The headline of this article from the Orlando Sentinel sounds positive: Poor students faring better in Orlando than most cities.
Then you begin to wonder, what does that mean, faring better? Are poor students in Orlando doing better than they once were? Or has the achievement of poor students in the other cities declined at a faster rate than in Orlando?
The subheadline doesn't help: Gap between low-income and wealthier students is narrowing in Orlando.
This, it turns out, is the main thrust of the article, the reason the school system is patting itself on the back.
A new measure called the "education equality index," compares the performance of low-income and more affluent students on state standardized tests in cities and states across the country. ... Of the 100 cities included in the study, Orlando had the 16th smallest gap.
What is missing, entirely, from the article is any misgivings about how, exactly, this gap-narrowing has been achieved. Was it truly by raising the achievement levels of students from impoverished backgrounds, or have the other students slipped? The latter is much more easily accomplished, and in all my research on the subject—schools in the North and the South, public and private, at every level—most administrators are far less concerned about actual achievement than they are that there should be equality of outcome in all their demesne.
- The principal who told a friend, who was concerned about her daughter's lack of progress, "Your daughter is smart, lives with both her parents, and has breakfast every morning. I don't have time to worry about anyone who has such advantages."
- The administrator who announced, "The purpose of kindergarten is to get everyone to the same level."
- Those in a large school district who strove to dismantle one school's highly successful Advanced Placement program, because it made the other schools in the district look bad.
- Story after story of teachers who reached out to students others had given up on, and brought them to the highest levels of achievement, only meet obstruction at every step of the way from those who preferred an easy mediocrity.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Orlando's students are all achieving at increasingly high levels. But my experience leads me to be doubtful. And even more concerned about the reporter's own easy acceptance of this as good news.