Education Enterprise

Learning, Teaching, Journalism & Public Policy
AUGUST 3, 2010 12:18AM

My Daughter's School Didn't Make AYP, and I Don't Care

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Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,/Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,/Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,/My master's gone away.

Anyone else remember singing those words as a child? Having just turned 50, I remember a time when elementary school children still sometimes learned the words to blackface minstrel songs. Or maybe it's an African American folk song. Music experts seem to be of divided opinions about its origin. And its meaning. Who is Jimmy? Why does he crack corn? Whatever. It is quite clear he doesn't care that the master's gone away.

Just as unequivocally, I do not care about the fact that my daughter's elementary school did not make AYP in communication arts this year. Yeah, if you pay attention to the news at all you know that AYP has something to do with No Child Left Behind. But if you haven't examined the legislation in detail, those words probably make as much sense as "Jimmy crack corn."

What does it mean?

I mean, of course I understand the importance of all children in our society succeeding in school. That's the reason I'm working on my alternative certification to teach, because I believe so strongly that this is important work that I want to spend the remainder of my working years doing it. And I'm sure we all understand that the intent of the legislation is to ensure that minority and disadvantaged children don't get left behind.

The thing is, there was only one subgroup at my daughter's school that did not make AYP (stands for Adequate Yearly Progress, just as JCC stands for Jimmy Crack Corn ... I'm sure you could read something racist into that comment if you really tried, but I'm just trying to show how silly these acronyms are that we bandy about without understanding). And that subgroup at my daughter's school that did not make AYP was ... drum roll please ... white kids.

The kids as a whole made AYP. The Asian and Pacific Islander kids made AYP. The black kids not only made AYP, they blasted through the ceiling with their scores. The Hispanic kids made AYP. The American Indian kids made AYP. The kids who receive lunches free or for a reduced price (i.e. the disadvantaged kids) made AYP. The physically and mentally disabled kids made AYP. Even the kids who are still learning English and were required to take tests in English made AYP.

The white kids however ... tsk, tsk ...

Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care.

It wasn't just my daughter's elementary school either. It was the entire district that didn't make AYP. In English and math. And this wasn't the first year. 

Uh-oh. Or Ruh-roh, as Scooby-Doo would say. 

My daughter's school, at least, only came up short in English. Their math scores were fine. And they made AYP last year, so they're doing a little better than the district as a whole.

Not only that,  but our state education commissioner says not to worry. Missouri kids as a whole improved their scores across the board in communication arts, math and science on the state's annual MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) test.

So who am I gonna believe? The feds, who say my daughter's school is not making adequate yearly progress in teaching communication arts? Or the state, which says the kids are doing better than ever?

Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care.

Our district superintendent, in a letter dated today, ritually flagellates himself and the district for the declining AYP scores, but something else in his letter puts these numbers in perspective: "We believe the most important score is that of your child, and the progress he or she makes year-to-year."

I don't mean to imply that parents should only look out for their own kids. Of course -- for the sake of our society -- we should be concerned about the well being of all our kids. But sometimes numbers and acronyms -- like AYP -- don't provide an accurate picture of what's going on in education.

Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care.

Of course I care about the kids, the teachers and the schools.

Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care. 

It's the AYP I don't care about.

Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care.

The AYP has to go away. 


"Missouri schools falling behind No Child Left Behind":

"More Students Excel in Statewide MAP Tests":

The Preliminary 2010 AYP Report for my Daughter's Elementary School: 

Parent Letter From Superintendent Todd White dated 2 August 2010:  






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Good morning, Ms. Martinez!

Last year - almost at this very time - I wrote an oped in the Sun Tribune responding to many of the issues your blog addresses. Since you have so many good thoughts and ideas, I was hoping to arm you with a few more. Please find a copy of that oped below. Again, great blog!

Best wishes,

James E. Whedbee, M.Ed.
"When We Know All Hands are on Deck" by James E. Whedbee, M.Ed.


