I was stunned to read that the Madison School District administration is not using academic skills as an "indicator of success" for its community schools initiative, instead relying on attendance, after-school program participation, and an annual climate survey.
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This is not the approach being taken elsewhere in the country. On the contrary, the national Coalition for Community Schools sees academic success (such as reading at grade level by third grade) as one of its key objectives. By not including literacy and numeracy on the list of outcome variables for our community schools, the district has lowered the bar for its own accountability. It has also called into question the depth and seriousness of its commitment to improving the academic skills of our economically disadvantaged and minority students.
Decades after their implementation, Schools of Hope and Reading Recovery continue to be funded and used by the district despite evidence that the programs have not helped many of the children they were designed to help. Though the community schools model has much to recommend it, unless we keep our eyes on the prize of academic success, I fear we may be setting ourselves up for another expensive failure.
Laurie Frost, Madison