Education Letter to the Editor

When Success Stories Are Public Relations Fodder

June 07, 2005 1 min read

To the Editor:

The real work of improving public schools won’t happen if we allow public discussion to be managed by school districts’ public relations departments. Recent reports such as that by the Center for Education Policy and articles such as “Urban Districts Create ‘Subsets’ of Schools” (“Urban Districts Create ‘Subsets’ of Schools,” May 11, 2005) uncritically present school success stories from the viewpoint of district officials spouting the party line.

For example, both offer Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 program as a solution for failing urban schools. But large segments of the Chicago community view it as a cynical school-closing plan that eliminates elected parent-majority governing boards and unionized teachers, and forces large numbers of mostly African-American children into repeated school moves.

There is little evidence that any of the other strategies described by Chicago district officials are helping either, yet this fiscal year the administration forced targeted schools to spend 100 percent of their annual “discretionary” funds on those programs.

The problem goes far deeper than the waste of funds on ineffective strategies. There is a lack of will to look beyond test scores to determine what’s wrong. The federal No Child Left Behind Act’s obsession with testing further dumbs down evaluation.

If we don’t develop a smarter approach to understanding what our schools need to succeed, we will never be able to give our children the better schools they deserve.

Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director

Parents United for Responsible Education

Chicago, Ill.