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Friday, February 11, 2005

Be Like Mike

Be like Mike

Be like Mike. That is the mantra for basketball wannabes. Find someone who was successful in what they do. Determine what elements of success are in their life. Modify those elements to fit your life and almost like magic , you , too, can become successful. This is a common process in weight loss with the myriad of diets which people follow trying for the same results. Just do what I did and you, too, will lose weight. Does success mean more money for you? Then follow those who have made it big. Do what they did, invest, start a business, be wise, be frugal, but in any event follow the winners. Many parents use this modeling idea with their children. If you want to be successful, do what mom and dad do. Go to school, keep your faith, have a family…whatever the formula is that we think works. It’s the same the world over- find those who did it right and follow their lead, making improvements along the way. We call this progress.
Lets apply this to an ordinary Fresno Unified student who wants to be ‘successful’ as defined by California testing results. They would have to look at other successful students in the district. Let’s be ‘scientific’ and go and get some data from the 2003 STAR testing for Fresno Unified as reported on the California Department of Ed. web site. By doing some simple averaging for grades 2-7in both Language Arts and Mathematics, here is what we find when we compare reported parents educational level and percent ( rounded off ) of students at or above the ‘proficient’ level:

The pattern is clear. If you want to be considered a ‘proficient’ student and do well on your STAR testing make sure your parents are as educated as possible. As you might guess, this relationship is not just true of Fresno Unified students but it holds true across the country. More educated parents have students who do better on these tests. English language development is a critical component. Given that about 22% of FUSD parents reportedly have no H.S. diploma ( this statistic will surely increase as more students will not graduate because of the California High School Exit Exam ) and another 20% only have a high school diploma, with only 12% of college graduates, is it any wonder that many of our students struggle on these tests? When you couple this with the fact that over 80% of our students in grades 2-7 are classified as economically disadvantaged the % differences in levels of ‘proficiency’ are even more radical.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics men and women with four years of college earn nearly 45 percent more on average than those with only a high school diploma. The more educated parents make more money, have better health care and have students who fare better on testing. A quick check of the SAT web site shows the same patterns. Why are some so willing to permit this data to judge students and schools, yet so unwilling to believe what that same data says about who scores higher?
While it is the intent of the No Child Left Behind legislation to close this test-score gap, focus first on closing the parent education gap, the economic gap, and the health care gap. Having more tests with scripted lessons that turn our schools into test prep centers is not the answer. This was quite evident last week when the Associated Press reported:

‘...The National Conference of State Legislatures wants changes in the fundamental parts of the No Child Left Behind Act: how student progress is measured, how schools are punished if they fall short and who decides when the rules are waived for struggling districts...The new report contends the law leads to unintended consequences and that the federal government is indifferent to them — the lowering of academic standards, increasing segregation in school, and the driving away of top teachers from needy schools. It claims the government is also violating the Constitution by coercing state compliance....’

This is a serious issue. Whether student, parent, educator or community member we need to raise our consciences and seek justice for those who are suffering the most in their quest to ‘Be like Mike’.


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