Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's the Schools, Stupid.

Is it the school? Or is it the student? That's a frequently-heard debate when we talk about the failures of public education.

No one's simplistic enough to say it's all one or all the other. But this recent story in the Denver Post may help shine a little more light on the subject. It strongly suggests that freeing kids from failing schools can boost their performance, which doesn't exonerate lazy parents but does point an accusing finger back in the direction of lousy schools.

Here's the Post:

"Students from schools in Denver that were closed two years ago in a reform effort are performing better academically in their new schools, according to a district analysis.
In 2007, Denver Public Schools shut down eight elementary schools and announced the revamping of programs at five schools in a sweeping reform meant to reduce facility costs and improve student achievement.

The analysis of individual student scores from the 2008-09 Colorado Student Assessment Program shows that, at least initially, the effort is working.

The 2,000 affected students made more academic growth in their new schools in reading, writing and math than they did in the schools they left behind, according to DPS."

"Closing and reconfiguring schools is very difficult and a very painful process; we must keep our focus on what is best for the students," DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg told the Post. "Here, it is very clear that the students benefited from these changes."

This won't end the schools vs. students (and parents) debate, of course. But it does mean that the public education establishment can't convincingly argue that they are blameless when children fall through the cracks. The quality of the school obviously matters. And we're doing kids a great disservice when we don't ruthlessly eliminate those schools that aren't making the grade.

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