One Public School’s Innovation Boosts Test Scores By 100% – from Laggard to a Top School in StateGeneral, National News Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
Public schools and the teachers and administrators who work in the public school systems have been under extraordinary pressure to raise the quality of education as measured by standardized tests — and comparing the scores with well performing systems. First under President Bush’s initiative “No child left behind’ and in a different, but more rigorous set of benchmarks under President Obama, the government has been pressing educators to stem the decline in US reading, writing, math and science knowledge and skills compared to students in other developed and developing nations. The slide of test scores showing US students rank in the mid-20′s in math and scientific knowledge is to say the least extremely disquieting and alarming if the US is to maintain its competitiveness in the near future. Pay for performance for teachers has no longer been viewed as an extreme position proposed by conservative, right-wing cranks and now is an accepted method to reward good teachers and rid the schools of bad, incompetent personnel.
Teachers and administrators have complained that standardized tests favor affluent towns where families by their nature are a ‘hell of a lot smarter’ than the ‘morons who are the offspring of moron parents who live in poorer neighborhoods’. Sure every once and a while, you get an accidental ‘Einstein’ but there’s a higher shot of winning the grand prize in a Power Ball Lottery. So we get stuck with kids who come from families with a long history of not taking school seriously and are just marking time — yet if somehow we can scare these kids sufficiently to do even minimal study, we get screwed by low salaries and perhaps termination. Seems fair.
To counter the problems of teaching dumb-ass morons and getting testing scores sufficiently high enough to get state and federal do-good-ers off their back, a number of schools have ditched teaching anything during the year – and focus solely on passing the standardized tests. Included are methods that show students good cheating techniques without being detected and several schools have invested in hi-tech wireless devices allowing for silent sharing of answers during exams.
But a school system in the central Appalachian town of Whitesboro, located in northwest West Virginia came up with an innovation that a number of systems hope to emulate. Even by West Virginia’s rather minimal standards, the Whitesboro public school system was doing so badly it was in imminent jeopardy of being taken over by the state. With a graduation rate of 10% of its high school students, whose average age at graduation was 20.5 years old, 95% of those remaining by their senior year in high school could read above a 5th grade level. Math scores were so low, that the state avoided embarrassment by loosing them. Desperate, school superintendent Vince Valpocelli asked the residents for funds to allow him to take a ‘good will trip to China’. Returning three weeks later, the superintendent showed off the fruits of his trip. Thirty skinny but very eager Chinese kids all in high school level classes by their early teens. When they first came, I must admit being a little concerned that none of them spoke a word of English; but in 5 months they all spoke, read and wrote English better than anyone else in the school. And forget about their science and math aptitude scores – we now lead the state. They just work. No Wii games, no TV, no Facebook…they’re like machines. And they don’t even eat much. And they, well sort of, blended right in. None of these scrawny kids was any threat to the existing student’s places on varsity sports teams.
Well, now were the pride of Appalachia and of West Virginia. I owe it all to reading an article about how US companies outsource manufacturing to the Chinese and said to myself…why not do that in education. Seems a shame we have to return them to China upon graduation.
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