Despite millions, “The low achievers are still low achievers”

“Joy in Teaching” posted a provocative comment on my entry on the new White House plan to direct millions of dollars to the “bottom of the bottom” schools. (I just completed a press conference call with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the plan and will post a summary later.)

Of the new plan,  “Joy” said: “I think it is more of the same garbage. Schools have been tossing money with both hands at the low achievers for years while basically ignoring the average kids and the gifted. And guess what? The low achievers are STILL low achievers while the average kids and the gifted kids are largely left to their own devices. With a little bit of extra attention, there are many average children who would blossom and there is no telling what the gifted could accomplish given the opportunities.

“At the risk of sounding cold-hearted, I think that it is time that schools start to nurture those who have the desire and capability of being educated. The rest of the world focuses on those students and they have the test scores to prove it. Why can’t we?”

Does anyone have an answer for Joy?

77 comments Add your comment

Rick K

August 26th, 2009
3:14 pm

Absolutely correct! Teaching to the lowest common denominator does not work for anyone! Students should be assigned to classes according to achievement and desire. Students advance at their own rate. However, liberal political correctness will never allow this common sense approach. Instead, classes are divided totally according to race.

chiefs fan

August 26th, 2009
3:27 pm

Joy doesn’t need an “answer.” What’s needed is to take Joy’s advice.

DeKalb Conservative

August 26th, 2009
3:45 pm

The notion that focusing on low achievers, ie “learning down,” doesn’t seem to make sense.

How is it that we have the best colleges in the world, but are mid pack at best for K-12?

Seen it all

August 26th, 2009
4:16 pm

Maureen,

We already do that. We NURTURE, MOTIVATE, and CULTIVATE those who “have the desire and capability of being educated.” What exactly does this statement mean people? Is this coded language for the middle and upper class? Are you implying that working class, poor, and minority students (the ones usually described as “low achieving”) are not capable of being educated? Does this mean that we should not put forth the same effort (if not more) to make sure they have the same opportunity as the rich to get a good education?

I wrote in a previous post that the White House plan is garbage for this reason- with the exception of the charter schools push, everything else has been tried before. Why will it fail? The people in charge of actually teaching the children don’t really care if they learn or not. In fact, they don’t really want them to be successful.

We have seen statements and sentiments like “the lowest common denominator” time and time again from “educators” and other people connected with education (if nothing more than an education writer). I have been on this blog for 5 years now. I have seen it all. Coupled with my experience of teaching in minority and working class schools and what I have heard from other teachers, I know why the student achievement of the students in schools outside of the “suburbs” is so low. The superintendents, central office personnel, principals, teachers, parapros, etc. have devalued the children and families of working class communities. They have NO interest in seeing that these children are nurtured and cultivated. They are third and fourth class citizens, some even less than that.

All the Bell Curve and “Understanding Poverty” excuses won’t work. I have seen teachers who had intelligent, compliant students and still weren’t successful. And they had all the resources and training in the world. What was the determing factor? The attitude of the teacher. The teacher (and the school as a whole) didn’t want to put the effort in to get the best out of her students. She saw her students as nothing more than little…………….

Maureen's accountability metric

August 26th, 2009
4:16 pm

I wonder if Joy in Teaching would agree with Maureen’s assessment that “there’s no data to support” the contention that the lack of support teachers receive in regard to chronically disruptive students is a legitimate issue, and therefore it’s not a “pressing” issue worthy of discussion.

For that matter, I wonder if the education reporters at Maureen’s very own paper would support that contention, seeing that they’ve run multiple stories on school systems manipulating data to minimize the extent of discipline problems statewide?

I wonder if the federal government would release funds to embrace programs that effectively rearrange deck chairs, could we make the Titanic a seaworthy vessel again?

Reality

August 26th, 2009
4:22 pm

Are we talking about kids who are low achievers because they don’t have anyone to help them at home? Are we talking about kids who are mentally slow (special ed)? No not all kids should be college bound. Some kids are just stuck in bad situations – I get the feeling, some don’t want to help them. Should we put them all in one building and forget about them?