Dear Mr. Weikal:

This responds to your article "Schools need all hands on deck" published October 8, 2009 in the Sun Tribune. I agree with you that everybody in a school system should perform an educational function. Your article notes that a member of the North Kansas City School Board was concerned at the 'achievement gap' in MAP test scores throughout the district. Because that is the underlying premise of your article, I briefly want to address this.

Let me begin by clearing up a myth about achievement testing. Achievement tests, summative academic tests, and standardized tests only accurately evaluate the socio-economic status (in other words, financial status) of students and their families - they are simply another form of red-lining and a potential tool for discrimination. (Desert, et al., 2009; Lattimore, 2005.) When one analyzes these MAP tests (and others like it) for correlations, the only direct correlation which stands out is that these tests simply show the economic status of the family within which a given child is raised, and this is true worldwide. (Desert, et al., 2009; Gultekin, 2006; Shriberg, 2006.) Simply put, while MAP tests and similar tests may have some limited value in determining academic achievement, when examined for validity and reliability, such tests can only reliably predict a person's place in our society's pecking order. With respect to special education students, minority students, and others in key groups, these tests may very well violate their rights under our U.S. Constitution. By diverting funds away from real education, these tests discriminate against us all and are little more than a form of extortion against our school districts.

As if red-lining by test wasn't bad enough, when one considers the enormous stress these tests put on students and school faculties alike (Kruger, 2007), not only has this society allowed another form of discrimination into its most precious system (schools), but the test is actually doing physical and emotional damage, which only widens the achievement gap we'd otherwise be narrowing. Mrs. Harris' comments are only a validation of this argument. Bear in mind that the "No Child Left Behind Act" has not been reauthorized, and in point of fact, the only way we avoid leaving anybody behind is to line them up on a line and ask them not to move. These tests are doing little more than that. What they are better at doing is lining the pockets of otherwise obsolete textbook writers, test writers, and consultants because districts are in a panic to make the scores rise. This is a diversion away from the true mission of educators.

Because achievement testing is such a specialized field, few people genuinely understand how little these tests are worth in determining if a school system is working or not. North Kansas City School District, its administrators and teachers, and yes, its support personnel are all doing fantastic. Achievement gaps only close when the underlying economic conditions which created those are closed; and, the studies identified above back me up on this! (Fitz, et al., 2002.) While it is understandable that these tests are making people worry, I am concerned that too much emphasis and value has been placed on a basically worthless regime of testing. District-wide, state-wide, and yes, nationwide, we need to 'leave behind' a useless system of testing and get back to teaching: only then will all hands be on deck.

Sincerely yours,

James Edwin Whedbee, M.Ed.

Bibliographic Data:

Desert, M., Jund, R., Preaux, M. (2009). So young and already victims of stereotype threat: Socio-economic status and performance of 6 to 9 years old children on Raven's progressive matrices. European Journal of Psychology of Education - EJPE; Jun2009, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p207-218, 12p.

Fitz, J., Gorard, S., Taylor, C. (2002). Local education authorities and the regulation of educational markets: four case studies. Research Papers in Education; Jun2002, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p125-146, 22p.

Gultekin, T., Gulec, E., Hauspie, R., Susanne, C. (2006). Growth of children living in the outskirts of Ankara: Impact of low socio-economic status. Annals of Human Biology; Jan/Feb2006, Vol. 33 Issue 1, p43-54, 12p, 6 graphs.

Kruger, L., Struzziero, J., Wandle, C. (2007). Coping with the Stress of High Stakes Testing. Journal of Applied School Psychology; 2007, Vol. 23 Issue 2, p109-128, 20p.

Lattimore, R. (2005). African American Students' Perceptions of Their Preparation For A High-Stakes Mathematics Test. Negro Educational Review; Jul2005, Vol. 56 Issue 2/3, p135-146, 12p.

Shriberg, D. (2006). The Role of Demographics and Opportunities to Learn in Predicting Performance on a High-Stakes Test. Journal of Applied School Psychology; 2006, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p59-76, 18p, 2 charts.