Saturday, February 23, 2008

Avoidable Losses, and More

Lately I've been wondering about the impact that the past 4 ½ plus years may have had on us as a community.

Powerlessness was forced upon us in June 2003. Babies who weren’t born when it happened have learned how to crawl, talk, use the potty and will soon be starting kindergarten! It’s been a long time since the state-run regime has been shutting us out, preventing us from engaging in a meaningful way with our own school district.

I wonder how much have we gone into hibernation-mode, and how easily will we be able to come out? I suspect that important networks have dissolved during this time.

When Oaklanders are given the opportunity to interact with OUSD once again, what will it look like? If local control is given back within the next year or so, how will the community tolerate the new school board’s missteps as it finds its way?

The timing is such that the members will be immediately thrown into the lion’s den to deal with the damage caused by the upcoming, probable drastic cuts to the state’s education budget. How much will empathy and cooperation suffer? It’s probably hard to be benevolent to others when one's own constituents are feeling chronically deprived.

And since the end of the current No Child Left Behind law is nowhere in sight, how much more damage will it do to our district, and to our schools?

In case you don’t know, it was supposed to be reauthorized, revised, or abolished last year. Unfortunately, the Senate and House education committees couldn’t agree about what to do, so no decision was made. This destructive law will remain in effect until they can come to an agreement. Then, their new proposal will still have to make it through the Congressional approval hoops.

The problem is that during an election year and in a new president’s first year, not much progress is ever made in Congress. I read one article speculating that it wouldn’t be out of the question for NCLB, as it currently stands, to be in operation until 2010!

Now, here’s an interesting article:

Avoidable Losses

Published in Education Policy Analysis Archives, January 2008

“A new study by researchers at Rice University and the University of Texas-Austin, finds that the Texas public school accountability system contributes directly to low graduation rates. Each year Texas public high schools lose at least 135,000 youth prior to graduation. A disproportionate number of these are African American, Latino, and English Language Learners. This study has serious implications for the nation’s schools under the federal No Child Left Behind law, which was modeled on the Texas accountability system.”

And more…

“The study finds that high-stakes test-based accountability leads not to equitable educational possibilities for youth, but to avoidable losses of thousands of youth from the schools. These losses occur not as administrators cheat or fail to comply, but as they comply with the system as it was designed: that is, in the production of rising test scores for their schools. The study shows that as schools came under the accountability system, which uses test scores to rate schools and reward or discipline principals, large numbers of students left the school system. The exit of low-achieving students created the appearance of rising test scores and of narrowing the achievement gap between white and minority students, thus increasing schools’ ratings.”

Avoidable Losses: High-Stakes Accountability and the Dropout Crisis by L. M. McNeil, E. Coppola, J. Radigan, J. Vasquez Heilig is available at


Anonymous said...

You can talk openly about dogs without being politically incorrect. All domestic dogs, from Chihuahua to Great Dane, are a single species canis familiaris; breed genetic differences result from enforced separations by breeders/trainers over 800 years. Similarly, all humans are a single species homo sapiens; race differences resulted from separation over thousands of years by geographic barriers. Dog breeds and human races are directly analogous as sub-groups within their respective single species.
Much can be learned from studying dogs; medical science does a great deal of this to avoid experimentation on humans. The brain is no exception, as dog brain structure and information flow processes are quite similar to that in humans. Numerous dog brain studies to analyze human brain diseases/conditions are in the medical literature.
Any experienced dog breeder will acknowledge the profound influence of genetics on intelligence and behavior. Traits such as trainability, aggression, are highly heritable and difficult to modify. Evaluations of dog intelligence have developed breed rankings according to ease of training and reliability of correct response to learned commands (analogous to education and testing in humans). Among dog breeds, there is a huge Achievement Gap, and it is GENETIC. Ditto for humans.
Humans are not exempt from the fundamental rules of biology. For humans, there is a mountain of relevant peer-reviewed research by well-credentialed scholars; numerous key citations are available in two recent books: Hart "Understanding Human History" and Lynn "Race Differences in Intelligence." It isnt fuzzy feel-good PC information, but it is indeed solid science. The truth is not always a pleasant thang...

The Perimeter Primate said...

To enhance a baby’s intelligence, it would be wise to provide it, from the time of conception, with an environment that is abundant with nutrients and free from toxins -- physically, intellectually and emotionally. This would create the optimal human result.

Unfortunately, many children grow up in deprived environments that impact their brain structure in a negative way. Too often, parents are simply unable to provide them with anything better.

A healthy physical upbringing would mean excellent prenatal care, regular medical care, nourishing food, an absence of exposure to lead, diesel fumes and other pollutants, etc.

A healthy intellectual upbringing would mean constant exposure to an intellectually stimulating environment, being talked to and read to, etc.

A healthy emotional upbringing would mean appropriate parental response to the different developmental stages, and an emotionally healthy home life. It doesn’t take long to locate research that connects toxic home experiences with damaging effects on a child’s brain. For instance, “Children in homes where aggression is present are not only at risk of personal injury or death, but this exposure presents a wide range of psychological and physical symptoms that can be long term in duration. These children suffer from a host of side-effects including trauma symptoms, physical complaints, academic difficulties, relational complications, and they are at risk for becoming aggressors themselves in their future relationships. Individuals, especially infants and toddlers, who are exposed to the stress response over extended periods of time can suffer distinct changes in brain structure.”*

Our society would reflect an uncanny level of intelligence if it was willing to address these needs.


Anonymous said...

Intelligence and cognitive performance are hereditary. It is erroneous to suggest that low-income families in poverty and their associated poor environments *cause* poor student achievement. In general, low achieving students have inherited lesser intelligence from their parents, and those parents are not, and never could have been, wealthy brain surgeons, rocket scientists, or other well-paid professionals. It is a fact of life that less intelligent parents produce children living in lower income families and bad environments. Putting it bluntly, dumb parents don’t make good incomes. Thus it is a natural *result* that low achieving students disproportionately are found in low-income families that e.g. qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.
Genes and environment *synergize*, they are not independent variables, as in "having enough sense to come in out of the cold (less-smart people tend not to)," or having enough sense not to bear children you can't afford to provide with good nurturing environments.

The Perimeter Primate said...

So, based on results of the Texas study mentioned in this posting, perhaps the ulterior motive of NCLB is actually to drive students with low academic potential out of the school system altogether.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education, did to get noticed when he was in Texas that got him his federal appointment, mostly under-represented minorities were the dropouts. There was also pressure applied to get those with *high* academic potential (mostly white) to bail for private schools. Together, this created the statistical illusion of "closing" the Achievement Gap. Looks good on paper.
This subtle "methodology" is now becoming more widespread...
School systems are also taking these same kids and encouraging the low achievers to be absent on standardized testing days, and sending the high achievers on field trips, band competitions, etc, for the same ulterior purpose. NCLB permits 5% not taking the tests. School administrators are making sure it's the "right" 5%...