I will agree that the average kid is forgotten about, I had an “average child” who worked really hard to maintain a 3.4 average. He got very little attention from his school or teachers. Its seems you need all A’s in some schools to matter – even if the A isn’t worth the paper its was written on.

KayTee

August 26th, 2009
4:25 pm

I went to one of the best colleges in the world and a large number of the best and brightest ‘ain’t from ah-round he-ah’. There is a major discontinuity between k-12, especially public k-12, and our ‘best colleges in the world’.

As for the original topic, imagine if rather than resourcing from the bottom up, we started from the top down. We have no problem identifying the poor achievers, so let’s identify the best and brightest and spend our limited resources challenging them to meet their potential, working our way from top to bottom. Many of those who would see less resources than they do now are going to drop out anyway making them a bad investment.

As a society we need to cut our losses, not our profits.

KayTee

August 26th, 2009
4:32 pm

Are comments filtered or blocked?

Reality

August 26th, 2009
4:37 pm

Why don’t we just get rid of the low achievers, elderly, and handicapped? They are too much trouble and waste money. Give everything to the young, healthy gifted people. I think God would agree?

Mac

August 26th, 2009
4:58 pm

I guess my callousness is just contrary to most. I say the ‘gifted’ and financially blessed will be OK without all the public resources and attention on them. We need to help the less fortunate first if we are to raise this country up.

M

August 26th, 2009
4:59 pm

Many government officials as well as others think that throwing money at a problem is the answere. It is NOT! Many of these schools have outstanding teachers and administration. The low achieving schools will remain that way until PARENTS of those students decide to get involved with their child’s education. It is up to them to teach their child by example that education is important. I am a single parent that works two jobs and I still make time to be involved with me child’s education. He is now a junior in high school and I have been there with him since pre-school. No excuses people! Share the money with ALL students.

Reality

August 26th, 2009
5:08 pm

Mac – Amen

DB

August 26th, 2009
5:26 pm

Mac, who is “less fortunate”? The kid who never does his homework? The kid who threatens teachers when they dare to try to make them work? The kid who is only at school because otherwise, his parole officer would throw him back in jail? The kid for whom school is a drug marketing opportunity, not a learning opportunity?

Yes, there are kids need encouragement. But at some point, you have to say, “Enough, I’m not going to waste any more time on you.” If kids flunk out of school at 16, they are OUT of school, period. If they are suspended due to violence or drugs, they don’t get to come back, PERIOD. Threaten a teacher? Out of school. PERIOD. Kids respect education and teachers as much as they perceive they are respected by the rest of the world. No one who respects something allows it to be threatened, hurt or ignored. Once education becomes a privilege and not a right, it will be far more effective.

KayTee

August 26th, 2009
5:41 pm

Can’t speak for god and it’s getting harder to hear her over all the noise from people who claim to.

Reality 2

August 26th, 2009
5:55 pm

If we are going to focus on those who are capable of learning, then we don’t need teachers. They can learn on their own, provide them with resources and technologies. In fact, they probably don’t need schools. Let the public education focus only those who otherwise will not achieve without the knowledge and skills of trained professionals.

ScienceTeacher671

August 26th, 2009
6:33 pm

IIRC, one thing that all of the “high-flying schools” (i.e., those with high poverty and high achievement) have in common is very strict discipline, along with high expectations and frequently mandated parental involvement – study, for example, the KIPP schools.

ga

August 26th, 2009
6:55 pm

Mac – I like your line of thinking. But I don’t believe necessarily that throwing more money at the problem is the solution at all.. Didn’t districts just get some windfall money from the stimulus package? Is anyone tracking where the money went and how it is being spent. If a district were to implement positive behavior supports or pbis across the board, I think this would help – and No, it is not a huge expense, then I believe we would see improvement across the board.. that’s my belief and only 1 opinion though. You have got to give respect as adults first in order for the student to learn respect. Imagine being impoverished and in a neglectful environment at home- you think that kid is going to trust any adult?? not likely. Show them you care and inspire them, you’ll make a difference for a lifetime.

