until those reformers---and all of us---change this fundamental inequality.

The perversity in baltimore and in other urban districts attempting to reform (sic) is when we make claims for reform (including untoward belief in individual CEOs) that are complicit in maintaining this status quo (of the Brown report cited above) and at the same time are at the heart of the stories we tell ourselves (including journalism to that effect) that erases or apologizes for that fundamental inequality and at the same time allows us to feel that we, in the classroom, in the principals office, at a place like north ave, are on the side of the angels.

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