Jay Mathews Attacks!

Jay Mathews says why he thinks Sara Mead and I are wrong about our Challenge Index griping. It’s a worthy argument and you should read it but I think it falls short. First, just because there are not scads of high schools doing a great job teaching diverse populations to challenging standards (though there are some) doesn’t let Jay or Newsweek off the hook for proclaiming that schools with high dropout rates and/or big racial achievement gaps are among the nation’s “best.” Second, and very much related, what we have here is an honest disagreement about what “best” means in this context. I’d still urge Jay to broaden his criteria if Newsweek called the list something other than “best” but different verbiage would go a long way…Finally, Sara and I are not saying that there are not great things going on in these schools, we’ve hardly had a chance to visit even a plurality of them. All we’re saying is that to call them among the nation’s very top less than one percent of high schools is a disservice to readers. PS–You can check the schools out on Schoolmatters.com, some of these schools have numbers that are even worse than their state averages for various subgroups…That’s what happens when you have a measure that inadvertently rewards schools that don’t graduate a lot of kids…Update: Sara Mead has much more. Update II: Bonus appeal to authority: Even “I never met an anti-testing/data/accountability anecdote I couldn’t turn into a news story about how craven, venal, and stupid school reformers are” Michael Winerip says the Challenge Index has some problems…

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