Tuesday, July 20, 2010

PSSA Scores for EASD Are Out!

Posted by: Noel Jones

Check out the Express Times article by Colin McEvoy and Sara Satullo on the dismal performance of our schools again this year. Easton Area High School has not met standards for the seventh year since testing began in 2003. I think we all agree that this is a crisis of education in our community, but what I would like to hear from readers, is how we think these results will be affected by the recent firing of 72 teachers?

And even more important, what potential solutions are out there?


Anonymous said...

I think if you have had those teachers and still aren't getting the results, several conclusions
can be drawn, not mutually exclusive:

1. You can get those results without paying for all that extra help.

2. It isn't the quality or quantity of the faculty and admin, it is the clay they are working with. Too many kids, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, expect things to come to them easily. Getting educated, at least when I was in school, was hard work. The old adage of "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" comes to mind.

3. The primary mission of the public education system is to sustain itself, not deliver a service to those who have created and paid for it. The Board, the admin, and the union have been self-serving and have contributed to the current state of affairs. Reckless spending on non-academic priorities and reckless demands by labor. EASD is not alone in that regard.

Anonymous said...

I commend the previous poster. All good points. No Child left behind might seem like a good idea, but it is based on the faulty premise that the learning potential for all kids is the same or at least is above a certain line. Do I really need to explain why that isn't so in reality?

Having said that, after having a front row seat to this mess for the last few years its clear that certain that both the board/admin and the union are more interested in protecting their own than they are in doing the right thing. Low hanging fruit:

1. Complete wage freeze for Admin. You can't ask the teachers to accept on if you don't. Still can't believe this didn't happen earlier this year.

2. Tenure needs to go. It can't be justified any longer. Also, the idea that seniority is more important than performance is completely counter productive. Performance can and should be measured and used for the purpose of retention and pay level.

3. To the public. Perhaps new blood can step up and run for the board. The comment sections of the local online newspapers are full of calls to get rid of the board, but when election time comes, a few of them keep getting elected. No one is going to fix the mess for us. Make change happen.

peterkc said...

I agree with much the anonymous posters said, but let's remember that PSSA scores don't really tell much about what students are learning or not.

Standardized tests are favored by legislators and some administrators because they make it easy to compare one student or district to another -- even if the comparison doesn't mean much. And let's not forget the testing companies that make huge profits making and scoring these tests, so they are willing to spend millions to get them required.

Most teachers and professionals in education know that standardized tests [and standardized curricula, for that matter] do not produce better outcomes for students


Dennis R. Lieb said...

Just a few observations...

1) It would be quite useful if it were possible to pull the statistics apart by household income to see the relationship between poverty and educational achievement. I believe this would be quite eye-opening and deliniate the problem in much sharper terms than the current homogonized version. Perhaps this is already possible but I haven't come across it. I am not an education expert but from talking to the ones I know, at least we would have isolated the problem for the sake of clarity and better focused response. I am not using this as an excuse - simply an observation of reality.

2) Public education's role can no longer be generalized in ways it may have been in the past. Factors outside the school building create crisis and chaos that directly effect outcomes that are independent of the number or quality of teachers. Being tired, hungry, depressed and self-concious of personal issues due to homelife factors are real determinants of success or failure that the average teacher is unequipped to deal with in most cases.

3) I commend the anonymous posters on their candor on the subject. They seem sincere and fair in their evaluation of the situation without playing the blame game. If this were easy we'd have figured it out by now (is that a reasonable assumption?)

I wouldn't propose to argue fully for or against their positions. I would agree that the attitude of many students is problematic, reflecting a lack of values that used to be instilled by responsible parents. I'd assume all of us experienced what those values are ourselves if we are bothering to read this blog today.

I do know that - like the war on drugs, which has been an unmitigated failure and the war on poverty, which was actually working fairly well before 20 years of Reagonomics-based philosophy wiped out the progress - we need to change something drastically from the status quo. Perhaps it time to rethink the traditional teacher/administration, labor/management model as it has existed. It doesn't seem to be bringing the answers to the table.


Anonymous said...

