Friday, July 07, 2006

The Village

In a school in LA, Black students are participants in a "village" program that is seeming to provide them with a stronger sense of community. One of the aspects of the program is confronting the students with actual data, for the purpose of motivating them to improve:

At one of their first meetings with students, teachers projected on a big screen test-score comparisons for white, Asian, Latino and black students, and those learning English as a second language. Many of the black students were shocked to see themselves at the bottom.
"My kids came home talking about the statistics and how low we were, and it hit them really hard," said Zola Chrenko, Chris' mother.
[critical and/or negative] views, however, have been tempered by impressive gains in test scores, reductions in dropout rates and improved behavior among Cleveland's African American students. Scores on the Academic Performance Index jumped 95 points in two years, from 569 in 2003 to 664 in 2005, according to the California Department of Education. The districtwide average among all students in 2005 was 649, department statistics show.

In 2003, 36% of black students at Cleveland passed the math portion of the California High School Exit Examination. The figure rose to 81% in 2006.

So, this is what I've been trying to get at in my previous post. I think that showing students data is a good start, and it needs to be supported in a comprehensive way. It seems like Cleveland High School might be on to something, and according to the article, other schools and districts are taking note.

Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for providing the link!


Cal said...

I don't see what that has to do with your last post at all. Your last post argued for "selling" kids on the value of going to school. I objected to the idea that you need to market education to kids--your assertion that suburban kids are constantly given this lesson just doesn't hold up.

In this post, you suggest that disadvantaged kids should be educated on just how poorly they're doing as a means of motivating them to do better. But if they don't see any value in school and college, as you argue, then they won't care that they're doing poorly in school.

I certainly see value in giving a presentation about how poorly they are doing at the beginning of every school year.

"You're here because you are performing very badly and your parents want better for you. Do your best to make sure none of the data you've just seen holds true for you."

End of discussion.

As it is, though, you appear to be saying it should be used in some weird appeal to ethnic pride. Or are you saying that the kids really don't understand the value of school because they are so completely out of touch with how poorly they do?

If the latter, then that's no rationale for the whole "up with school" campaign. If kids don't know they are doing poorly, they should be told that in no uncertain terms. Again, that's how well-off kids are treated without respect to their feelings.

Lsquared said...

I can see how this would be effective, especially if the village setting can help them make it a group effort to do better--a shared goal. If this were in a mixed race/ethnicity school it would be much harder to keep it positive.

There are a variety of research results that say it's important for students to know how well they are doing. Frequent assessment, if it's in a context where they have the opportunity to improve on the content they are assessed on helps students do better

Dan Greene said...

You described it as a "sales job". I am not trying to sell them an idea - I am trying to help them see the connection between their actions and the outcomes, in a larger and more long-term context. My hope is that this will help motivate them to change - not so that they can achieve what I want, but so that they can achieve what they want, as indicated by their choice to come to DCP.

I'm not saying that my students don't value going to college (most of our freshmen will actually say that they do want to go to college) - they just don't really understand what college is all about, or what it takes to get there (and their parents don't either), because no one they personally know has gone through it before. And because so many of them have had poor middle school experiences, they may not see the connection between doing well in school and going to college (finding value in school as an institution is not necessarily the same as finding value in education, depending on what your school is like). The connection probably seems obvious to anyone reading this post, but I have seen many students take a couple of years at DCP before they really start to get it.

The example I gave in the post was how examining the stark differences in AP scores between blacks, latinos, whites, and asians made some students really stop and think - and I believe that more activities like this may help students make different choices. This is the connection I'm making between the Cleveland school's actions and my idea. What is your take on the huge gains their black students made in their test scores, disproportionate to the improvements made by the other students? Was this just a coincidence?

To your last point, we are very clear with students about their skill defecits. Students in Numeracy are there because they've tested below a 7th grade level (most around 5th), and I have multiple conversations with each student about their score, and about what they need to do to improve. The same is true for their reading scores. We constantly talk with students about how they are doing in all their classes, and don't try to sugar coat anything. We let them know what's wrong, and coach them on what they need to do to get better. We also don't let students move forward until they have improved their skills and legitimately passed their classes.

This works for many students, but not all. I suspect that one of the reasons is that it focuses solely on the individual student (their choices, their personal outcomes) - and I think some students may indeed be more motivated by their concern for a larger community (be it their family, neighborhood, ethnicity, school, whatever matters to them). As Lsquared said, it can become a shared goal.

What exactly are you proposing, anyway? I should just teach my class math in a traditional way, without regard to whether it is working for them or not? And if they fail, it simply means either I am a bad math teacher or they have poor native abilities and are condemned to fail? That there are no other factors contributing to their failure that I might examine and try to deal with?