We’re just a day away from the release of a new report, “Needles in a Haystack,” due out tomorrow from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The report will highlight the achievements of eight schools in Ohio that work with high-needs students’ and are achieving great results.
Not long after reading about the inspiring “Needles in a Haystack” project, I came across Charles Murray’s article, “Why Charter Schools Fail the Test”, published in the New York Times on May 4.
I agreed with one of Murray’s underlying messages: school choice should not be reserved for affluent parents, but should be available to all families in order to ensure each child receives the education he or she deserves. However, I found one statement in the article unsettling:
“Cognitive ability, personality and motivation come mostly from home. What happens in the classroom can have some effect, but smart and motivated children will tend to learn to read and do math even with poor instruction, while not-so-smart or unmotivated children will often have trouble with those subjects despite excellent instruction.”
The very idea Murray proposes – that economically-disadvantaged children will have trouble despite excellent instruction – quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that can itself contribute to underachievement. Murray’s view has been discredited by schools all over the country – schools like the ones featured in “Needles in a Haystack.” Across Ohio, schools in high-needs areas are proving that the same children who were labeled “not-so-smart or unmotivated” in the past can earn test scores that match or surpass the state’s highest performers.
The “Needles in a Haystack” report is just a glimpse of the academic success that can be achieved in high-needs areas when the correct steps are taken. These schools are proof that no matter their background students can and will succeed when given the chance, regardless of what expectations Charles Murray has for them.
These 2009 statistics, taken from Fordham’s “Needles in a Haystack” videos, speak for themselves:
Citizens’ Academy (80% economically-disadvantaged students)
Cleveland School District Students who passed the state reading test = 49%
Citizens’ Academy students who passed the state reading test = 91%
College Hill Fundamental Academy (78% economically-disadvantaged students)
Cincinnati district students who passed the state math test = 53%
College Hill students who passed the state math test = 76%
McGregor Elementary (90% economically disadvantaged students)
Canton school district students who passed the state reading test = 59%
McGregor students who passed the state reading test = 76%
Valleyview Elementary (86% economically disadvantaged students)
Columbus district students who passed the state math test = 58%
Valleyview students who passed the state math test = 72%
Be on the lookout for the Fordham study, available here tomorrow. We’re grateful for these schools that continue to prove the experts wrong.
- Marisa Simon