I feel like I am going to be preaching-to-the-choir with this blog. The fact that you are reading it puts you in the "choir." I would encourage all of you to read the first two columns of the article "A New Bottom Line For School Science" by Jeffrey Mervis in Science Vol. 319, p. 1030-33, Feb. 22, 08.

The quote from this article that has me upset is "I don’t use a textbook or assign written homework because so many of them (the students) wouldn’t be able to read it." If this were a quote from a third grade teacher in a rural school for the children of migrant workers, I would still be upset but I could understand the teacher’s dilemma. How do I reconcile the fact that this quote is from a ninth grade teacher in a Chicago charter school, a school that specializes in math and science education?

How do we get to the point where an article in a prestigious science journal mentions the fact that a group of ninth graders in one of our largest cities can’t read and there isn’t a national outcry. The emphasis of the article is not about this school or this quote, it is about the $14 billion corporate philanthropy give away in the U.S. that targets pre-K - 12 activities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Reading would appear to be a prerequisite for understanding math or science.

The school in question is the Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy that opened in the fall of 2007. This new High School is named for John Rowe and Frank Clark. Their names appear on the school because between them and the companies they are CEO’s of, the school has received in excess of $4 million. This is not academic chump-change.

Where is the problem, the parent, student or the Chicago Board of Education (BOE)? I would like to blame the parent but that doesn’t make sense, they made the effort to enroll their child in a charter school, obviously they must care. I can’t blame the student, they probably don’t even realize there is a problem, after all they are in a prestigious and well funded Math and Science High School. I am down to one choice, the BOE. It appears that the BOE wants to pass the buck though, Peggy Davis, the vice president for diversity with Excelon (they contributed $2 million to the Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy ), who is a member of the Chicago BOE and a former chief-of-staff to the superintendent of the BOE, is quoted as saying, "Ideally, we’d have loved to do a boarding school starting in first grade. That would have leveled the playing field by letting us deal with all the issues that students bring from home. But we have to be realistic about what we can afford." If this is the mentality of the Chicago BOE, what they are telling us is that they will never be able to teach children because they can’t deal with the "issues that students bring from home."

By mentioning that Ms. Davis is the "vice president for diversity" I have played the "race card" and this must be addressed. In a study conducted by the University of Michigan researchers found that there were achievement gaps within and between racial groups. "In the first known study to analyze reading and math achievement within racial groups during elementary school (this is where the Chicago children were neglected), researchers found high achievers within all groups" Ms. Davis and the Chicago BOE can not use the excuse that these children have not achieved academically because of "issues that the students bring from home." Pamela Davis-Kean, from the U. of Michigan Institute for Social Research, who conducted this study, said, "We also found a significant proportion of students who caught up to the high achievers in their groups by the end of fifth grade, especially in reading. This shows that schooling does have an impact in closing the achievement gap for substantial numbers of children." Sorry Chicago. (http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/print.php?htdocs/releases/plains... )

The Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy is run by the Noble Network of Charter Schools which runs several college-preparatory schools. Principal Joseph L. Tenbusch and the Noble Network are saying the right things on their web site, "The goal of our academic program is to build the college readiness skills students must master in order to matriculate and graduate from college." The Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy expects parents and guardians to be their "partners as we seek to prepare our students to take responsibility for their education and to be productive citizens....we believe that all students can learn if they are willing to work diligently and practice discipline." Rowe-Clark and the Noble Network did not create this problem, they inherited it. What does this say about the rest of the Chicago school system?

I don’t know if there is a solution to this problem, as a tax-payer I feel betrayed.

REFERENCE: Jeffrey Mervis, A New Bottom Line For School Science, Science 22 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5866, pp. 1030 - 1033 DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5866.1030