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   Make no mistake, Minnesota has some awesome high schools producing state, national, and even world leaders. The yearly U.S. News rankings of America's top High schools are out. The usual suspects top the list, along with a few surprises.

     Minneapolis Southwest is the top High School in Minnesota and in the top 200 nationwide, out of tens of thousands of high schools. Pretty impressive. A funny thing happens though, when you use subsets of test scores for judging schools, and in essence their teachers. You see, the number 1 high school in the state has been labeled a failure for at least six straight years. Tests are wonderful for guiding day to day instruction, and improving teaching, and focusing efforts, but used to make high stakes decisions about closing schools?

   Luckily for them, Southwest does not receive Federal Title 1 Funds. If they did, they would have been closed down four years ago! I will say that again for emphasis. If the #1 High School in Minnesota just had a few more poor kids, they would have shut it down years ago.

   Saint Paul Central is another great, urban school. It is ranked fifth in the state. Test scores tells us that the fifth best school in Minnesota has been a failure for at least six years. Again, there are not enough poor kids at Central, otherwise they would have been shut down. St. Louis Park, Eastview in Apple Valley, TrekNorth in Bemidji, and Eagan are all also massive failures based on test scores, but top ten. All in all, more than half of the top ten are made up of NCLB failures.

    The only Title 1 School in the top ten is TrekNorth in Bemidji. They have a large poor, and Native American population. They are an amazing school. Because of our obsession with test scores they are on the verge of being shut down. Luckily for most of the top ten, they will never be punished. Their kids will not be disrupted. Their staff will not be fired en masse. If you have enough poor kids though, you can be top ten and shut down.Please tell me the general public can see the insanity of this obsession with test scores? Please tell me you understand that the teachers of Southwest are just as big of heroes as at Edina? Please tell me you don't think the staff at our #1 school should be fired en masse like they do to Title 1 schools.

Crossposted at MN Progressive Project

Originally posted to AlecMN on Tue May 08, 2012 at 06:49 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What I can tell you is (37+ / 0-)

    NCLB is an enormous fail b/c it was implemented by a so-called businessman who brought a big FAIL to every business he ever ran...

    and because schools are NOT businesses and need to be run with the kids' needs in mind...not the for-profit mentality.

    Osiris save us from the GOP and all their failed policies.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Tue May 08, 2012 at 07:00:56 PM PDT

  •  Somewhat tangential but ironic in its way: (19+ / 0-)

    The other day someone passed along to me an Oct. 2011 copy of Town & Country magazine (a lifestyle monthly aimed at the wealthy and their wannabees).

    On p. 50, it described a recently established "Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches," a private secondary school founded by

    Billionaire energy magnate Bill Koch (brother of David and Charles)
    at a cost of
    $50 million of Koch's own money...To avoid sending his children off to East Coast prep schools...
    According to T&C, the Koch academy
    CURRICULUM SHUNS: Memorization, tests.
    And public schools are being forced in the other direction why?
  •  More details needed (4+ / 0-)

    Why would these schools be shut down?  To be sure, the US News rankings are non-governmental, just one publisher's opinions, but clearly those schools are doing a good job for most of their students.   So are they merely failing in one of their subsets, for example, special ed students?

    If the school fails in a subset, I doubt it would be shut down.  While Minneapolis has other (obviously inferior) schools, St. Louis Park and the other smaller towns would not allow themselves to have no high school!

    I do know that a school my kids went to -- an excellent one -- got zinged because its special ed students did not pass tests designed for non-special ed students.  And NCLB doesn't care if they're doing the best they can.  The law in general sucks big time.  But the diary may be exaggerating the impact.

  •  Why does it not surprise me (7+ / 0-)

    that the biggest failure in the history of American educational administration was foisted upon us by one of the biggest failures in American education (and government, and politics, and military leadership)? Thanks, George, you duuchebag..

    Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able; in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table - Steely Dan

    by OrdinaryIowan on Tue May 08, 2012 at 09:10:35 PM PDT

  •  This shoudl scare us (10+ / 0-)

    We now have a law that seems designed to prevent the majority of American children from receiving a quality education.  I see the long term effects of this in our college classrooms, children who have survived the NCLB system are not prepared for college. From Dictatorship to Democracy, Guide to Non Violent Protests.

    by sdelear on Tue May 08, 2012 at 10:20:55 PM PDT

  •  The secret is out! NCLB sets impossible standards (12+ / 0-)

    so public education can be labelled a failure and abolished. If you can afford to pay for education, you'll make pols and their pals a profit; if not, tough beans, dumb kids are less likely to see thru Republican lies anyway.