Allen

August 26th, 2009
7:05 pm

Low scores shouldn’t be any reason not to give a kid a helping hand, but DB is right–any kid who *intentionally* detracts from the learning environment should be out on his ass, not the focus of extra spending.

em

August 26th, 2009
7:11 pm

I usually keep quiet on these issues but I have to weigh in on this issue. Approximately fifteen years ago, I walked away from a successful career in the corporate world because I felt that I had more to contribute than a corporate bottom line. Since I began teaching, I have seen the state of public education erode to a point where no one is served. I have grown weary of spending 80 percent of my time dealing with students who do not want to be in school, who do not want to learn, and are chronic disruptions to those who do. The political correctness in public education has gone too far. Concepts such as self-esteem, no zero policies, allowing students to retake exams multiple times, no homework policies, grade inflation, and social promotion has ushered in a generation of students who know that even if they do nothing they will not fail because the system will not let them. Earning a high school diploma for many graduates is simply fraudulent. Students,despite their varying abilitites, have the same opportunities when they enter school; the difference is what one does with those opportunities. There is a finite amount of educational resources available; it only makes sense to expend those resources on those with the desire to obtain an education. After all, isn’t that what is done in Europe and Asia?

ga

August 26th, 2009
7:15 pm

Who is to say which kid is Intentionally detracting from the learning environment, if the child has not been properly assessed for years and passed along for years and then there are no proper interventions implemented? Who is to say?

Jan

August 26th, 2009
7:36 pm

Education needs to be viewed as a cooperative partnership between parents, students, teachers, and administration. Unfortunately, few people seem to understand this. Most people just sling mud at whichever group they want to blame.

Hmmm…. Maybe this is why I sent my kids to a private school… Parents are expected to be involved in the educational process. Students are expected to work and act respectfully. Teachers are expected to teach and motivate. The administration is expected to work to support the school, the teachers, and the students. For the most part, everyone does what is expected and the educational system works. When people aren’t willing to do their part, they usually get the boot and again, the educational system works.

Responsibility all around and accepting the rewards of living up to or consequences of failing to live up to that responsibility. What a novel concept!

Gwinnett citizen

August 26th, 2009
8:21 pm

Jan, unfortunately not everyone can afford private schools. Those “low achievers” (for whatever reason they are low) still have to be addressed. I agree with your statement about a “cooperative partnership”, but that just isn’t, nor will it ever be, the situation for all students attending public schools.
I find your attitude just a bit trite.

V for Vendetta

August 26th, 2009
9:18 pm

Seen It All, you must really hate reality (and I’m not talking about the poster on this blog). You seem to think that, in some egalitarian utopia, all children would be provided the exact same chance to learn with the same resources, skilled teachers, and, dare I say it, involved and motivated parents. However, such a (nightmarish) world does not exist. What exists is the world we live in, the world in which these students will have to someday work.

You said, “Does this mean that we should not put forth the same effort (if not more) to make sure they have the same opportunity as the rich to get a good education?”

You know what? They DO. When it comes to education, it is not about the money a school has, the environment it’s in, or the socioeconomic status of the parents that determines whether or not a child can learn. Learning is a volitional act–i.e., a child must make a conscious effort to learn. One can easily choose not to learn.

It is easy to fault the rich for being rich–it’s done all the time in this country–but the people who do so often forget that, for the most part, the rich earned what they have through hard work that was the end result of a good education. The rich make an easy scapegoat on which to pin the failures of the lower classes; however, no one seems to address the vast middle class and the hardships they face. No one seems to mention parents who are teachers, as mine were, and who don’t have the financial resources to send their children to college. Such parents rely on the values instilled within their children, their children’s conscious choices to lean and succeed, and their children’s successes paving the way for their college educations. Their children seek scholarships and grants because they know that college is important, and they know WHY it’s important. They don’t ask for what is not theirs, and they don’t make claims against people who have more than them simply because they have more. They work; they produce; they EARN. They seek value for value.

I have read many comments on this blog and the last one about improving America and raising up our population, but I wonder exactly what that means. Any time you provide something for someone free of charge, you must first extort it from someone who has earned it. In essence, you must steal it from someone who has worked hard to attain it. Nowhere is this more evident than in public education, where the best and the brightest are stripped of their resources and funds only to have them redistributed to low achievers, failing schools, and special education.

