I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Are You a Racist? Take the Quiz!

Warning: heavy sarcasm ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

In today's complicated world, it's hard to know if you are a racist. For example, you'd be surprised at how many people who actually work with kids in poverty believe that those kids can't learn. Yes, shocking, I know, but rich people have confirmed this, and rich people are so very smart, so...

As a public service, I've put together a simple quiz to determine whether or not you are a racist. Get out your #2s! Ready?


Please read the following description of a school in Chicago:
Some 90.8 percent of the 325 pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students who attend Gresham are classified as low income, according to the school district.

The student population is 98.8 percent African-American, the district says, and the neighborhood is one that has been hit by a wave of gang-related murders this summer, drawing national attention.

There have been 366 murders in Chicago through the beginning of September, up 30 percent from a year ago, mainly due to gang violence, police figures show. Thirty-one of those deaths have been in the neighborhood where Gresham Elementary school is located, up 19 percent from last year. Over the last two years 23 children ages 10 or younger have been killed in the Chicago crossfire, some of them while walking to or from school.

McLeod said gunfire could sometimes be heard near the school.

Gresham elementary has been rated "on probation" by the school district for the last four academic years because its students have performed poorly on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which measures students on reading, math and science. [emphasis mine]
Now, read the description of the private school Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his own children to:
 “We understand why he would choose a school with small class sizes, a broad, rich curriculum that offers world languages, the arts and physical education, a focus on critical thinking not test-taking, a teacher and an assistant in every elementary classroom and paid, high-quality professional development for their teachers. It’s wonderful that he has that option available to him.’’ 
The University of Chicago Lab School is an elite, diverse and costly school that has long educated the children of Chicago’s rich, famous and clout-heavy. Annual tuition at the Hyde Park school ranges from $21,876 for grades 1-4 to $23,676 for grades 5-8 and $24,870 for high school students. [emphasis mine]
Now that you have read both descriptions, answer the following question:

It is ___________ to expect the students of Gresham Elementary School to have as much growth on standardized test scores as the children of the Chicago Lab School. 
a) reasonable
b) unreasonable


GRADING: If you answered "a," you believe in setting "high expectations" for children. You can see past the fact that "Chicago is among the least well funded large urban districts in the nation!" You don't use the excuse that Chicago spent $13,078 per pupil (2010), close to half of just the tuition at Chicago Lab Schools (with endowments and gifts, the spending per pupil there is certainly higher than the tuition).

You truly do care about poor, minority children. You are not a racist. Congratulations!

If you answered "b"...

ADDING: Again, you all know I'm being sarcastic here, yes? If the snark doesn't work for you, try Paul Thomas:

The weight of evidence about the impact of teacher quality on measurable student outcomes shows that teacher quality is dwarfed by out-of-school factors, and the evidence on value-added methods of determining teacher quality is not valid.
Yet, "No Excuses" Reformers identify erroneously the need to increase teacher quality (yes, teacher quality matters, but teacher quality is not the or even one of the most urgent areas needing reform in order to improve student learning) through policies that are ideologically appealing to the public but refuted by evidence.
In the heat of the Chicago teachers' strike, Kotlowitz posed a rare, evidence-based argument:
"In Chicago, 87 percent of public school students come from low-income families — and as if to underscore the precarious nature of their lives, on the first day of the strike, the city announced locations where students could continue to receive free breakfast and lunch. We need to demand the highest performances from our teachers while we also grapple with the forces that bear down on the lives of their students, from families that have collapsed under the stress of unemployment to neighborhoods that have deteriorated because of violence and disinvestment. And we can do that both inside and outside the schools — but teachers can’t do it alone."
But, again, his recognition about the weight of poverty (it is destiny) and that education is not powerful enough to overcome that burden (poverty should not be destiny) requires the public to reject not only the narratives of political leaders and "No Excuses" Reformers, but also entrenched cultural ideals about American exceptionalism (admitting instead that the U.S. isless equitable and has less social mobility than many other countries) and the American meritocracy.

ADDING MORE: Apparently, we were given a few minutes this morning on MSNBC to make our case; isn't that nice of them? At least Matt Farmer and Julie Cavanagh took advantage of it:

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