Re: RE: RE: DSM: Dismal according to their own measure...

Joe Jackson (
Tue, 5 Oct 1999 08:10:55 -0400

>I am not in the least asserting that all children should be
>held to the lowest level in order to include everyone. I am
>asserting that when looking at public school test scores, one
>must remember that the population tested includes a considerable
>percentage of children who have much to overcome. The urban poor
>are often so shell shocked , for example, that they have little
>will to do anything, let alone attempt to learn skills that they
>cannot imagine having any use. I could go on at length, but
>will not - presuming that listreaders here can come up with their
>own examples.

Just for the record I did not mean to imply that socioeconomic disadvantage
was not a legitimate reason that kids do poorly in tests, just that it is
this kind of (probably legitimate) statistical confounding that the pundits
can pull out of their noses any time the numbers don't reflect what they
want, and that this is a reason why we should not measure schools with
statistics. - I think we arrive at the same conclusion there.

However, test scores are quite often lower in rural areas than urban, so I
would not necessarily characterize it as an exclusively urban problem. For
instance, while doing our school's business plan, I discovered that Prince
George's County, the half urban/half suburban lower-middle working class
Washington DC community in which Fairhaven School operates, has higher state
test scores than the more rural and middle-class outlying Anne Arundel
County. I believe this is a result of two things:

1) The volume of support being crammed into urban schools from programs and
government money and volunteers (which might be a result of our society's
long-standing perceptions that our country's socioeconomic problems are
primarily urban), and

2) The very high degree of pressure D.C. and P.G. schools are putting on
their teachers for their students to pass the test, as well as the high
degree of pressure being placed on the students in these urban areas to do
well on the tests (which I think is a result of the pressure cooker
political environment that inner-city schools have become in the D.C. area,
mostly due to the media's fixation on the subject).

We at Fairhaven have _concerns_ about kids who cannot afford to pay $4400 a
year tuition. While we can't do a whole lot about it without going
bankrupt, we have (recently) started a program where:

1. Kids whose parents meet the Federal Free Lunch standards get the
third-sibling rate (approx $3100), and

2. A Tuition Assistance Fund that students can apply for for assistance
beyond the third sibling program.

Theoretically a student, if they received the third sibling rate and got
$1200 from T.A., could go to Fairhaven for about $160 per month. Although
that still probably rules out the bottom 5% of the families on the economic
ladder, I think the school is still doing more for poorer families than
practically any other private school. If you consider that FHS gives the
student a vastly higher chance of engaging in something than does our public
counterpart, I think we offer much more to the disadvantaged child than do
public schools.

However, as much as it makes my heart sink, I and the rest of the school
can't sweep up all of the world's children and give them all homes, and
families, and schools where they can sparkle.

BTW, I know Sharon did not mean to make it sound like this, but to say that
public schools _have_ to take poor kids makes it sound like we don't want
to, and that we won't do our damndest to make it happen, which is certainly
not the case. Our school meeting has shown it will jump through almost any
hoop to get a kid in who can't pay. Last year a student's parent stopped
being able/willing to pay halfway through the year. The student asked SM
for an extended plan that continued with much lower payments through the
summer, and she paid her own tuition, and stayed.

I think the difference with us is that, again unfortunately excluding the
bottom income brackets, the family and the student has to really _want_ to
come to the school; they have to _want_ to pay a little. In other words, I
think that on the list of why poor kids don't go to Sudbury Model schools,
inability to pay tuition is not very high.

- Joe Jackson,
Visit Fairhaven School's website at

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