Friday, August 18, 2006

The Obvious Eludes Alonso (Says Alonso)

The NY Times reports that minority students are declining in the most selective NYC schools. NYC Deputy Chancellor Andres Alonso finds this “extraordinarily surprising,” perhaps since it goes a long way toward contradicting his absurd contention that teachers are the sole factor in student achievement. Is race a factor?

Absolutely not. The influence of home and culture are factors, and American culture, from the lying, self-serving president on down, places little emphasis on personal responsibility (unless you feel blaming the poor for their poverty counts). Proactive parents are the single most valid predictor of academic success. Those working two or three jobs are far less likely to have time for their kids.

I've been shocked by some of the very, very cheap shots against Jonathon Kozol around the blogosphere. Impoverished individuals are playing perpetual catch-up and don't tend to have time to check their kids' homework.

There are certainly exceptions to this rule. I've seen kids come from awful homes who've used school as an escape from the chaos that generally rules their lives. I've also seen kids from very poor homes whose families knew and stressed the value of education. But to dismiss poverty as a factor is at best, idiotic, and at worst, a blatantly insincere mode of pointing the finger at working people.

NYC's 30-year policy of hiring teachers from the bottom of the barrel hasn't helped much either. Nor has Tweed's insistence on gimmicks and buzzwords in place of real solutions.
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