Wednesday, November 12, 2014

HSPA Scores are out, and Trenton Parents Should Demand Change NOW

"We will take action. They will not be easy decisions to make, but incremental progress is not enough." So said Paymon Rouhanifard, Superintendent of the Camden School District in response to the abominable ASK and HSPA scores of students in his District. He seems to recognize that progress is going to require profound change. The only question is whether he is willing to acknowledge that risks must be taken, that "business as usual" is a recipe for failure. It is not enough to simply recognize that incremental failure is not enough.

Now let's take a look at Trenton High School's HSPA scores in comparison to West Windsor South. At TCHS 18% of students failed the Language Arts test, while 8% achieved what the State calls "Advanced Pass," which is a step above proficient and implies "mastery." In West Windsor, NO ONE failed the test, while 64% achieved Advanced Pass. That is 64 versus 8%.

In Math, 50% of TCHS students failed the test, while 3% achieved Advanced Pass. In West Windsor, 2% failed, while 75% achieved Advanced Pass. That is 75 versus 3%.

Now as much as I hate the HSPA; it is a horrible measure of what students learn in high school, and frankly tests the wrong things. Our State's Curriculum Standards emphasizes things that have no connection to what kids truly need to know when they graduate, but they do nonetheless provide a valid comparative tool.

And honestly, any parent looking at these scores should be getting nauseous. Is that a statement about the teachers, about the kids, about the parents, about the schools, or about the communities and local culture? Where do assign blame? I am going to put the least amount of blame on the kids. It certainly isn't a racial issue, since race has nothing to do with intelligence or test scores.

What this tells me, and what it should be telling you, the parents, or you, the local businessperson, is that we need to tear down the school's curriculum as we are tearing down the actual school. The City can be doing more to attract young and middle class families, can be doing more to alleviate the concentration of poverty in minority communities, and can be doing more to bring the business community into the education domain, but by and large the greatest responsibility falls upon the School District to completely change the way we teach and what we teach to our children.

Score differentials like this cannot continue. It is a disgrace and an embarrassment to the State that such inequality exists between our urban and suburban schools. Action MUST be taken. Parents must literally rise up in revolt and say NO MORE! How many more years of pointless programs and initiatives must we endure before someone has the guts to stand up and say this will not work.

If there is anyone out there ready to organize, I am here to help. We spend so much time building up the self-esteem of our kids, but all that is doing is setting them up for disappointment and frustration. It is up to us, the community, to make things right in the schools. Feel free to reach me at nlbrwn15@gmail.com if you want to try and get the ball rolling. We can be patient no more.

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