Friday Five

Five links that made us think this week
Friday, November 16, 2012

The new education commissioner in Austin, TexasMichael Williamsis implementing a new school rating system that will focus on rating schools across four indicators rather than rating them based solely on students' performance on standardized tests. According to Williams, this will be a more effective measure of schools' “progress in closing the gap for minority and economically disadvantaged students.” It’s interesting, in my opinion, that in a state that is “60 percent black and brown,” Williams is still classifying African Americans and Hispanics as minorities.

Virginia’s State Board of Education has joined Florida in implementing controversial race-based standards and goals in its schools. In math, for example, the board “set an acceptable passing rate at 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for blacks and 33 percent for kids with disabilities.” The news was received with a firestorm of criticism and its proponents are being accused of lowering expectations and going “back to the era of segregation and Jim Crow.” Many critics of the new policy, including the research group Education Trust, assert that this will only serve to deepen the achievement gap between white and minority groups.

A street in front of a school packed to the horizon with yellow school buses.

Photo by The US National Archives via WikiCommons 

It looks like schools in Kansas are done prioritizing the importance of teaching science, something many science teachers agree "seems to be an ongoing theme around the country.” Many schools have chosen to reduce and even eliminate science class due to the pressure to increase performance in math and reading. George Griffith, superintendent of Kansas’ Trego school district, conducted a survey of 900 elementary teachers and found that more than half of K-6 teachers surveyed “have decreased science education" either through reducing the amount of science instruction in class or by eliminating it completely from the class schedule. In a country where innovation seems to be so important in conversations about economic progress, I wonder how phasing out science studies will affect us in the long run?

Everest College conducted the 2012 High School Dropouts in America survey and discovered that 23 percent of those who took the survey dropped out due to “a lack of parental support or encouragement” while 21 percent connected their decision to dropout to becoming a parent. Wondering what some of the early indicators are for students at risk of dropping out? According to Balfanz’s research, if a sixth grader in a high poverty school attends school less than 80 percent of the time, fails math or English, or receives an unsatisfactory behavior grade in a core course, there is a 75 percent chance he or she will drop out of high school.

On the international front, Andreas Schleicher, a leading figure in international education, offered his perspective on the educational success gap among nations in a Q&A with The New York Times. Scheicher believes “education is a field which has been quite dominated by ideologies,” and sees Finland and Japan as models to follow for their success in getting schools to work together and “build peer accountability into the system.”

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, everyone! Pura Vida.

Want to share your thoughts with me? Email me at


Join our diverse force of leaders shaping the course of our nation.