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Wed May 09, 2012 at 03:30:09 AM PDT

  •  and private sector schools... immune...? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arlene, papercut, maf1029

    I seem to recall that the replacement academies/charters etc. can be woeful and fail in more substantive ways compared to often generally successful schools they replace... but in contrast do not have to measure up to the same standards exactly and since they are structured to meet tests almost entirely they are also "helped" to fudge results... those who shape and grade the tests have a vested interest in the whole process so results are not going to actually reflect what kids are really learning fundamentally... or how effective teachers are... merely that rigged standards are measured in rigged ways for the preferred business model.

    One size fits all education only appears to work if the suppliers of the one size also "critique" the reviews of it and control the measures of success. When profits rule above all the people who have placed themselves to dictate them will work to evolve all social and economic factors to maximize those profits and that includes control of the feedback on how well it is doing and or concealing or spinning the harm the profit taking overreach inflicts. It all boils down to yet another variation on a social iniquity as old as mankind:

    "What is good for me is VERY good for me and it is also good for you because I say so".  

    Self interest of the 1% trumps reality or the experience/needs of everyone else... and they will do it every time they can. And as we all see that point is reached when they achieve a certain level of control or orchestration/coordination over the key sectors of any country: information, politics, religion, and more... and key to that is effective monopolization of energy and media along with enough of the health industry, retailing of food and necessities plus other utilities, transportation and very importantly the financial sector. Some they will always have an advantage in but when they use those as leverage to link up and control the rest and take away any veto power, any substantive input and feedback from regular voters/citizens... well then they just do what works for them and decide that it is just fine for everyone else. And if what they decide also happens to concentrate power even further and effectively disenfranchise everyone else? So much for the better since the wise Oligarchs understand all these things so much better than everyone else.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Wed May 09, 2012 at 04:17:07 AM PDT

    •  This needs to be a poster.... (0+ / 0-)

      .... or a slogan:

      One size fits all education only appears to work if the suppliers of the one size also "critique" the reviews of it and control the measures of success.
      You have earned a cookie.

      "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." - Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées, #894

      by maf1029 on Wed May 09, 2012 at 11:04:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Setting up public schools to fail is a feature of (9+ / 0-)

    NCLB, not a bug.

    Let's go back to E Pluribus Unum

    by hazzcon on Wed May 09, 2012 at 05:38:04 AM PDT

  •  The lie of NCLB and Educational measurments (8+ / 0-)

    Here's an anecdote on one way tests and grades are imperfect...
    (and ultimately more implications on why teach to the test and over-reliance on tests is harmful)

    A schoolmate of mine years ago in High School took  Chemistry in 12th grade from the best and toughest Chemistry teacher in the school... the best students got her class and my friend got a "C"... he later took the SAT achievement text and got a maximum score... perfect 800...

    Now this could conceal quite a few variables in what led to those results... Was it a very weak "C" (barely avoided a "D"... or was it a strong "C"? just missed a "B" due to perhaps illness or a fluke?) Or he could have studied intensively for the SAT to make up for his grade (but he did not)... an SAT is not the same as a class which has Lab work as well... but without knowing the coursework a student will not be able to get reliable results in Labwork... And the SAT text might have been a not very well thought out test that year that did not really help differentiate the really exceptional students... lots of students with weaker grades may have done VERY well on it. And beyond all the above are probably more variables that I can't even guess at.

    Tests are useful but only up to a point... they are not and cannot serve as a be all and end all for human beings; rigid formulas work great on an assembly line or in pure science, but in the messier side of reality and human variation they can only be part of the larger picture.

    And of course a"C" from some teachers is better than a higher grade from a less effective teacher but what good is that on a high school transcript with your College application? (and to be fair it might have been an AP class he was in...) and getting an 800 in an SAT Achievement test does not automatically equate with a person getting an "A" in the Chemistry class but still... the clumsiness, inexactness of the measures is a feature of being human and trying to compare people and their knowledge/attainments.

    To complicate matters the teacher had a reputation for playing games with her tests to the point that they did not exactly measure what kids had learned but more to highlight just how clever she was compared to the students... Now a teacher that challenges their students and sets high standards is the ideal... but if it makes them all seem like they are not measuring up, do they do right by their students compared to others under other teachers where students seem to get better grades?...  

    Did people learn more in her class or instead more specifically learn to deal with the added stress of playing her games (if that is what they were...) but in so doing not learn all that much more than say from another good teacher with a less pointlessly challenging approach? Either way the grades did not come with an asterisk explaining it also included unquantifiable coping with additional teacher specific obstacles. And even the most careful and thoughtful college admissions processes are crude and will always admit both hits and misses... (the less stellar students that bloom in college and equally the apparent stars that inexplicably fail are proof of that)

    And this is a quandary that should always be with us because of the nature of people and education. trying to evaluate the apples and oranges nature of any multi-source ratings jungle is not magically curable by one controlled by private businesses... and any attempt to do so will only create new problems and worsen others.

