Schools shouldn’t use race, poverty as excuse

LANSING, Mich. – In a critical assessment of Michigan public education, the president of Education Trust said Tuesday that the state must stop blaming race and poverty for poor student achievement, according to a report from the Gongwer News Service.

Teachers and schools too often expect less from students who historically perform below average, said Kati Haycock, head of the Washington, D.C. - based organization, Gongwer reported. She spoke at the Governor’s Education Summit in Lansing.

"The schools that really work succeed by focusing like a laser on the things they can do, things they can change, not by wasting a lot of energy on the things they can't," she said.

At the same event, Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of public instruction, acknowledged that his department has given public schools a break by setting cut scores on standardized tests artificially low, but warned that practice will not continue, the Gongwer report said. Flanagan also said schools must “reimagine” education, because “there won’t be any more money,” the report said.

Flanagan pointed to the common practice of giving extra pay to teachers who earn advanced degrees as an ineffective practice, according to Gongwer.

"There's no evidence to support that paying extra for a master's degree has any impact on student achievement, but that's the system," Flanagan said.

Doug Pratt, a spokesman with the Michigan Education Association, told Gongwer that while all children can learn and high standards are appropriate, Michigan will not likely see improvement without additional school funding.

But Haycock argued that was yet another excuse for inaction, according to Gongwer.

Gongwer News Service, “Haycock: Michigan schools are failing and it’s their fault,” April 28, 2009 (Subscription required)

Michigan Education Report, “The shell game of ‘making AYP,’” March 18, 2009