Numbers Don’t Tell Whole Story at Madison’s Glendale Elementary

Susan Troller:

Glendale Elementary may be failing by test-based standards, but it’s succeeding by human ones.
The question of how we recognize good schools and bad ones has become a pressing issue.
In Washington, Congress is debating the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Locally, Madison and Sun Prairie parents have recently been upset over boundary changes that some see as sending their children to less desirable schools.
At the same time, the movement toward inclusivity in special education, a growing minority population and increasing poverty rates throughout Dane County, particularly in Madison, have put a sharp point on some important questions:

  • Do advanced students suffer when they share a classroom with struggling students?
  • How should schools address the stresses of poverty?
  • Are test scores a reliable measure of a school’s effectiveness?

This story doesn’t attempt to answer those questions; educational researchers have been struggling with them for decades. Instead, it puts one Madison elementary school under the microscope where all those currents come together — a school that by No Child Left Behind’s test-based standards is clearing failing. Yet, by the assessment of a number of parents, volunteers and other fans, the school is succeeding beyond all expectations.
A closer look at Glendale Elementary, a 50-year-old Madison school within the noisy shadow of U.S. 51, shows a school where success is occurring in ways that test scores can’t measure and poverty rates don’t reveal.