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Economic Disadvantage vs. School Effectiveness
Tennessee Elementary Schools – 2010
Are we getting the whole story about how much our kids are learning in school?
Not long ago, I read an online letter from an angry parent. She said my kids (ages 10 and 12) are bright, they get “A”s and “B”s in most subjects, but neither of them can spell, write a correct sentence, summarize readings accurately, or organize their thoughts on paper. My 7th grader had only two English assignments this semester and they were “collaborative.”
I sent my children to the public school trusting that they would come out with the skills they need to become productive adults. Now, I worry that I made a big mistake.
I know other parents who have similar concerns. Their kids get good report cards but don’t really seem to be learning. For example, one had a son who finished high school with a “B” average but did so badly on the ACT that he had to take several remedial courses in college.
Good grades reflect real learning only if a school’s standards are high. Parents assume that they are adequate but how do they know?
In truth, it’s hard for a parent to know what kind of education their child is getting because most parents aren’t experts and almost everything they know about their schools comes from the schools themselves. Not surprisingly, almost all of it is favorable. Even the educational accountability reports published by the state typically do not make it easy for users to compare and evaluate local schools. Often, they are like financial reports: useful mainly to experts.
Parents and communities need a way to learn about their schools that is independent of the perspective presented by the schools themselves. Parents and taxpayers are education’s consumers and the schools are its producers. Each has a unique set of interests.
Education Consumers Associations are a response to this need and one is now forming in our area. They are nonprofit grassroots organizations dedicated primarily to improved student learning and better preparation for college and the job market. For more information, call Jane Doe at 555-your-number or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org