Thursday, July 2, 2009

Joe's Take: More Than Math and Reading

CAPE enters the blogosphere with this initial posting about a stimulating conversation that state CAPE representatives had earlier this week at their summer institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. The discussion (one of many valuable exchanges) centered around the need to distinguish religious and independent schools in fundamental ways from public traditional schools and public charter schools.

Private schools represent so much more than being effective vehicles for securing improvements in math and reading skills, which is what many public policy advocates seem to believe is the only justification for their existence. As some public schools are narrowing the curriculum in pursuit of having every child achieve at an illusory level of proficiency in reading and math, private schools need to remind the public that such skills are only a single point on a path toward educating the whole child. Critical thinking, analytical skills, imagination, creativity, compassion, character, an appreciation of art and music, athletic ability, and the development of spiritual and ethical values -- these collectively constitute the purpose of religious and independent schools. Quality academics are important, but they are only part of the picture. But too often, even we in the private school community give credence to the notion that the best way to judge our schools is by the upticks they show in reading and math scores.

Religious and independent schools contribute too much to the common good to be reduced to such narrow measures. As Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute said in an interview this week, it is no coincidence that the two minority members of next October’s likely Supreme Court (Justices Sotomayor and Thomas) once attended urban religious schools.

One state CAPE representative this week said we have to explain to the public that private schools would be essential to this country even if every public school were producing students with reading and math scores in the 90th percentile. I completely agree. How would you make that case?

(Posted by Joe McTighe, CAPE's Executive Director)

1 comment:

  1. There's little question that over-reliance upon highly reductionistic assessment data produces myopic evaluations that can often put political benefit at odds with focused improvement efforts. A recent report issued by the Accountability Committee of the Broader Bolder Approach to Education Campaign suggests that current public school accountability systems would benefit from the utilization of school inspectors. The authors fail to note that millions of attentive inspectors already facilitate accountability (with consequences) in our nation's private schools. Such inspectors go by the non-technical moniker of "parents."