A coalition of civil rights and education groups are working to strengthen high school qualityand to ensure that students in urban communities receive an equitable education.
That mission is important because the quality of education received by urban students has a huge impact on their communities, Michael Wotorson, executive director of the Campaign for High School Equity, told urban school leaders at the CUBE Issues Forum Saturday at NSBA’s Leadership Conference.
One million students drop out of school each yearand only about half of minority students graduate on time.
That makes it a civil rights issue as well as an educational issue, Wotorson said. “There are critical supports that school s and districts need to be able to right things for our kids.”
It’s not just a matter of what’s right. Joining Wotorson on the panel discussion was Fred Jones, a legislative associate with the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE). Jones said the nation’s high school dropout rate was an economic and social problem for everyone.
“If you take the class of 2010 droputs1.3 millionthat results in about $337 billion in lost lifetime earnings,” he said.
One goal of AEE is to support the focus on the nation’s 2,000 lowest-performing high schoolsso recently labeled “dropout factories,” where 60 percent or less of students graduate, Jones added.
The coalitionworking through the campaignalso is supporting efforts at developing effective tools for evaluating teachers, Wotorson said. “We recognize how important it is to come up with a useful metric that allows us to talk about effectiveness.”
According to T. Beth Glenn, education director for NAACP’s Advocacy and Research Department, a value-added formula is appropriatebut “with caveats.” Also needed are observations of classroom practices, a review of student academic work, and other demonstrations of effective teaching.
For school boards, they should be looking at such policies as whether teachers have coaches and there is some means of using student outcomes to “feed back into” professional development, she said.
When an Arizona board member rose from the audience to describe the policies that affect students in her statesome of which she suggested were oppressive and racially motivated against minoritiesGlenn said such “urgent and pressing problems need to be dealt with now.”
“Organize, organize, organize,” she said.