I think this title sucks, but what about the message?
Claim: Brockton High School has moved from being unsuccessful to successful in spite of its size, “proving” that size doesn’t matter (tee hee). This contradicts “certain education circles” that believe small schools are a useful reform tool (to be transparent, I fall into this category…I personally find it much easier to build a positive learning community in a place where people know each other).
After reading, I think the message it also pretty lousy. In a two page article, the following is the evidence given for how the school was previously unsuccessful: “[a decade ago] only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams. One in three dropped out.”
Pretty damning. Evidence of improvement? This is it. All of it. “In 2001 testing, more students passed the state tests after failing the year before than at any other school in Massachusetts. The gains continued. This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools.”
Don’t get me wrong. This is an improvement worth commending. Regardless of where you stand on the importance or measure of state assessments, it’s no small feat to make this kind of improvement. But the skeptic in me didn’t linger long in this success. What about the dropout rates? Here’s an interesting article from the local newspaper that appears to contradict the “one in three dropped out” fact and claim that, in fact, the drop out rate was lower in 1997-1998 than last year (about 3.5%). I guess it is possible that both of these statements are “correct” since drop out rates are notorious for statistical meddling.
Most of the remainder of the article talked about how these reforms were put in place which, again with the transparency thing, some of which made me cringe. The sole example of a math lesson: “Bob Perkins, the math department chairman, used a writing lesson last week in his Introduction to Algebra II class. He wrote ‘3 + 72 - 6 x 3 – 11’ on the board, then asked students to solve the problem in their workbooks and to explain their reasoning, step by step, in simple sentences. ‘I did the exponents first and squared the 7,’ wrote Sharon Peterson, a junior. ‘I multiplied 6 x 3. I added 3 + 49, and combined 18 and 11, because they were both negatives. I ended up with 52-29. The final answer was 23.’ Some students had more trouble, and the lesson seemed to drag a bit.”
Really? Drag a bit? Please shoot me now. Oh, keeping with the theme of transparency, I should say that I think this ‘lesson’ is worse than useless from a mathematical or a writing perspective. Alas.
“It had become dogma that smaller was better, but there was no evidence,” said Mr. Driscoll, who since 2007 has headed the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees federal testing.
Nice logic buddy. Test scores now > test scores ten years ago imply large school = good. Ergo, small school ≠ better.
Ack. Apology for all the snark.