That site pretty much explains the make up of the school I teach at, and pretty much refutes everything bureaucrats say we need to do to improve education. These are our results on the statewide competency test given last Spring compared to the statewide average. To be fair, this is the first year this particular test was used. The gap between our school and the statewide average was never quite this large, but I think that is probably because most schools taught to the old test rather than just teaching.
Reading IDEA Academy State Average
Grade 4 78% 65%
Grade 5 86% 49%
Grade 6 91% 49%
Grade 7 93% 47%
Grade 8 98% 45%
Grade 4 87% 74%
Grade 5 87% 69%
Grade 6 87% 49%
Grade 7 91% 35%
Grade 8 91% 33%
Notice students get stronger the longer they are here. Some information about our school compared to the state average:
Teacher Experience--well below average
Average Teacher Salary--below average
Class Size--larger than average
Student Ethnicity--94% Hispanic, 5% White, 1% Native American
Economically Disadvantaged--88% (compared to a state average of 50%--most of our students live in colonias in homes their parents have built one room at a time out of cinderblock)
Mobility Rate--27% (percentage of kids moving during the school year--mostly migrant farmworkers)
Expenditures per pupil--$4047 (compared to a state average of $6167)
So we have inexperienced teachers who aren't paid well, teaching classes that are too large, made up of poor minority students, all the while spending 1/3 less than the state average per pupil. What makes us successful? Several things.
1. Teacher dedication--most of our teachers are from Teach for America and they all believe that every child will learn. That alone makes a huge difference. You can't imagine the number of teachers you meet at conferences who say things like, "You can't expect every kid to be able to read on grade level". If you are interested, check out the documentary "The First Year" which follows a couple of TFA teachers in their first year of teaching. .
2. Time on task--we are at school from 7:30 to 5:00 Monday through Friday, and from 9:00 to 1:00 on Saturdays (for those who need tutoring).
3. Parent support--Our parents are great. They back our decisions and discipline. For example, we have a program we call Wall Street. Students who come to school without all of their homework completed for that day stay after school until they finish the homework they came without, plus that days work. Parents then have to come pick up the kids when they are done. This is quite a difficulty for some of these parents, yet they support the program because they know how important it is to hold their kids responsible.
I guess I'll stop ranting now. I had an arguement Saturday with an administrator from another school who insisted Hispanic students will never succeed until money is spent to provide more technology in the classroom. Money is not the answer.