E-Mail Forum
Schools And Test Scores - The Reply
November 29, 2001

Your statement that "test scores of each school continue to be roughly equivalent to the wealth and education of the parents" is only true IN THE ABSENCE OF GOOD TEACHING. Good teaching easily overcomes demographics when it's tried. There are many examples of this. Here is one:

In the heart of Los Angeles County, in Inglewood, is Bennett-Kew Elementary. Bennett-Kew is 52 percent African-American and 41 percent Hispanic. It is a socio-economically disadvantaged school. Their 2000 API was 775, which would compare favorably in any suburb in California.

How did they do it?

First, they didn't accept low performance as inevitable. Second, they instituted strong academic standards and enforced their implementation.

Who was responsible for this? Nancy Ichinaga, a strong principal who was adamant about high expectations and dismissive of excuses. After 20 years as principal at Bennett-Kew Elementary, Governor Gray Davis appointed Ms. Ichinaga to the State Board of Education. She is exactly the kind of person we need there.

Here is an excerpt from just one article about her:
( http://www.cwfa.org/library/education/1999-11-24_progressive.shtml )

When Nancy Ichinaga became the principal of Andrew Bennett Elementary in 1974, 95 percent of the students were illiterate. In four years, Ichinaga raised the school-wide reading performance from the third to the 50th percentile in California. For the past 20 years, her school has been one of the highest performers in Los Angeles County. (Bennett merged with the James Kew school in 1992.)

Before Ichinaga arrived, Bennett operated on a child-centered approach. Children chose to do what they wanted. Instruction had no structure or expectations, and teachers were too busy designing curricula and developing programs to actually teach. The students’ poor academic performance was inevitable. Ichinaga turned the school around by teaching behavior management and structuring classrooms. She based grade promotion on achievement “thereby preventing any cycle of school failure from beginning.”

The success of Bennett-Kew Elementary:
  • In 1986, Ichinaga raised opposition and prevailed against California’s ruling that required whole-language reading instruction in all the state’s schools. In 1990, while the rest of California’s schools were immersed in whole language, Bennett-Kew scored in the 78th percentile for reading, language and math.
  • In 1993, Ichinaga nearly lost Title I funding because Bennett-Kew did not offer a bilingual program—even though the school is 50 percent Hispanic. Nonetheless, Ichinaga received a waiver because of her school’s high test scores and the students’ English fluency.
  • For many years, Bennett-Kew students have been district leaders in math. This year the third graders averaged in the 80th percentile on the Stanford-9 Achievement Test.

The reason progressive education hurts poor children, says Ichinaga, is because poor children learn only what schools teach them. Progressive approaches emphasize “self-esteem” without achievement. “We believe every child can learn,” stated Ichinaga. “You’ve already lost if you begin making excuses.” Ichinaga has made no excuses for poor achievement, and her students have excelled above and beyond society’s expectations.

Another excellent article about her and Bennett-Kew is at:

Tom, what's the biggest problem in education? The answer is not money, its low expectations! Try following Nancy Ichinaga's example and don't accept excuses for poor achievement. And don't accept poor academic achievement as the inevitable result of a low income. Low income students can and do achieve high academic standards when schools stop making excuses and start concentrating on good teaching.