Monday, December 13, 2010

Parents: Speak up, advocate for change

There’s good news and there’s bad news in recent educational happenings in Indiana and beyond.

Indiana children scored higher on standardized tests last year, according to data released recently by the Indiana Department of Education. More students graduated too; the rate reached 81.5 percent in 2009, up 3.7 percentage points over the previous year’s rate. (http://www.doe.in.gov/news/2010/01-January/GraduationRateImproves.html)

Schools performed better too; 101 schools graduated 90 percent or more of their students in four years. And in the fifth year in which schools were rated on whether they had achieved “adequate yearly progress,” 38 percent of schools made exemplary progress, 8 percent made commendable progress and 27 percent made what the department calls academic progress. Three hundred nineteen – 18 percent of all schools – have made adequate yearly progress in each year that they’ve been rated, 233, or 13 percent, have missed just one year. (http://www.doe.in.gov/news/2010/11-November/ayppl221.html)

Then there’s the bad news.

One hundred forty-six schools – 8 percent of the total – have failed to make adequate yearly progress in each of the five years. Twenty-six of them failed in more than half of the categories in which they were assessed. Most of the latter schools – 88 percent – were located in high-poverty urban areas (46 percent were in Central Indiana and 23 percent were in Northwest Indiana).

What’s more, about 23,000 Indiana youths did not graduate with their class in 2009.

The news gets bleaker. The Program for International Student Achievement recently released data on testing of students in 60 countries. Students in six countries had higher average scores in reading literacy than U.S. students. Those in 13 countries scored higher than the U.S. in science. And the youths of 17 other countries had higher math scores than students in the largest, most powerful nation on the planet.

So why does this matter? And what can parents do? We need to speak up, to advocate for local, state and federal agendas on education policy and funding.

I want to know what you think. What do you think must happen in our schools to improve the overall education of our children? In particular, how can we ensure that our schools hire and retain effective teachers? And how can we ensure that our schools provide the 21st-century skills and knowledge that our children need to graduate on time and to prepare them for college or trade school training that will lead to successful careers?

Jackie

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