Monday, March 3, 2008

More high stakes testing...

In the state of Texas more than 135,000 youth are lost from the state's high schools every year. Dropout rates are highest for African American and Latino youth, more than 60% for the students followed in a new study. The study included student-level data for more than 271,000 students in a high-poverty urban district over seven years. The findings show that there is a direct relationship between the exit exam policy and the dropout rate. The authors say their “findings show that disaggregation of student scores by race does not lead to greater equity, but in fact puts our most vulnerable youth, the poor, the English language learners, and African American and Latino children, at risk of being pushed out of their schools so the school ratings can show ‘measurable improvement.’" This study talks about the “avoidable losses” of these students who drop out or are shuffled out as schools pursue accountability targets.

This raises two questions. First, given that schools have been historically unable to meet the unique educational needs of low SES students and students of color, is it fair to hold the students individually accountable for learning? And, second, the Pettit and Western article we read this week says, “Among black male high school dropouts, the risk of imprisonment has increased to 60 percent, establishing incarceration as a normal stopping point on the route to midlife.” Given that the Texas article shows a effect of education policies on the differential dropout rate of African American and Latino students, can it be argued that school policies are contributing to putting these young men at risk for incarceration?


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