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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sykes fails to check sources ... quelle suprise surprise

IRONIC UPDATE: Quelle horreur! Imagine the egg on my face when I got an email correcting my French! Well, at least I admit it when I fix my mistakes, unlike some people I could name.

by folkbum

Even though other fashionable people have already arrived at this party, I'd still like to offer my take. Charlie Sykes offered a post yesterday titled, and I am not making this up, "The 25 Worst Peforming [sic] Public Schools."

He links to what Tom Foley calls an "autobot-blog" named WalletPop, which has a feature on these schools, as compiled by a real-estate website called Neighborhood Scout. Sykes says of these schools, "And, yes, we[*] are represented. MPS has Numbers 3, 4, and 25. Grim." MPS is, of course, the Milwaukee Public Schools, so this is of interest to me.

Here's the problem: One of the three schools Sykes claims as MPS schools, the School of Humanities (third worst in America, according to the list), has been closed for nearly three years. The remaining two, HR Academy of Business and Global Awareness (the list cannot seem to get the name right) and Milwaukee Spectrum, are "partnership" schools. MPS defines "partnership" schools this way:
MPS offers a wide array of partnership schools for students who are identified as being at risk of dropping out or who are experiencing difficulty in the traditional school setting. The schools are included in the listings and are identified as “partnership” schools.
In other words, these schools are A) designed to attract and deal with the most challenging students in the city, so you kind of expect low test scores, and B) not run by MPS itself, but rather contracted out to, in both of these cases, religious entities of the kind that Sykes and his ilk are always promoting as being better than the education bureaucracy in the first place.

(LUNCHTIME UPDATE: Apparently, someone has edited Sykes's post to correct the typo in the title--this is why I screen-capped--but not the misinformation in the post. Oops!)

In fact, just a few minutes with WalletPop's list and you find that same pattern repeated over and over. Number 20 on the list, for example, is the Welcome Center at Mifflin Middle School in Columbus, Ohio, which is a "transitional program designed to meet the needs of students from any country who have recently arrived in the United States and have little or no literacy skills in English or in their native language. Welcome Center students are generally at the Beginner Proficiency Level, as determined by the English as a Second Language (ESL) Assessment Center." By definition this school is for low-achieving students.

Even if Sykes had bothered to check up on the worst school, the Tomorrow's Builders Charter School in East St. Louis, he would find that this school was run not by the public school district (it's not even on their list of schools) but by an outside agency. Number seven on the list, Spring Creek Elementary in St. Francis, SD, is a small school on the Rosebud reservation--could there be issues affecting that school, I wonder? Number 11, the Circle of Courage Center in Poughkeepsie (I just wanted to type Poughkeepsie!) is another alternative program designed for the low-performing and bad-behaving kids in the district.

So it seems that the WalletPop list--if you can believe this!--is not necessarily a true and reflective list of the "worst" of anything.

This is not hard, folks; I'm doing this over breakfast. You'd think Charlie Sykes and his staff of however many would have thought to do just the most basic checking of facts. But I guess that would have cut into their ideology--and you know how much Sykes-n-them hate it when facts get in the way of ideology.

* Charlie Sykes does not live in Milwaukee. I resent his attempt to associate himself with us good folk who do.

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