Ralph Lee Travels A Well Worn Path

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By John Hubbuch

District 200 Board member Ralph Lee in the current issue of the paper issues a kind of clarion call for refocusing achievement gap from the black students to all the students. In doing so he joins many parents and many teachers who have over the years said that the high school does a great job with the upper quartile and the special ed kids, but not so good with the middle students.

Last night I saw the movie "Waiting for Superman" and then read Diane Ravitch's review of it in the November 11 issue of The New York Review of Books. Mr. Lee is to be encouraged in his efforts to take a different look at the high school's persistent achievement gap.  But the community needs to remember that lots of smart people have spents lots of time , energy and money for the last 25 years without much success in closing the gap. "Waiting for Superman"  concludes that the path to success is really good teachers. If the Board really wants to close the gap it might try firing the worst 10 percent of the teachers, but that of course is next to impossible .                                                                                

Ms. Ravitch cites research that while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students' backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the the control of schools and teachers.  

Unless Mr. Lee and the Board takes into account the 25 year history of failure to close the achievement gap despite the very determined efforts of lots of smart people; the fact that the needle will only get moved by improving the number of excellent teachers; and that even then success may be limited due to factors outside the control of the high school, then the community will be stuck in an endless loop of wasted energy and frustration over  a most difficult problem that has no very good solution.



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John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: December 7th, 2010 9:25 AM

Those that would improve public education should realize that the task is more like finding a cure for cancer or colonizing Mars. It will take the efforts of many for a long time. There is no magic bullet. Sometimes I think the focus should be on individual successes. If one elementary child learned the difference between an adjective and an adverb then it was a good day. At least one child didn't get left behind today.Baby steps.

still hear  

Posted: December 6th, 2010 2:25 PM

Maybe it's not WHO teaches but HOW we teach...the Chicago Tribune devotes an entire page today about teacher coaches who team with new teachers in their classrooms to improve instruction--with walkie-talkies! The message is that one teacher cannot do the job alone nowadays.


Posted: December 6th, 2010 10:45 AM

What Mr. Hubbuch is politely saying that the unions are hurting all teachers, students, tax payers and ultimately society at large. Bad teachers are protected and rewarded as much as good teachers. There isn't enough room here to debate charter schools but there is no question that that they are doing a lot of great things with little funding and attracting terric dedicated non-union teachers.

Marion Hogenboom from Lombard  

Posted: December 6th, 2010 8:54 AM

Information about what may be behind the achievement gap can be found in Annette Lareau's study comparing parenting style with children's achievement. Her book 'Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life' is a great analysis of this topic. Clearly there's no one right parenting style, but different family situations produce children with different characteristics. I'd urge you to read the book - google Annette Lareau to find it- and then I'd love to talk with you about it.

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