The very first lesson I teach in my statistics class is how dangerous it is to make policy decisions based on single data points or measures. That is why I was particularly startled to read parts of the article on the Green School of Baltimore’s achievement gap in math proficiency — in particular the vote of one member to shut the school down (“Dilemma for Baltimore educators: How to judge a school with high ratings, yet huge black-white achievement gap,” Jan. 30).
Make no mistake that the achievement gap between black and white students in math proficiency at the school is indeed startling and a cause for serious concern and reflection. However, as with any single data point, these math standardized test scores are an imperfect measure of students’ full knowledge and ability (“Green School serves students well,” Jan. 31.) Focusing on single numerical standards alone does not represent the full picture of a school’s success in fostering learning and comprehension.
As a parent of a Green School student, I would have a hard time being able to enumerate just how much my child has learned and grown as an individual since joining the school. I can attest to the dedication of the staff and teachers and sincere desire for all children to have an equal experience. More importantly, the school is not shying away from the existing disparity and is taking dedicated honest, and transparent steps to address it. This year, we have experienced a concerted effort to improve the math curriculum at the school. In addition, the school recognizes that it’s not just about academics and is also engaging the whole school around issues of social and racial justice.
The School Board did the right thing by holding the school accountable for the test disparity in their request for charter renewal. However, focusing on a single data point to measure the success of a school (and in this case, to determine whether a school should continue operations) raises questions and concerns about how schools across the city will be judged and evaluated in the future. Decision makers must be extremely careful to not place emphasis on one single data point, particularly when it comes at the expense of our children’s future.
Raquel Frye, Baltimore