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Proof that Arne Duncan’s approach is wrong: Chicago High School students don’t go to top college’s despite Arne’s push for longer school years

May 7, 2009
CHICAGO - DECEMBER 16:  President-elect Barack...
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Proof that Arne Duncan doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to competitive schooling comes from the current district where he was superintendent, the Chicago public school  district.  In case you haven’t been able to follow Duncan’s foolish quotes, he recently told a group of middle school kids that he felt schools should be open 6-7 days a week for 11-12 months out of the year, more in keeping with modern business hours.  Well, we can all start doubting the sanity of the Obama administration’s picks again now with Duncan, because a new study finds that while under Duncan’s management, close to 20 % of Chicago Public School (CPS) students don’t even attend college

In fact, the study found, more than 90 percent of the academically advanced students in the Chicago school system have the qualifications to attend colleges that are at least “somewhat selective,” based on their grades, test scores, and high school coursework.

Yet 16 percent to 18 percent of that group had not enrolled in college a year after high school, and only about two-thirds enrolled in colleges that researchers deemed “somewhat selective.” Far fewer made it to “selective” or “very selective” higher education institutions…  (Courtesy of

How many is “far fewer,” really?  And now Arne Duncan is out to set the standards for the nation’s schools?   I am worried.

So what happens when you keep trying to up the academic ante, up the pressure, and then hope that you make kids competitive?  They don’t do very well, because they are kids.  Duncan’s push for more schooling HASN’T paid off, and seems to directly hurt children’s chances for getting into college:

Students also told the researchers that, because of the academic press of their coursework, they had little time to master the college-application process. Some resorted to skipping class in order to get their applications in on time.

“When [Chicago Public Schools] had only three selective-enrollment schools, only a small number of people really needed to have the expertise it takes to help top students enroll in top colleges,” the report concludes. “If CPS wants the hard work of these students, their families, and their teachers to pay off with college degrees, the capacity to guide these students to top colleges must be spread throughout the city.”

What do you do with the knowledge that you have overloaded your kids to the point that they don’t have time to get into schools?  Well, you could ask Arne Duncan, but he seems to have the wrong idea about what would have made CPS students succed to begin with.  While the district is trying to remedy this issue by having more counselors, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that ultimately, the Chicago Public School district has failed these students.

It’s a common misperception that simply adding to a child’s classload will equal success, will equal acceptance into better schools, will equal something wonderful that the parents/administrators/teachers have all planned out, but the problem with this concept is that children are their own people and may not follow a parent/admin/school district’s planned trajectory.  Simply expecting a kid to study more doesn’t equal success.  Other studies have proven this, but still, Arne Duncan keeps talking more, more time in school.

As an Ivy-League grad (check my  moniker for my credentials) coming from a small town and a public university, I can say that I did not have help in the form of school administrators.  In fact, even my family said that I shouldn’t go to Harvard, that I should frame my acceptance letter and move onto more realistic endeavors.  My father said he didn’t know why I would spend all this money on my education just to stay home with  my kids.  I met a lot of resistance to the idea of me attending an Ivy-league school, and I take heat for it in every professional context I have entered as though I am somehow irrelevant in “basic” jobs, not knowing how the “common people” do things and all.

Does this mean that I didn’t go to Harvard?  No.  Does coming from a less-than ideal background mean that these kids from CPS can’t go to Ivy-league schools?  No.  It means that the people pushing these kids don’t know what they are doing.  Applying to college is a system, like other set educational systems, and there is a process to it.  From the sounds of the article, the process isn’t being taught:

Also, the application process for private schools is more varied, and harder to navigate, than the more straightforward procedures for the Illinois state university system, Ms. Nagaoka said. “These families quite often doen’t have a college-going background,” she added. “And the neighborhood schools don’t have the capacity to ensure that students go on to school.”

So now “neighborhood schools” are to blame for not teaching kids how to get into college?  It says quite a lot to me that the families and neighborhood schools take the heat here from the school district, not the school district itself.  Arne Duncan, looks like you taught your districts well…

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