If you want America to succeed, perhaps you should stop taking from those who make America successful. The people you are speaking of are not the producers in this country; they are the moochers.

http://galtsgulchcolorado.blogspot.com/

Tony

August 26th, 2009
9:35 pm

Can anyone tell me about the Law of Decreasing Returns? Perhaps this economics law also applies to the notion of putting more money into the lowest achievers.

Reality 2

August 26th, 2009
9:42 pm

Tony,

Why limit the analysis to the low achievers? I think high achievers do not require as much attention from us, either. Plenty of middle groups can do fine by simply providing computerized instruction, which can be mass produced and mass delivered much more economically than hiring a bunch of teachers.

It is those low achievers who need teachers. Unfortunately, too many teachers are unwilling or incapable of working with those effectively. The fact that low achievers remain low achievers has more to do with the quality of teaching than anything else.

Rosie

August 26th, 2009
9:56 pm

Stop throwing money at the problem! The problem is not lack of funds, but instead lack of desire. Many kids come from homes where educatoin is not a desired or understood. The culture of the home and the family must change if we ever want our country take the lead in education.

wwww

August 26th, 2009
9:57 pm

Em: Your comment is precisely correct. I too am tired, so tired, of attending meeting after meeting about students who do not want to be in school, whose parents don’t show (or worse, do show, and then lie about whatever is necessary to make it look like they are doing a good job), etc. Frankly, it’s difficult to know most of my time and energy is directed at those it will help the least. And please, spare me the condescending drivel about those less fortunate and how they need to be “lifted up”. Education has been trying to do just that for years and as a result the rest of our kids are getting the short end of the stick.

d

August 26th, 2009
10:11 pm

I’m curious. I graduated high school in 1997 and am now a high school teacher. In a short 12 years, we now have to come up with word walls, concept maps, instructional boards, and numerous other mandates from the board. None of these were present in any of my classrooms when I was in high school, and I went to one of the four Gwinnett County high schools that were ranked amongst the 10 best in the state. Over 25% of my class graduated with a G%A over 92 (and those grades weren’t given away). We were not given multiple chances to do an assignment. If we did not turn it in on time, it was a zero, no ifs ands or buts. Now I have to give my students every possible chance to make up work — even weeks or months after the assignment was due. I have to ensure essential questions are written on my board, that I write the standard on my board, and that I give a minimum of three grades per week. When I polled my classes earlier this week, every one stated they planned on going to college next year. How many college instructors give three grades per week? How is this preparing them for the educational experience that they will face? We wonder why so many students are entering college requiring remedial courses and we look back at what is important to the “higher ups” in the public school system. Oh well, I guess my essential question is on the board tomorrow morning and my instructional board will be done by the end of the week.

d

August 26th, 2009
10:32 pm

I graduated from high school in 1997 from one of the four Gwinnett County high schools that ranked in the top ten in the state at the time. I now teach high school in DeKalb County. Back when I was in school, we did not have word walls, concept maps, instructional boards, or essential questions on the board. Over 25% of my graduating class had cumulative G%A of over 92%. Those grades were not given to us either. We worked for them. We did not have as many chances to turn in the paper as we needed, up until the end of the semester as I am asked to give my students. Nice teachers would take an assignment a day late for a 30% penalty. I am asked to ensure that I give three grades per week. What college instructor gives that many grades per semester? I polled my students this week (they are all seniors) and all of them are planning to go to college next year. Is it any wonder we have so many going into remedial classes when they have expectations of not having to take individual assignments seriously?

I have to spend my time making sure word walls are up to date, I need to create my instructional board, and need to fill in my concept map, and write my essential question on the board. I do them because they are required of me, but I never see my students even looking at them. The only people who do are my administrators and county officials that may come into the room to “observe” my teaching. In 12 short years, teachers have had so much else piled on to them that has little to show for it. I am doing the job I have wanted to do all my life, but the more time I do stuff to please the administrators, the less time I have to spend making learning actually valuable for my students.

Well, guess I’d better get my essential question written for tomorrow.

