Ron Isaac’s Commentary: Schools: Not A Beauty Contest

Oct 13, 2021 by

Every school has its share of the best and the worst, as routinely defined.  The finest teachers are in the best schools and also in the worst schools.  The worst teachers are in the worst schools and also the best schools. 

Individuality is what is decisive and what matters most.

The US  DOE has recently identified 325 schools, coast to coast, to laud for being “high performing” or “gap closing”.   There is no fail-proof means or instrument for measuring the quality of a given school, since it would require extrapolation and projection from the specific to the general. 

Their naive but well-intended accolade is lethally flawed, because it is predicated on state assessment tests that are morbidly undependable. Their numbers also smell fishy. 

Among the 325 honorees, only a half-dozen were New York City schools. 

That would be a gross underestimation and proof that the criteria of judgement are arbitrary, erroneous and possibly rigged. Even if their competitive rankings were legitimate and evaluative tools could be agreed upon,  it is as perilous and ill-advised to “size up” schools comparatively as to do pirouettes when waist-deep in quicksand.

Every school, like every athlete, should compete against itself, not others. 

Many of the greatest artists, scientists, thinkers and supreme achievers in all areas of human endeavor, had often been  personal “failures” and the products of less than optimal learning environments.  Many students whose future triumphs we can’t always confidently bet upon, prosper through internal striving that was enabled by their mixed school experience. The reckoning may come many years down the road when they acquit themselves outstandingly in the tests of life. 

Genius often springs from the bottom ranked.

Many thousands of school were in contention for the “high-performing” and “gap-closing” trophy titles.  These crowns are wrought from paper-mache, not cast iron.   Except perhaps as boosters for the cited schools, the US DOE’s awards are empty flattery and meaningless.  Like magazines spreads of “The Sexiest Dog Alive”.

Ron Isaac

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