I cannot disagree that we should be angry and ashamed that the graduation rates in Louisville are so low and that we need to do something about it. But Mandy's analysis of the situation strikes me as simplistic at best. My thoughts on Mandy's comments (in bold), which focus in part on the performance of Iroquois High School, are below.
(I)f you can't graduate at least half of your student body, you should have to simply cease to exist and those kids should be absorbed into schools that can manage that feat."
This statement implies that the issue simply is the school itself, and that by closing a school and shifting hundreds of kids to other schools, the scores of these students will improve. But is a poor school the only factor in the performance of these students? Let's take a look at Iroquois' numbers versus Dupont Manual High School, one of the best in the state, as found here, on the Kentucky Department of Education's website.
Looking at the parental involvement figures for Manual vs. Iroquois, we find that Manual reports 1800 students had at least one parent/teacher conference and Manual parents volunteered 7,700 hours in the 2010/2011 school year. At Iroquois, just 150 students had parent/teacher conferences, and the total volunteer effort from parents was 45 hours. 45 hours! Digging further, we find here that Manual had 16.9% of their students on free or reduced lunch (a good indicator of students living in low income households) while Iroquois had 84.5%.
So while it is possible that moving these kids to high schools with better scores might help them, it would also seem that the issues these young people face run far deeper than the school they are attending. Educators can only be there for the child for 1/3 of the day. When you have parents who cannot or will not get involved in their children's education, it is very tough t0 produce students who achieve. Simply closing the schools these kids attend won't change the issues of parental involvement and poverty.
I think JCPS should (if they aren't already) start collecting as much data as possible about students both individually and collectively to identify the common characteristics that run through the schools and students that are underachieving and those that are excelling. These results can be used to measure the impacts of changes made within our school system to determine where and how changes need to be made. All of these results should be presented to the public at large to explain the reality of JCPS' situation without any whitewash.
Whatever decisions we make should be based on information, not the supposition we know what's wrong and how to fix it.
But please, for the love of pete, please stop fighting any attempts to offer parents a choice in the form of charter schools. If you really care about the children like I believe you do, classroom teachers, then I ask you to consider fostering a system that meets the needs of ALL children, not just the ones lucky enough to draw the long straw in the busing lottery. Charter schools are not perfect, but if a charter school shared the same statistics as some of our persistently low achieving schools, they WOULD cease to exist.
I agree 100% that a school system should meet the needs of all children. But if only 150 parents show up to a parent-teacher conference in a school where the kids are failing, how can we be sure those same parents will have enough involvement to steer their kids into charter schools? Will we have enough spaces for them all? And will charter schools get results that are any better than our current failing schools? Charter schools have had mixed success, with some doing very well, and others failing compared to their public counterparts. A Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) study determined that while some charter schools do better than a regular public school, the majority do the same or worse.
Mandy Connell and I both agree that we need to do better for our kids. I would hope that Mandy, her fellow hosts at WHAS radio, as well as the media at large would start focusing on the schools in a way that fosters a real discussion about the challenges facing the school system, and not just focus on rehashing the same simplistic criticisms and magic solutions that we continually hear about.