MO' MONEY

August 26th, 2009
10:32 pm

Tony, I think you mean the Law of “Diminishing Returns”. Basically it means that up to a point there will be some benefit on your investment (+). After that point, the more you invest the less you get in return (-); until you eventually have an entire population of morons who think that everyone else owes them something while they sit on their a$$ and complain that you don’t do enough for them.

d

August 26th, 2009
10:54 pm

I apologize for the double post. I assumed I had gotten filtered when it did not show up for 20 minutes.

Sarge

August 26th, 2009
11:32 pm

We’ve removed one major component from kids’ lives…FEAR…fear of not doing the right thing, fear of failure, fear of immediate consequences. The fear of which I write is nothing more (or less) than DISCIPLINE 101, for without basic fear, there can be no responsible behavior, neither in school nor in life. Sure, we can attribute this situation to the home; the lack of parental involvement in the kids’ lives, and this is certainly the basic platform upon which child development (should) starts. But let’s be realistic:

1) Sometime in the 70s or 80s, sometime after yours truly received an education steeped in the basics and completely devoid of the superflous shtik they toss at kids today…indepth exposure to the finer points of self-esteem, mastery of technology at the expense of such mundane skills as creating a thought and placing it upon parchment, performing 3rd grade arithmetic without benefit of calculator, and just plain thinking.

2) Parents used to be parents, now they’re friends to their kids…they might as well be peers. There seems little difference in kids’ influencers between their classmates and the adults in their lives. The “yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir” of yesteryear has been replaced with “yeah, man” and “yo!”. Of course, it’s no wonder…at some point, government decided that parents had to be parents in “government-approved” fashion, rather than allowing parents to manage kids in time-proven manners (perhaps this is why parents have become friends to their kids and not parents).

3) Worse yet is a government whose best answers to an embarrasement of an education system within a global economy is to simply pass such “failure guaranteed” programs as the infamous “No Child…”, meanwhile declaring entire school systems, not to mention professional educators as failures, simply because kids have neither the desire nor the proper government funding to learn.

The world used to be no-so-pc, but a whole lot more sensible. It must have been the best “social configuration” yet…as a Nation, we were able to do all sorts of things, from placing man upon the moon (and realizing, in the process, the multitude of neat things which lend to making life, in spite of all the nonsense, pretty darn good) to “making stuff” for ourselves. I need not, at this point, highlight our National failures, in terms of a bygone manufacturing base, decaying social fabric, in terms of Social Security, questionable focus in terms of National Defense, and, of course, an embarrasement of educational achievement on a global scale.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course. As our government attempts to address the issues of our educational system, they attempt, rhetorically speaking, to eat the entire elephant with one bite…just as this No Child…was supposed to be THE cure-all, the answers lie in LESS MEDLING FROM WASHINGTON. Let parents be parents, let teachers teach, and let kids learn to be responsible, productive adults.

InAtlanta

August 27th, 2009
7:21 am

D, you have not been adequately prepared to perform your job. Get out of the kitchen. I worked for your school system while you were in school. I had to perform/complete work assignments of those employees who were graduates of Gwinnett County Public Schools. THey couldn’t do the job on their own. And someone tell ‘joy of teaching’ that money is not spent on students but on salaries for these same administrators and teachers.

REG artjazz54

August 27th, 2009
7:37 am

We had no problem as a nation providing George W. Bush with all the resources he needed as a pilot in training the military, which runs into the millions of dollars for flight training, proficiency training, and all the other expenses related to mainting an flight officer’s efficiency, even in active or the National Guard. As we all know, GW (President George W. Bush), was clearly retarded or suffered from learning disabilities, compounded with his early drug usages. We also know that smoking pot and other drug usages, destroys brain cells (Established medical facts).

In addition, had the U.S. Government not provide resources in the Fifties and Sixties to rural poor whites in the South (Tennessee Valley Authority), especially in the Tennessee’s Valley, where most rural whites were considered mentally retarded, and/or suffered from learning disabilities, some were savage like, just think of where the South would be today. Many in the North, white Northerners, still think native-born white Southerners are still illiterate.

