The Graduation “Gap”

I came across a story earlier this month that really pissed me off.

I realize that it is from USA Today, which makes it automatically suspect for many, but the core study that the story speaks to is very disturbing indeed. It’s not disturbing because of the enormous graduation gap that it points to between inner cities and suburbs. I think anyone with an ounce of brain cells knew this was happening all across the country. What really disgusts me is just how bad the problem has gotten, despite all the money and effort thrown at it.

How can we expect to survive as a country (let alone remain competitive a global economy) when such a large percentage of our kids have a 50-50 shot at graduating from HIGH SCHOOL!?

I live in the District of Columbia, where our youthful new mayor Adrian Fenty has taken over the school system in the model of NYC and a few other cities. He appointed Michelle Rhee to come in an whip everyone in to shape, paying her a handsome $275K per year to get the job done plus a signing bonus and yearly bonuses that could push her compensation over $300K per years.  Want to know what does the highest paid teachers in DC make? $68,000 per year, with seniority and a masters degree.

So far, as might be expected, the reception to his actual implementation of a campaign promise has been mixed. I hope he steps up his game because I may have kids going to school here one day, but I am not optimistic.

I guess he deserves credit for trying, but all he really did was co-opt the ideas of the school superintendent that he fired and replaced with Rhee. When the first act of a new mayor is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I am a little suspicious. Not only that, but the woman has never administered anything larger than a classroom in her entire life and that was in Baltimore, the city with one of the worst school districts in the country. What exactly did she learn in those three years of teaching that would be worth that kind of salary? Perhaps it was the time she spent starting the New Teacher Project – a worthy non-profit that does good work in urban schools, but hardly experience that would justify that kind of money.

DC is simply a microcosm of the school dilemma found around the country. Too much weight at the top taking resources away from teaching children and managing facilities.

The schools are also a reflection of our society at large – where CEOs earn more in ten minutes than most workers earn all year. When did this idea that top-down management was not only more effective than bottom-up efforts, but that the guy (or gal) at the top of the ladder somehow contribute 400 times more than the people at the bottom?

Is this nation terminally ill?  Should someone stick a thermometer up our collective anus and make sure we aren’t running too high a fever to make the right decisions about vital issues?

I think we better figure it out quick before we have a nation of high school drop-outs competing for what few McJobs are available to them while the rest of us do what we can to keep this ship afloat.


Cross-posted at The Red Road.

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