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NCLB Outrages

Reporting of Ohio NCLB test scores

From Monty Neill: Jan Resseger of the United Church of Christ does an excellent job of dissecting race and class implications of Ohio's 'adequate yearly testing' report, with some questions others should ask as they review their state's reports.

Ohanian Comment: This religious group is doing what the PTA should be doing, what teacher unions and professional organizations should be doing.

by Janice Resseger

In the ninth of its Ten Moral Concerns in the No Child Left Behind Act the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy declares:

The No Child Left Behind Act exacerbates racial and economic segregation in metropolitan areas by rating homogeneous, wealthier school districts as excellent, while labeling urban districts with far more subgroups and more complex demands made by the law as 'in need of improvement.' Such labeling of schools and districts encourages families with means to move to wealthy, homogeneous school districts.

This morning, mid-week of the beginning of school in most local school districts, the Ohio Department of Education released its state school district report cards based on the annual standardized test scores mandated by NCLB. This morning the Plain Dealer reports grades assigned to school districts, grades ranging from "Excellent with Distinction" to "Excellent" to "Effective" to "Continuous Improvement" to "Academic Watch" to "Academic Emergency." Youngstown is the only district in the state with the dismal distinction of Academic Emergency. The newspaper uses letter grades --- A, B, C, D, F --- as shorthand.

The "Excellent with Distinction" districts are for the most part outer-suburbs. Many are actually so far out they are not in Cuyahoga County itself but in Lake, Geauga, Summit, Medina, and Lorain Counties. Some are in the horsey country on Cleveland's far-east side. The "Excellent with Distinction" districts are uniformly wealthy and uniformly white.

In "Academic Watch" are Cleveland and Lorain, as well as East Cleveland and Warrensville Heights, two inner suburbs that have resegregated. Superintendents from several districts try to explain away their scores as they are interviewed --- problems with the special education subgroup, for example.

Clearly NCLB has not helped schools in our area region break the nexus between low achievement and hyper-segregation by race and poverty. Nowhere, however, does the Plain Dealer name this disturbing trend. Rather, it treats the ratings as letter grades awarded for school district quality. The message is that you ought to move your family, if you can afford it, to one of the outer-ring, excellent districts because that is the only place where a good education can be had.

Interestingly, the data published on the Plain Dealer site also allows the reader to search for and read the report card for each charter school, although those ratings are not covered in any of the reporting by the newspaper. Here is a sampling:

Charters well known to be high-quality do receive good ratings: Citizen's Academy—Excellent, Intergenerational School—Excellent, and Constellation West Park—Effective.

Hope Academy Broadway Campus (a David Brennan school) is rated in Academic Emergency with 0 standards met. Life Skills Center Cleveland (another David Brennan school) is rated Continuous Improvement with 0 standards met (the nature of this school's improvement remains a mystery). The Elite Academy of the Arts is rated Academic Emergency with 0 standards met, and Apex Academy is on Academic Watch with 1 standard met.

Important questions the newspaper fails to explore include:

  • What does it mean that the 'excellent' and 'effective' schools and districts are far out in the suburbs?

  • Why fail to report (in the printed version of the newspaper) or explore the test scores posted by charter schools if the traditional public schools are to be so graded?

  • Will there be any consequences for the charter schools that fail to meet even one standard?

  • I know this material is likely merely another version of what you are seeing in your own region, but I believe it is important for us to pay attention to what we see and understand locally. It is important that we insist on the naming of the truth.

    Ms. Jan Resseger
    Minister for Public Education and Witness
    Justice and Witness Ministries

    — Jan Ressenger
    United Church of Christ


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