    Under-marking or over-marking by teachers has always been an issue and I suppose NCLB fans imagined it would be cleverly leveling the playing field with universal standards when it was actually warping and degrading the educational playing field in many unintended ways.... The "Procrustean Bed" approach to any problem is always destructive in the end. Chopping and forcing to fit the formula or arbitrary goal always ends up maiming the supposed beneficiaries in some way... and it always gets taken too far: "if a little chopping does some good then keep chopping or stretching because more of the same will be even better.. a slight course correction gets jammed into one heading that precludes all the other normal adjustments and it is full speed ahead to one preferential goal. And of course achieving the business goals then take precedence; regardless of the students the investors in the business will ensure profits at all costs.

    As happens so often a half-witted zealot with a "big idea" gets bankrolled as a front-man to sell what opportunists come to see as a great new opportunity to be monopolistic middle-men taking a cut of the action in a huge sector of the economy that they previously did not have much of a siphon on. And some of those who seek to profit from it will believe or half believe the alleged new ideas behind it or just mouth the notions to help push the action but the front men are true believers who really believe the nonsense. The truth is that what they sell is internally logical and spun to the point where being against it seems inhuman but it is blind to important parts of human nature and reality so is doomed to failure...

    And as is always the case with so many supposedly hot ideas from conservatives, NCLB is a mostly warmed over updated version of old ideas. It is like the A levels and O level tests in England which mostly served to perpetuate their class divisions and helped keep the ruling class in its position. And not surprisingly NCLB translates as "No (poor) child left behind the herd being guided to guaranteed dead ends and virtually guaranteed lower class status"... or more simply/honestly... rearrange the two middle letters... so it is NLCB... or "No lower class benefit"... That is: strip away elements that help education benefit all and allow more  upward mobility for those who have the potential... with the pretense that any minorities etc who do well are being "given" a fake achievement and could not do well without that. And those who totally buy into that lie deny it is a protect the second rate of the dominant and suppress the best of the rest.

    And of course like literacy tests for voting in the not so old South... those who control the tests and the spin of those tests, control the results; that is, those who control what questions are asked and how they are asked control the debate and the perceived reality... And like them the rating of schools will always play out in ways the NCLB and for profit schools prefer. And this question control formula is universal, just ask any propaganda ministry or FOX (but I repeat myself) So too, look at Rasmussen who play that angle very in their specialty... with the added problem of not monopolizing the polling game (just on FOX etc.)

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Wed May 09, 2012 at 05:49:40 AM PDT

    •  Much easier to administer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maf1029, susanala, Minnesota Deb

      a test to put the onus on educators than to address economic issues that foster poverty.  Because addressing economic issues means "I" might make less profit.

      "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

      by newfie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 08:53:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Reminds me of when my wife who graduated (0+ / 0-)

      cum laude from a Seven Sisters college in the 60's went to a local state university a decade ago for another master's degree, and nearly wasn't accepted since almost all their applicants had vastly inflated 4.0 GPA's.  A 3.0 GPA is a failing grade now. Times have changed to the point where grades and test scores no longer hold meaning.  Sad.  And sadder for the kids whose actual worth cannot be evaluated by the criteria that count these days.  Perhaps saddest for the teachers and schools that are doing their damnedest to provide a good education and getting downgraded for the effort.

      Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

      by triplepoint on Wed May 09, 2012 at 01:39:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It shouldn't surprise anybody (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nada Lemming, maf1029

    If all the kids are already above average, where the hell do you go from there?

    The New Crap-Load of Bullshit is the same as the old, but with bigger opportunities for profit.  

  •  Why did you post this here? (0+ / 0-)

    This should be in EVERY newspaper and newsblog in the country.

    Conservatives need to realize that their Silent Moral Majority is neither silent, nor moral, nor a majority.

    by nominalize on Wed May 09, 2012 at 06:51:00 AM PDT

  •  Off-topic but on the data... (0+ / 0-)

    It will forever pain me to see Edina top St. Louis Park in any set of rankings.  Go Orioles!

  •  NCLB: back-door to state-subsidized religious (5+ / 0-)

    indoctrination. IMO, NCLB was designed to create failing schools because of the way a school fails if a cohort w/in the school fails. I believe the goal is to eventually replace public education w/ vouchers. Now the thing about vouchers is that they rarely if ever pay enough for most good private and parochial schools. As a result, either parents have to use the vouchers at sub-standard private and parochial schools or pay out of pocket to make up the difference.

    I actually worked for an outside vendor that was contracted by the Archdiocese of Boston to teach computer skills to elementary and junior h.s. students. I worked in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and South Boston. The worst school of the three was in Southie. The kids were virtually all white and the school library was so out of date that they had books that pre-dated the moon landing and I was working there in 1999-2001.

