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Welcome to miracleschools.wikispaces.com, a place to gather research about schools that are touted in the media to demonstrate how well the current reform movement is going.
Who maintains this site?
This site was started by Gary Rubinstein and Noel Hammatt, two educators. They were introduced to each other by Diane Ravitch, after each had sent her independent investigations of miracle schools. After Diane Ravitch wrote a New York Times
citing the work,
Newsweek published a top 10 "miracle schools" list
, which made us realize that two people might not be enough to counter the current so-called reform movement. This site is an opportunity to get other people involved.
Why are you doing this? Do you like insulting hard-working kids and teachers?
The current reform movement in education is based on principles that have not been proved. The only 'proof' that the current reformers have of the effectiveness of their policies is a handful of 'miracle' schools. They claim that the only difference between these miracle schools and the failing schools down the street is the hard-working staff. The implication is that if teachers were made to work harder through the threat of being fired -- or actually fired, then eventually all schools could replicate such success.
Since this is the only 'proof' the reformers have, it is important that these miracles be scrutinized. If it turns out that they are not truly miracles, but just pseudo-miracles, it is important for the public to know. And we do not see this as insulting the kids or teachers from the miracle schools we debunk. Just because they are not miracle schools, does not mean that they are not good schools. The point is that there are other schools that are just as good that are getting shut down since they are failing to be miracles. It is important to reveal that the miracle schools aren't that miraculous either.
What is the definition of a miracle school?
Informally, a 'miracle' school is one that is significantly outperforming the nearby schools in its neighborhood despite working with the same student populations and the same limited resources.
More formally, we think that a true miracle school would have the following eight characteristics:
1) A low attrition rate
2) High test scores
3) High graduation rate (for high schools)
4) High college acceptance rate (for high schools)
5) Fair representation of ELL and Special Education students
6) A high percent of students who qualify for free or reduced meal prices
7) Funding equivalent to the nearby 'failing' school
8) No evidence that the school discriminates against low performing students
If a school fails to have any of these factors, I would say it is not truly a miracle school.
You've debunked many miracle schools. Have you found any genuine ones?
No. Not by the above definition. They all have failed several of the above characteristics. We try, as much as possible, to be unbiased researchers. Though we have a working hypothesis that there are no miracle schools, though there may be schools where many significant resources and conditions come together in order to create the school as an "outlier, we have not concealed any true miracle schools that we've found in order to support our hypothesis.
How do you decide which schools to investigate?
We mainly investigate schools that have been highlighted by politicians or the media. For example, Newsweek published a list of the top ten miracle schools, so these were worthy of investigation.
What are some of the most common things that cause a school to lose its 'miracle' designation?
There are several things that we look for. The most common, and easiest to detect (in some states) is attrition. A school with high test scores often has nearly half of their students leaving before finishing their program. Another thing to look for is what the admissions process is for these schools. If the process is too difficult, many of the most needy families will be discouraged from applying. Additionally, if there are "hidden" conditions or tests that exclude those not highly motivated or high-performing, then the school would lose it's "miracle" status. Sometimes the schools often have very low test scores, yet the politicians then tout other qualities, like high graduation rates, for example. We can then ignore those schools, since there is no miracle. Other things are hard, if not impossible, to uncover. For example, the funding issue. If a school gets a lot of private money and then claims they spend less per student, it is hard to dispute, but sometimes possible.
How can I get involved?
To contribute, send a request to register for this wiki. Then send a detailed email to garyrubinstein then-make-the-at-sign yahoo.com.
If you've investigated a school that you think would be a good addition to this site, send us the link to a post about that school. If you would like to be assigned a school to investigate or would like to check the facts of an investigation that is already in process, let us know and we will find a way for you to participate.
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