Letters and Opinion

Harris column raises questions

May 12, 2012

The Mind Trust—an organization that proclaims to support entrepreneurial education initiatives, [and] unannounced and ignoring a well-established charter school evaluation process—feels compelled to play the roles of judge, jury and executioner. [Harris column, April 7 Forefront] Why? Is this truly about the schools or is there some other agenda?

David Harris has a point that underperforming schools should not be allowed to remain open indefinitely. Having said this, please tell me, Mr. Harris, that you looked beyond the one statistic you cited: “29 percent of the students [at The Project School] pass both math and English...” A verbal grenade thrown into the midst of committed and hard-working teachers, parents and board members must have a well-researched and fully vetted report, replete with numerous metrics to warrant such an action. Right?

Let’s put a finer grain on the statistic:

• 40 percent of students taking the ISTEP in 2012 are in their first year at TPS.

• 79 percent of students taking the ISTEP are in their first or second year at TPS.

• Among third-grade students, the group with the longest TPS tenure, 54 percent passed both math and English.

• Last year, 56 percent of our third graders passed the math test, and 78 percent passed that were with the school at least three years.

The school has much work to do. The statistics above demonstrate that the majority of students are new to the school. The school’s impact must be measured over three to four years, not after the first year or two. Students with at least three years at the school have shown significant growth in math and English.

An important metric that should not be discounted: The school works hard to serve a number of children facing enormous external challenges, often arriving each school day distracted and discontent. These students are finding a refuge and environment that slowly but surely engages them with promise and purpose. One student has been expelled from this school in the last four years. This is not the norm and must be part of the assessment in understanding how the school is educating our most gifted and challenged.

The Mind Trust has had a standing invitation to visit. Personal invitations to Harris have been made. A deeper dive into the strengths and weaknesses of the school is encouraged. The Mind Trust must do a better job in participating in the dialogue if we are to make real progress.

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Mike Higbee, board member, The Project School
 

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