The U.S. News and World Report rankings are out and the information is as irrelevant as ever, although that hardly stops the media from grabbing the magazine and rubbing all over their bodies to produce some kind of Axe Effect.
But on this blog we take any information that we can get and start to make educated deductions. So I decided to take the information from my high school (Ukiah High) and the biggest local charter school (Redwood Academy) and do a little comparison examination. This isn’t a knock on the local charter at all. But I think some information and analysis should be scrutinized if we are looking to change course in education.
Lets start with a basic overview of Redwood Academy.
Impressive! Ukiah gets some recognition from a survey that primarily looks at Advanced Placement participation and test scores, and it looks like Redwood is getting the job done!
Now Ukiah High.
Back to the drawing board. Like most schools in the U.S., especially public non-charters, we don’t seem to be getting the job done.
Ok, then let’s look at who we-the-teachers are serving. After all, it’s about them, all of them, in the end.
Sounds about right. Half the school is a minority population, although that is no excuse for not getting kids better prepared. Over 50% of that population is Economically Disadvantaged; again not an excuse for not doing better. But hey, want to hear a frightening statistic? We have four counselors trying to meet the need of all those kids. Because, you know, money doesn’t really matter in education or something.
Ok, enough of that. Redwood Academy?
That’s not quite as much as Ukiah High. And the 9th grade rise could mean a couple of things; either a rise in overall enrollment or a sharp decline after they start high school. I looked at enrollment in middle school grades and they are all around 30. At least Redwood is serving a significant diversity of population; what with two kids designated Special Education and two kids designated Migrant Ed. Wow.
But the real proof is in the pudding, so on to Advanced Placement information! Ukiah High.
Two things stand out here. First, not enough students are taking the tests. Even though we have more tests being taken this year than every before, not enough students are taking them. There are plenty of reasons for that with money on the top of the list. Hell, over half my Seniors are taking the AP Test and some that I KNOW would get high scores won’t take it because it doesn’t impact their college credits. That’s fine by me. But a large and healthy public institution should have twice that amount taking the tests. The second thing that stands out is that the students that are motivated to take AP tests do very well.
So it looks like a higher percentage of students at the school take AP tests, and by higher percentage it means that the number of students taking AP tests in the Junior class is going to be less than the number of students taking the test in my AP U.S. History class. And they don’t do as well on the exams. Well, there goes the theory of class sizes.
So what can we take out of this whole report?
Well, I don’t have loathing for Redwood Academy if that’s what you think. But this fawning all over the U.S. News high school report card really needs to stop because all it does to hump an inequity that exists in education; charters teach who they want and public schools don’t have that choice. It’s simple to point to schools that have different rules and exempt significant portions of the population, and then call them “wonderful” and give them “silver medals”, and so on and so forth.
I’ll say this again; either let public schools follow the same rules as charters (thus creating a permanent under-class in society and creating a caste system), or make charters serve under the same public mandate (this creating a smaller public school). Otherwise we are just avoiding the problem of educating the entire population of kids.