[Joanne Jacobs (guest-blogging), December 8, 2006 at 6:18pm] Trackbacks
Do the right thing

Over at Chalkboard, Joe Williams has a great post challenging the idea that we need to close the achievement gap in order to compete in the global economy. He's responding to an otherwise good New York Times editorial that calls for enforcing the teacher quality provisions of No Child Left Behind.

Why do I think this is the wrong reason for closing the gap? I'm not entirely convinced the "create a supply of good workers" line is as emotionally/intellectually compelling as "maintain an equal, just, democratic society" in terms of the primary reason we should care about the future of impoverished black and brown children.

If producing more high-tech workers is the number one goal, we'd do better working on improving mediocre suburban schools rather than tacking inner-city schools, Williams argues. The reason to close the achievement gap is that providing educational opportunity to all Americans is the right thing to do.

I agree.

I gave up a lucrative (by newspaper standards) job as an op-ed columnist to report and write a book, Our School, about a San Jose charter school created to educate left-behind students. Students — 90 percent are Hispanic — enter ninth grade with fifth-grade reading and math skills, on average. All graduates go on to college. About 81 percent in the first three graduating classes remain on track to complete a four-year degree, a remarkable accomplishment for disadvantaged students. (Half of all students who start college never earn a degree and the record is far worse for low-income, Hispanic and black students.) Downtown College Prep grads may not be out there competing in the global economy. They'll be productive workers, informed citizens and education-minded parents. These young people deserve the chance to choose a school that meets their needs. They deserve a chance.

I'd like to thank Volokh Conspiracy for giving me a chance to guestblog this week. It's been fun to communicate with a new bunch of readers. Drop on over to joannejacobs.com, nominated as best education blog in the 2006 Weblog Awards.