Dept. of Education Commends Privilege
Defending the No Child Left Behind Act, on the Hoover Institution’s online Uncommon Knowledge show with Peter Robinson, President George W. Bush argued that parents need to be able to see measurements of their school districts’ achievements in order to hold them accountable. The point is well taken, but there are reasons conservatives at the time were suspicious of the enthusiastic support of the late “liberal lion,” Senator Ted Kennedy (D, MA).
Even apart from the urge to teach to the test, measurements run the risk of being obscured in order to argue for increased funding. If a school does poorly, administrators and union organizers blame the lack of resources (and the local population); if a school does well, the same people declare success and argue for rewards.
The latter was recently the case in Tiverton (where, full disclosure, I’m running for school committee). Justifying a three-year contract extension that included various forms of raises, despite the uncertain economy and annual budget fights, Superintendent William Rearick picked from among the RI Department of Education’s (RIDE’s) school report card results for evidence that the town’s schools are “top performers.”
Of particular note is the ranking of one elementary school, Fort Barton, at the very crest of RIDE’s list, among the 17 “commended” elementary schools. Tiverton has two other schools for children of the same age group, one of which, Pocasset, landed at the next level, “leading,” and the other of which, Walter Ranger, was graded “typical.” Familiarity with some of the demographic differences across this economically diverse town led me to wonder how the scores are calculated.
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