When Is Education News Not News At All?

It happens too often.  I read an article and then wonder, “What the heck was that all about?’ or maybe “What purpose did this serve?”

Here is my most recent exhibit of such.  This is a story on AL.com that is supposed to show us the top 25 elementary schools in Alabama with the best teachers according to something called Niche.  But truth is it might as well be entitled The 25 elementary schools where parents have the highest incomes or perhaps The 25 elementary schools in communities with the highest-priced homes.

As anyone involved in education can tell you, the greatest predictor of school and student performance is poverty.  This is why the average poverty rate of the 76 schools in Alabama now labeled as “failing,” is 71.5 percent, as compared to the state average of 51.9 percent.

According to the article, Niche determined their rankings by parent surveys on academics and teacher quality, average teacher salary, teacher absenteeism, years of teacher experience and student/teacher ratio.  Frankly I’m at a loss as to how any of these measurables tell me how good a teacher may be.

I was in two elementary schools in Mobile today.  One is George Hall, where I’ve been many times.  They have 87.4 percent of students on free-reduced lunches.  Last time I checked, their math and reading scores were nearly equal to any elementary school in Mountain Brook.  This is amazing.  And because of this kind of performance, I would say their teachers are probably as good as any in the state.

By no means do I imply that Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Homewood don’t have great teachers.  Heck, Jennifer Brown, our most recent Teacher of the Year works at Vestavia Hills high school.

But I just don’t see any value in listings such as this when we gloss over reality for the sake of satisfying the incessant craving of Americans to put numbers on things.

 

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