Friday, May 13, 2005

Friggin' Idiots

I was busy working on another post and simultaneously trying not to erupt while reading Newsweek's Top 1,000 Public High Schools in the Country list and story. It wasn't working. Who are these idiots that put this list together? Their sole criterium, their only measurement for whether or not a school fits the ranking is based on one single ratio: the amount of Advanced Placement (AP) and / or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken divided by the number of graduating seniors. Granted, the study doesn't allow for so-called cheating schools where the student population is picked based on scores, essays, etc. That would explain the exclusion of my alma mater and several other top-performing Chicago Public High Schools. But the very nature of the test also doesn't factor in economic factions, such as poverty-levels (of which the heretofore mentioned Whitney Young ranks high on) and amount of funds the school system is allocated. Of course, that may also explain why, on a cursory reading, I saw only five (5) schools from Illinois, the tenth most inhabited state with the 49th smallest education budget (Whether or not that's per capita, I don't know. I'm too lazy and tired to do some real research on it.) within the top 500. That's inhumanely low.

The criteria also doesn't factor in individual schools' own interior placements. Many of the schools listed here have several dungeon classes to clear the way for the better and brighter students (yes, sarcasm) to excel and breathe and shine and make the school seem better and brighter. Actually, that's systematic. My school had an extended ward of sorts for the hearing impaired, but besides that, everybody who got in had to meet the school's rigorous testing standards, some of the toughest in the city. Which kept out a lot of friends that I went to grade school with. Well, of all three or four from my graduating class that were invited to take the tests, I was the only one who passed and allowed entrance. The fact that everybody who was allowed to escape the academic 'dungeon' and gang-related nastiness of the local high school (Roberto Clemente, the one I now love and rave about so much in all its glory and gory) and was able to get to one of the finer schools in my graduating class was also in my classroom probably says a bit to you about even the elementary school culture back then and still today. We maintain that there is no more scaling (What's the word I'm looking for? It's not 'scaling.' Oh well, have to do for now.) in our school systems. That would be a bold-faced, butt-headed lie. The whole thing is scaling, curving our students so that the 'normals' are not held back by the 'specials' and the 'gifted' not held back by the 'normals.' All but one (Lincoln Park High, Chicago, which is also a testing school - although not all students are tested-in - actually ranked 31st on the list and is where I got the dungeon term from) of the schools I checked from the Ill are from affluent suburbs. Where the money roams. Now, if more money were to be allocated freely throughout the state, if say, the state rather than the county and provincial govs were to charge property taxes and were to apply them equally state-wide to primary through secondary schools based solely per capita, I can guarantee most of your upper-middle-class students would be moving out of Beverly Hills Centra High.

It's all very complicated and I'm making it seem like an 'us' v. 'them' issue. It never is. We simply want the best for our children, period. White, black, poor, middle-class-yet-struggling, rich, Latino, etc. It's just that some of us have better means to the ends. But a listing like this done by a supposedly reputable periodical like Newsweek (truth-be-told, no U.S. News & Weekly Report) is really unfair to the teachers, administrators, support staff and somewhat to the students and parents who really pour their all into their schooling environments. No, I'm not referring to the fantasies of Dangerous Minds or Stand and Deliver any more than I am those of The Substitute or School of Rock. I'm referring to everyday practitioners who put out day after day after day and are actually making a difference in their charges' lives, irregardless of whether or not the students get on their desks and call out to their "Capitain" or a slight majority of them have completed their AP tests.

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