Snaps to ELC

While the Schott Foundation may need an editor (see post below), the Education Law Center made good use of the report “Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education.” ELC’s press release points to the seemingly intractable achievement gap between Black and White males in America (the Schott report is especially critical of New York City) and the island of hope that is New Jersey’s legacy. According to ELC,
The report attributes NJ's progress to investment in the "conditions for success" including equitable and adequate school funding, high-quality pre-school and early literacy programs, after-school and summer programs, and supplemental social and health services. These investments were sparked by several landmark school funding decisions that led to increased resources and reforms in NJ's least wealthy urban districts.
Typical pablum, right? More money, more achievement: ELC’s mantra. But the press release marks a shift in rhetorical strategy for the stalwart defenders of Abbott districts because towards the end ELC concedes that while “NJ has the highest number of Black males showing proficiency” on the NAEP 8th grade reading test, that score “is a dramatically low 15% and much lower than the 44% of White males in NJ reaching proficiency on the same test.”

Kudos to ELC. It does no one – especially the students it serves – any good to contort academic achievement to reflect philosophical and political desiderata.

Back to the Schott report. We just can’t help ourselves. Listen:
Black Male and White Male students in New Jersey graduated at higher rates in 2007/8 than the national average, that for Black Male students approaching the national average for White Male students. The racial achievement gap is significantly narrower than the national average despite the extraordinary graduation rate of White Male students in the state.
There is nary a mention in the Schott Foundation report of New Jersey’s now infamous Special Review Assessment, which awarded high school diplomas to kids unable to pass middle-school level tests. To our credit we’ve just replaced the SRA with a more rigorous test (the Alternative High School Assessment), but in 2007-2008 administrators were permitting vast numbers of poor children, particularly Black males, to bypass proficiency tests, artificially inflating our graduation rate. (Nota bene: until last year we were the only state in the country to offer an alternative exercise for graduation to students without disabilities or ELL.) Here’s a few examples: last year 53% of Camden High School’s students received high school diplomas based on SRA results, as did 53.8% of Trenton Central High’s seniors, as did 59.1% of East Side High seniors in Paterson.

While there are some true success stories in NJ’s poor urban districts, our “graduation rate” isn’t one of them. The Schott Foundation missed this.

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