Yes, the public schools do need fixing

If you want to work for the betterment of public education, you get used to a certain amount of smack talk.  But when the sniping goes so far as to deny that we do have profound problems and inequities in our schools, then it goes too far.

Let’s go into this step by step, using one example: third grade reading.

Here are some sample questions from Washington’s third-grade Measure of Student Progress. It is not a difficult test.  I think it’s safe to assert that most parents would be pretty perturbed if their 8-year-olds couldn’t pass it.

But if you look at the state data from last year, you find that one in five Seattle Public School third graders- at least 820 children – did not meet standard on the test in 2013.

That’s disturbing in itself and there are piles of depressing, peer-reviewed research that show that kids who aren’t proficient in third grade reading face huge obstacles to ever catching up to their peers. They are estimated to be four times as likely to drop out of high school.

Take a closer look at the data and you’ll find the kids in this predicament are disproportionately African-American, poor, and/or are getting special education services for something. (The vast majority of kids in special education have typical intellects.)

These are real kids whom the system has failed. Fantasizing that the need for school reform is a lie concocted by those who want to privatize education does not help them.


-Fiona Cohen


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