Education in Obama's home town
Posted by aogSunday, 15 November 2009 at 16:42 TrackBack Ping URL

Via Joanna Jacbos we have this back story on how education is done in Chicago (not forgetting that our current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was Chicago’s Chief of Public Schools for over 7 years) —

The Providence Effect, a movie about a Chicago school that educates low-income, black students, is astonishing, writes Donald Douglas. When the Catholic Archdiocese in Chicago decided to close Providence-St. Mel, Principal Paul Adams III raised money to take over Providence-St. Mel.

Providence St. Mel is proud of its tradition of 100% college acceptance, which began in 1978 and continues today. In 2002, 42% of the graduates of 2002 were accepted to top tier/ivy league schools; today more than 50% are accepted to schools of this caliber.

In a Witness LA interview, Adams is asked whether Chicago’s public school leaders come to him for advice on how to run a successful inner-city school. “Actually, no one has come,” he replies.

WLA: What do you mean no one? Like not one person from the Chicago School District has come to visit St. Mel’s?

PA: Never. Not one.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Hey Skipper Monday, 16 November 2009 at 00:32

The education establishment never fails to astonish.

Just out of curiosity, what is the college graduation rate of PSM students?

The acceptance rates seem a little skewed. More than 50% were accepted to top tier/ivy league schools? Heck, the high school I went to was in one of the most privileged cities in the US, and while the graduation rate was nearly 100%, and 98% of them went to college, nowhere near 50% went to top flight/ivy league schools.

erp Monday, 16 November 2009 at 08:10

Top flight schools, like all the rest, are primarily interested in AA. This high school turns out very high quality minority students, so it’s not surprising they were snapped up by college admissions offices.

Whether they are up to the challenge is another matter. No matter how well prepared academically, it’s a difficult adjustment for kids growing up in the ghetto to be thrown into an environment with other kids who’ve grown up with every advantage.

A good support system is a must.

Lowering standards has become the standard. Physical requirements for women at the service academies and in police and fire departments are the rule. Lowering standards or changing the curriculum for math courses to make them more “diverse” has also been going on for some time.

This quote from your link says it all: … the professors, usually with education degrees, who teach prospective teachers of math from K–12—dominate the development of the content of school curricula and determine the pedagogy used, into which they’ve brought theories lacking any evidence of success and that emphasize political and social ends, not mastery of mathematics.

We see the malevolent hand of the unions at work again. Plenty of retired professionals would be glad to teach mathematics and science courses at their local high schools, but aren’t permitted to unless they take additional mickey mouse “education” courses to qualify for a teaching license.

To be fair, however, our kids may not be as bad as the results of the academic achievement test shows. Most of those other countries don’t test all their eighth graders like we do, they only test those they’ve already determined to be on the academic track.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 16 November 2009 at 08:57


I don’t know anything beyond what’s in the article. It is of a piece though with dozens of other articles I have read over the years about the total lack of interest on the part of the education establishment with any sort of measurement or evaluation. They simply do not care what works and what doesn’t for the children. Which is basically what erp wrote.

Brian Monday, 16 November 2009 at 13:12

From the article: “education became the central focus of the child and the child’s family.” That’s the key right there. Kids need their out-of-school environment to be supportive of, in fact DEMANDING, in-school achievement. It doesn’t matter what you do in the classroom if the family isn’t supportive. Make that happen and everything else will then take care of itself. Most of the dumbing-down of education is just trying to end-around this problem by changing the rules so that non-achievement—VOILA!—magically becomes achievement.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Monday, 16 November 2009 at 13:28

Providence St. Mel is proud of its tradition of 100% college acceptance, which began in 1978 and continues today.

This tells me that they kick out a lot of students.

While this kind of resource-based triage is a good and necessary thing to save the cream of the underclass, it’s also not an acceptable universal solution. There are plenty of kids who won’t be going to college, but could be highly productive members of society if they got a good-enough education. Which Providence St. Mel won’t provide to them.

Further, for this up-and-coming generation a college education is more likely than for previous generations to be only a source of difficult-to-pay debt, rather than a golden meal ticket + debt.

Nuclear and petroleum engineers - good. B-school or liberal arts degrees - oy vey. But engineering is hard.

Hey Skipper Monday, 16 November 2009 at 19:08

It took a little digging, but the PSM’s graduation rate is 53%, compared to the US avg of 68%.

53% is, however, a huge improvement over other inner city schools.

In all my digging, I didn’t find one instance of the education establishment looking into anything. Other than their own navels, that is.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 16 November 2009 at 19:58


Yes, the probably do. I understand sympathy for the booted kids, but I do wonder why so few have sympathy for those kids who get stuck in schools that don’t boot so that 98% end up uneducated instead of 50%.

It’s yet another reason I am a strong proponent of school vouchers because some kids will do well at a St. Mel’s type school and other children will do better at a school with a different structure. Nationalized education simply can’t deliver that, nor could it actually sort the kids if it did.

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