‘Down home blues’

The recent Washington Post story about a Mississippi Delta elementary school that should have been helped by NCLB but instead languishes at the low-performing abyss, struck painfully, and literally, close to home.

As I mentioned recently, the effects of rural poverty on the education of some of our country’s most vulnerable children often go unnoticed in the media. So, on the one hand, I guess we should be grateful for Peter Whoriskey’s very detailed story.

On the other hand…

The story emphasizes that the benchmarks on the state tests in Mississippi are so low that even a school in the worse possible shape can achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as defined by NCLB. The solution to that problem is not (necessarily) to give these children more rigorous tests.

Among the many problems facing this school, I think its principal, Versa Brown, put her finger on the most acute one: the school’s inability to attract and retain quality teachers. Being forced to hire a larger percentage of uncertified instructors, or worse yet–the rejects from other systems–does not give the children of this and other Delta towns even a fighting chance.

I would concur with Linda Darling-Hammond’s call for a “Marshall Plan for Education” as the most cost effective and long term solution to educational inequities in Mississippi and other long-neglected areas.