So Manchester Board of School Committee Jim O'Connell, do YOU know how to close the Achievement Gap without more spending? - Granite Grok

So Manchester Board of School Committee Jim O’Connell, do YOU know how to close the Achievement Gap without more spending?


Money doesn’t cure all ills.  MANCHESTER Jim O’Connell now sits on the Board of School Committee. His claim to fame has been his constant call for MORE SPENDING in the schools (see screencap, below). He put out a statement on racism in the Manchester schools so I thought I’d send him a reply:

I’m going to address the statement that was recently put out by ‘Jim O’Connell regarding the racism within the Manchester school district. I did read through the numerous comments put forth by Manchester Proud a while ago. The comments certainly put a bad light on the district in terms of racism.

To Mr. O’Connell:

Do you even know how to close the achievement gap? What they are doing/using in schools right now does NOT close the achievement gap. A shift to skills and away from knowledge has proven to widen the gap.

Have you EVER championed focusing on verbal achievement which improves reading scores/comprehension? Since Manchester has a higher population of disadvantaged children, a knowledge based curriculum is even more essential. Children in affluent areas come to school with a large vocabulary. So think about the children who do not have that knowledge base. They start off at a disadvantage. If the district focuses on skills versus increasing their vocabulary, that gap becomes wider. This was addressed by Dr. E.D. Hirsch years ago in “Narrowing the Two Achievement Gaps.”

When you test children and they read about Egypt or the Nile river, those who are familiar with these areas have an advantage over those who do not. When they read words like fertile, those who understand the meaning while being tested would again have an advantage.

Competency Based Ed shifted focus away from a knowledge based education to a skills based education. That means they are focusing more time and energy on soft skill and less on knowledge. In other words, they are doing in your classroom the very thing that WIDENS the achievement gap. Add to the this problem Common Core standards and you have a recipe for hurting ESL children, children from disadvantaged backgrounds, etc.

I would say that there could be SOME truth to the racism in public schools, but that would be coming from the education reformers who decided that the public school children do not need to be as well educated as those in elite private schools.

Those who’ve blindly followed this lead in Manchester have contributed to the achievement gap. Was that racist? I don’t know what was in their heart, maybe they were simply misled by snake oil salesmen. Deb Livingston, Manchester Proud, 2Rev and others who refuse to address the achievement gap properly. I would argue that there are exceptions though. Richard Girard, Ross Terrio, Jimmy Lehoux, Art Beaudry and I”m sure a few others have challenged the dumbing down. They have spoken up on behalf of knowledge and literacy.

Richard Girard has mentioned the bigotry of low expectations in the past.

No one wants to do the research. They are now conditioned to accept anything that comes from the Feds or community organizers who continue to sell the failed fads that contribute to the achievement gaps: Manchester Proud, Nellie Mae Grants, etc. Manchester Proud includes pushing more fads in the classroom versus focusing on how to elevate literacy for all children which will also close the achievement gap.

Your battle cry seems to be spend more money on the schools but if you continue to support reforms and policies that do not focus on closing the achievement gap aren’t YOU part of the problem? I don’t recall seeing you championing for the reforms that would elevate achievement for the Manchester students. Funding will NEVER fix the problem if you refuse to implement real reforms.

My advice: take some time to do some research before firing off a shot like that again.


Jim O'Connell on racism