Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Great job on being rich!

My school district's website is celebrating 36 schools in our system that were received the Governor's Award for Educational Excellence. There were four high schools listed out of my district's 25, and I immediately noticed that they looked like the "rich schools": Langley High School, Madison High School, McLean High School, Oakton High School. So I read the criteria for the Governor's Award, which the district website lists:

"Schools must meet all state and federal benchmarks for at least two consecutive years and achieve goals for elementary reading, enrollment in Algebra 1 by grade 8, enrollment in college-level courses, high school graduation, attainment of advanced diplomas, increased attainment of career and industry certifications, and participation in the Virginia Preschool Initiatives" (, accessed 1/20).

I decided to test my theory to see if these were indeed the richest schools in Fairfax County. The same helpful website lists profiles for all schools that include demographics, so I looked at the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch. Here's what I found: of the 25 high schools in Fairfax County, the only schools that have less than 10% of the student body receiving free and reduced lunch are:

1. Langley High School (1.46%)
2. Thomas Jefferson High School (1.73%--I can only assume this school wasn't eligible, as this is Fairfax County's vaunted magnet school, listed for many years by U.S. News and World Report as the top public school in the nation. Trust me, if reaching benchmarks, taking college level classes, graduating, and obtaining advanced diplomas are your benchmarks, this would be out of the park.)
3. Madison High School (6.72%)
4. Woodson High School (7.22%)
5. McLean High School (7.79%)
6. Oakton High School (8.97%)

First thoughts? What happened to you, Woodson? No seriously, it just made me think a lot about what we choose to celebrate in education. What is there to praise here? These schools teach the population of students most likely to be from wealthy, stable families. It's not so much that they did something great as that they did not screw up their head start. Our society wants to believe that good schools, good teachers, make a huge impact on the educational outcomes of our students. I am a teacher, work hard, and believe in what I do, so I want to believe this, too. And those things certainly matter and can make a significant impact. The ugly truth, and the reason why I decided to look up the statistics on free and reduced lunch in the first place, is that income remains the largest predictor of all.

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