Washington Education Watch, May 2016

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Time to Pray for Our Graduates

It’s that time of year again.  Our work with the students is almost complete for the year and they will be moving on to new things.  In most schools, celebrations are held for most of the grades whether it is an end of the year party for the preschool or the commencement ceremony for the seniors; it is right and fitting that we do so. You have invested a lot in your students over the past year and many of your students have made progress toward the goals that your school or district has established for them. You should take a few minutes to reflect on your work – first to think about how the Lord has worked in you and your students and then to reflect on how you will do things differently next year.

The nation tries to take stock every other year of how our graduates are doing by administering a test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), to the seniors and issuing the nations report card for seniors. The report for 2015 was issued by the National Assessment Governing Board a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the results in reading were static and in mathematics they declined slightly over the past two years. The math results are identical to what they were in 2005, when a new math framework for the exam was created. In reading the scores are significantly lower than they were when the reading test was created in 1992. Of even greater concern is that the gap between the top students and the lowest performing students continues to widen. The scores of the lower performing students – students at the 10th and 25th percentiles – dropped, and the number of students performing below the basic level increased from 35% to 38% in mathematics and from 25% to 28% in reading. Clearly we should be concerned that the gaps are increasing.

Washington Education Watch, May 2016

This month another report came out about our graduates; this one from Grad Nation,an advocacy group pledged to achieving a 90% on time graduation rate by 2020. The Grad Nation report showed that for 2013-14 (the report is always two years behind) the on-time graduation rate was 82.3%, up slightly from the previous year. The report notes that “Hispanic/Latino and African American students made the greatest gains in graduation rates,” but, “Hispanic/Latino (76.3 percent) and African American (72.5 percent) students have yet to reach an 80 percent graduation rate, and the gaps between them and White students, though narrowing, are still large.” The report also shows a lot of variability among the states in their graduation rates with Iowa at the top with a Graduation rate of 90.5% and New Mexico at the bottom graduating slightly less than 70% of their students. There is also a significant gap based on the income of the students, and this gap varies widely by states. The low income gap varies from 25.6% in South Dakota to 4% in Indiana.

There is also some very good news in this report. Six states, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Texas where the low income students are graduating at a higher rate than the national average of 82.3%. These six states are doing something right that we could learn from.  It would be a blessing if the US Department of Education would share information about what these states are doing that seems to be making a difference. However, it would be disastrous if they attempted to distill from these states some principles of practice that they would force on all states and their teachers.

It is now standard practice, whenever reports like these come out, to take a look at the gaps. The data is disaggregated to show us the disparities by income, race, gender, disabilities, etc. We should not be surprised to find such gaps present. We know that ever since the fall, man has jealously strived with his fellow man and lashed out in anger over any perceived differences. Cain’s jealousy, anger, and murder of Able (Genesis 4) was the first, of such incidents. Clearly many of the disparities we see in education reports, as well as wars, racism and genocide we have seen all too often in history, are a result of man’s fallen nature and how this plays itself out in the way we treat groups of people who are different than our own groups. As Christian teachers we strive on a daily basis to overcome the prejudice and hate that our students may have for each other, and we strive to help each student reach their maximum God-given potential. All teachers do this, but Christians know that we and our students are not able to win this struggle against sin alone. That is why we need Jesus.

Education researchers and policy makers go astray when they think that all children or adults should be able to achieve at the same level. God creates each of us uniquely and we each have different gifts and strengths. However, we must guard against the sinful jealousies that Cain and Able exemplify in Genesis 4. We must not think that because one of us is created to be a “keeper of sheep,” while another is created to a “worker of the ground,” one of us is better than the other. In God’s eye, He values each of us and would encourage each of us to “do well” in pursuing our God given calling.

So perhaps a suitable prayer for our students as they move to the next step in their lives might be the that each of them will discover God’s unique call on their lives. As Paul said to the Ephesians,

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. “ (Ephesians 2:10)

You can address your comments on these issues or other federal education issues to JMitchell@ceai.org.  John Mitchell is the Washington, DC Area Director for theChristian Educators Association.

© 2016 Christian Educators Association International www.ceai.org / 888.798.1124

Washington Education Watch 05/2016 Used with permission.

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