RE:Scores and poverty; Yes there may be some connection but the real driving factor will be parents who instill a love of reading and learning in their children.
My dad worked three jobs just to keep the family afloat but in what little spare time he had, he drove home the idea of constantly educating yourself and a love of books and history.
My wife and I instilled that in our three; two graduating in the top 5% of their classes, then off to fine colleges and the third, a honors student like her siblings.
Read to your kids when they are young, read anything good....I read naval technical manuals to my oldest when she was an infant; I was studying for advancement exams. Constantly show them that their horizons can be expanded through books and encourage them to keep on learning...Do not rely upon the schools to do all of the educating...That is the "secret".

noel jones said...

Anon 11:16--true. Parents are children's "first teachers." There are other nuances to how growing up in poverty affects a child's education--potential malnutrition, lack of sleep, violence--parents are not the only influences, but certainly the most important ones. There is a terrific slide in reading ability for low-income kids between fourth and fifth grade, and a gulf begins to open between the academic performance of kids that live on either side of the poverty line.

But what can be done for the kids who don't have good home situations? Where a child, instead of being read to, is being neglected or worse, abused? And what can be done to help our teachers who struggle to manage large classrooms of kids from difficult circumstances? How to make up for the parent who is not there, or is a negative influence in the child's life and does not value education? These kids were born into the world not of their own will but the will of others, and deserve the same chance at a healthy, educated life as anyone else, but if they are not getting it at home, what can be done? If we want a healthy, educated, civil populace, we have to find a successful way of educating ALL children, because if we throw up our hands and say, "it's the parents responsibility, not mine," the reality is that these kids grow up and become adults that are part of our community.

Anonymous said...


There is no way society can make up for a parent who cannot or will not be the positive role model for their kids. No possible and in reality not fair to ask for that.

Therefore, we should be putting every possible resource into preventing pregnancies of couples/women who are not prepared to be kind of parent every child needs. Starting in late elementary school, kids should begin to become exposed to the challenges of having babies before you are ready. Obviously, the content has to be age appropriate, but by High School, they should be getting hammered with "costs" of getting pregnant. There is very little concept of shame anymore in America, so that is no longer a deterrent. Therefore the cold hard reality of how it will screw up their lives and statistically speaking, their children's lives needs to be conveyed to them.

To those of you who might think this sounds crazy, I ask you, what do you propose? NOTHING can substitute for good parenting. Nothing. We have been trying for close to two generations to make up for these folks with additional social programs at the cost of many, many billions of dollars and we are still losing ground. The standard of living, respect for others, and the concept of personal responsibility are all trending in the wrong direction.

Unless we actively change the way we are doing things, the negative trends will continue. Newton's first law applies very well here.

Dennis R. Lieb said...


Excellent points.

No subsitute for parent - agreed.

Re-establishment of the concept of shame - absolutely.

We may have to admit to ourselves that our slide into cultural relativism - where every opinion has equal validity and no one one is ever really "wrong" about anything - has to be rethought.

There was a time in this country when people with problems went to institutions to straighten themselves out. "Crazy" people went to insane asylums; the desitute to poorhouses; juvinile delinquents to reform school, etc.

All of these places had names with negative connotations and over time we have changed their names to make people feel better (less ashamed?) about their circumstances. But changing the names didn't satsify many and soon we were eliminating the institutions all together.

Thousands of mentally ill people were released from large mental institutions into the streets because we didn't want to "stigmatize" them and besides, they were on medication that would take care of their problems. The real issue wasn't that they were institutionalized but that the scale of the institutions made individual treatment impossible. Instead of the reasonable solution of smaller facilities scattered over many sites they were simply given meds and sent on their way - ignoring the first basic tendency of mentally ill people, which is to stop taking the medication once unsupervised.

We have a lot to re-learn.


noel jones said...

Anons and Dennis,

Great points but we cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand and not follow a dilemma through to its logical conclusion. If we throw up our hands and say, "these kids have bad parents, so they're just going to be messed up and it's not our responsibility to fix it" they don't just *poof* disappear. Our youths become our adult neighbors and in a very short amount of time--it only takes about 7 years for a 4th grader to become an adult.

I actually like Dennis's idea of returning to reform schools--in many cases the most dangerous or negligent influences on our youth are the parents themselves. In those situations I would prefer to see kids removed from the situation completely and educated, giving them their fair shot at life. I know this idea may upset a lot of people, and this is certainly a forum where we can and should have a healthy debate on the issue, but as someone who was a child in an abusive low-income family environment, who was plucked out and educated elsewhere, I may not be running for President of the United States any time soon, but I think I've turned out all right.