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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jacksonville study shows poverty hurts more than effective instruction helps

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

The editors of the Florida-Times Union has published an informative list of conclusions that a national consultant made during a comprehensive study of Duval schools. The even-handed nature of the study is indicated by the fact that there are things that both sides of the school reform debate will not like. Nonetheless, one key statistical finding strengthens the assertion that experienced educators have been making regarding poverty. It matters; and even great teachers are often unable to overcome poverty’s massive burden on a child’s ability to achieve in the classroom.

Less-experienced teachers are overly assigned to high-poverty schools. The gap is the largest of all the districts studied by the consultants. The district invested $2.4 million in bonuses in 2009-2010, but just 11 percent of the teachers who received the bonuses transferred into the turnaround schools.

Even more important, the transferred teachers didn’t appear much more effective than the teachers they replaced.

It probably takes an entire team to turn around a school, the consultants said, starting with a super leader as principal, building a strong staff and engaging community support.

You don’t say.

With the report emphasizing “a super leader as principal” its fair to assert that this means just more than test scores. The Michelle Rhee way is to fire prinicipals whose schools did not test well. You cannot measure leadership through test scores. Principals who are educators know they cannot brow beat teachers – or students for that matter – into good test scores. The ability to lead inside any school is earned. A revolving door of principals doesn’t allow for relationship building with people inside the school – let alone in the surrounding community.

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