Monday, February 11, 2008

what's average?

On Friday I left my crazy bus driver and my jumpers to have dinner with my husband at C-PAC (those of you who know me know we have a bipartisian marriage and so he comes to jump rope events and international dinners with me, I go to republican dinners with him. It's a fair and balanced life we lead. I of course, win fancy dinners from this, and he wins attending non-English speaking funerals and eating homemade South American food in a elementary school cafateria).

The keynote speaker was George Will, whom, despite any political leanings, I love. He had many brilliant points, but one was the unquestionable fact that "50% of America's children are below average" and there is no way to argue with simple math.

This, of course, is true. By definition, average, no matter how high average falls, half of participants will be below, and half above.

So, when looking at this under NCLB, one has to ask, if our goal for our children is to bring everyone up to the same place of achievement, that place must then be, below average. But the more we increase the line, the higher what is average will grow, continuing to keep 50% of children below average. Half of our children will continue to be below average, despite how much we hate the way that sounds. So is focusing on the one number of achievenment we want all children to meet really the best method of success for our kids? It means that for half of them we are focusing on a line that is below average, and for some we are focusing on blowing a bell-curve that mathematically is impossible to blow.

I just woke up from a nap as I came home sick today, still not over the grosness of the cold possibly flu. Now I'm trying to wake myself up for grad school, so I realize my thoughts are not put together yet. But Will's comments struck me as true. We need to look at the way we measure success in the public schools, how we want to track it, and the best way to reach it. I just don't think AYP goals do that in any sort of way.

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