    •  I'm not sure the true intent is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      State-subsidized religious schools.  I think that vouchers is a means toward achieving the true intent - privatizing all (or most) education. Catholics (mostly) are being used to gain momentum.  If I can energize Catholics on the voucher deal and get that momentum to take hold while creating more private enterprises for charter systems then at some point I can do away with most public funding of education.  

      At that point then you will see all charter schools, parochial schools and private schools.  The wealthiest will ALL send kids to the private schools.  Then they will tire of paying taxes in support of charters and vouchers.   Then those funds will be capped or reduced resulting in more direct costs for the parochial and charter systems.  Parochial schools would then quickly return to their current rapidly diminishing status.  We'll be left with a handful of parochial schools, a host of competing charters of varying costs AND standards and private schools for the wealthy.  The main difference being PROFIT for education companies and a capping or eventual elimination of taxes going to education.

      "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

      by newfie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 09:11:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  grr (0+ / 0-)

        I hate preview because I skip over it too fast.  I original wrote "the voucher system is" and then de-worded it down to "vouchers" without changing the "is".  Sister Mary tabernacle-door-half-open would be ashamed.

        "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

        by newfie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 09:14:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  this sounds like a definition of insanity n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nada Lemming

    the future begins

    by zozie on Wed May 09, 2012 at 07:16:39 AM PDT

  •  Tests and tests (0+ / 0-)

    Is this just an argument about which set of tests is better—NCLB vs. whatever tests USNWR uses to determine reading or math proficiency? Would everything be hunky-dory if only NCLB switched to another set of tests? [Speaking of which, I notice that the USNWR ranking isn't an apples:apples comparison, as some schools are rated using AP and others using the IB].

  •  NCLB judges schools by what they don't do, not by (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maf1029, Minnesota Deb

    their success.  Any amount of failure is labeled total failure.  The grading scale as of 2014 will be only 100% passes -- everything less is failure.  So 99% success is failure.

    Because the goal is to label American public schools as failures - all of them, so the Repubs can destroy the faith of Americans in their public institutions and convince them to privatize schools.  It's a scurrilous sham, but if you read what the average American thinks about teachers and schools, it is succeeding very nicely.  

    Will they wake up before it's too late and we destroy our public education system?

  •  The goal (0+ / 0-)

    I disagree. It is the poor state of public education, i.e., the large numbers of poorly educated students it has turned out for many decades, that over and again leads to attempts at educational reform. The goal on all sides is to get something for the vast amount of money we pour into public education. Privatization and charter schools did not come out of nowhere; they arose from the accurate perception that the public schools were, to coin a phrase, leaving a lot of kids behind. The NCLB tests may suck, but then that's first of all an argument for better tests.

    This is, indeed, what the average American thinks. I think they are correct in their perception. I think so, too—and I've taught junior high through college for over 35 years.

    •  Try providing excellent teaching with no budget. (0+ / 0-)

      Try teaching in California, in other words. Most teachers in "good" school districts have to struggle to implement the curriculum, because school funding is way down from what it was when I was in k-12 (1956-68), relative to the costs of education. This is a direct result of Prop 13's tax-cutting initiative (thank you GOP). California used to have the top per-pupil spending, it is now #49, I believe.

      You may blame the educational system. I blame the rich who have gone out of their way for at least 30 years to make sure that public education is underfunded.

  •  Thank the goddess that... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Governor Mark Dayton finally got us exempted from NCLB...

  •  NCLB has left our children behind! (0+ / 0-)
  •  Is this just an excuse to bust Teachers Unions? (0+ / 0-)

    I didn't realize this was how NCLB was structured... but it's been one of the GOP goals for years to END TENURE for teachers.

    They couldn't do that through legitimate means, so it looks like they've figured out a backdoor way to do it: "Fail" the majority of schools, fire ALL the teachers, and "reorganize".

    Brilliant. And evil.

  •  I wish Obama would "evolve" in regards to his (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Minnesota Deb

    stance on education policy... like he did in regards to his stance on gay marriage!  

    Critics of NCLB and related efforts have been sounding the alarm bells for decades now.  It is all part of the larger movement over the last three decades to kill any social safety nets and programs that support the "commons".  

    It is really quite transparent.  Obama must know all this.  All of those in powerful places understand this, I believe.  We have been attacked from within on many fronts.  It isn't that hard to understand.  When will Obama and other leaders see and act CLEARLY and WITH COURAGE?  The time if now!

    Those who are out to destroy the fabric of this country will not stop on their own.  We are being called on to strip them of power.  

    I honor Obama in many ways, but would forgive him even more than I already have if he would "out" those who are using "accountability" to set up schools to fail.  Except those that serve the elite portions of our society, of course.  

    My husband is a public school teacher and morale is at an all-time low I can assure you!  

    I hope this diary gets read by a lot of people.  The point it is making is very dramatic and powerful.  Thank you to the author of this diary!

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