Allen

August 27th, 2009
9:02 am

Ga at 7:15 last night asks “Who is to say which kid is Intentionally detracting from the learning environment,”

If the kid has a habit of violence or criminal behavior, or ven a criminal record, I think it’s fairly safe to say he or she might be detracting from others’ education. A fundamental tenet outght to be that one kid’s rights end where another kid’s rights begin, not that the well-behaved kids have to suffer in order that the child not ‘properly assessed’ can continue to disrupt the learning environment.
And BTW, I am an absolutely dyed-in-the-wool Yankee liberal. That doesn’t mean I tolerate people not taking responsibility for themselves or their children.

Joy in Teaching

August 27th, 2009
9:34 am

This is an excerpt from a school AP concerning the posting of grades into my system’s new gradebook:

–Teachers do not change zeros to 50’s until the quarter report card (End of the 9-wks)…not now at the mid-point.

–If a student earned a 20, 30, 40, 50…those grades go in as what they earned! The “50 change at the qtr mark report card” is (a) not advertised to kids and (b) only for the zero/missed/not done work.

Basically, what my AP is saying, is that students who do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING can possibly get a better grade than one who actually tries a little bit and fails.

Now what kind of sense is that? Yes, it’s because of a glitch in Infinite Campus.

But it’s also systematic of a bigger problem that goes along with what other teachers have been saying on this blog: letting the low achievers, the lazy, the uninterested and the distruptive have chance after chance after chance DOES NOT WORK. Throwing money at the problem DOES NOT WORK.

It’s why we have generations of families who are on the public dole. It’s why I have students who are on free or reduced lunch wearing $150 sneakers while I am wearing Walmart sandles and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich for lunch.

We have developed a culture in the United States where is is socially acceptable in some areas to not get an education in order to get a good job, to go to the emergency room with a cold, and to expect the taxpayers to support their children. That same culture is taking over our schools where we have students who expect to be able to retake tests multiple times, to not have to do homework, or be responsible for their own paper and pencil.

Where does it end? The buck has to stop somewhere.

It can and should start with the schools.

This is what I think Arne Duncan SHOULD say: “We as a nation are tired of taking care of the lazy and unmotivated. If our school children do not choose to do the work to make achievements, then we will NOT pass them along. As of this moment, social promotion will cease. Students must be able to read and do math on their grade level. If they can’t make it out of elementary school, then we will make an attempt to teach them a trade.”

End of story.

Those billions of dollars would be better spent on career and technical education. Rather like what the rest of the world is doing.

Pandora

August 27th, 2009
10:54 am

You must realize that those same ‘low achieving’children that most of you want to ignore will someday be your doctor, lawyer or breaking into your home!

Someone mentioned that schools should concentrate ONLY on students that do well on those idiotic tests that they are forced to take! Any DUMMY can past a test! There are a lot of very smart and intelligent students that can not past standardized tests…and there are a lot of dum children who can. So testing scores of that nature does not determine if a child is smart or intelligent.

We should care for all children…not just the high achievers!

Bob Darby

August 27th, 2009
11:26 am

There are only two factors that have been proven to positively influence student achievement: parental involvement and class size. If a parent is willing to give up a day or two of work and sit in their child’s classroom (no matter what grade) and then show support for learning at home and if teachers are not forced to deal with 35-160 students a day with a performance range of 8 or 9 grade levels, then teaching can take place and learning can be optimized. After teaching 14 years, I can tell you that I had too many parent conferences where the parent of a 10-13 year old told me, “I don’t talk to my daughter/son any more.” “I work all day and when I come home, I’m tired and I don’t want any arguments, so we don’t talk about school.” And generally those are the students that disrupt and make it difficult for others to learn. Simply count the number of open parking spaces at the elementary, junior high and high school during parent teacher night. Usually it is hard to find a parking space at the elementary school if you arrive late, easier at the junior high and you pretty much have your choice at the high school. That reality is not an urban/suburban thing. As children get older, parents let them go. Now maybe for some difficult economic and social reasons, children are “let go” at a younger age in the urban setting. That would take a better sociologist to confirm or deny.
The only reason the federal government chooses to throw more money at the low achieving schools is because statistically you can show more gain with less effort at those schools. More charter and virtual school options will force public schools to be competitive.

Reader

August 27th, 2009
11:59 am

ga: As a school employee, I also wondered about the federal stimulus money. We haven’t seen it, so where is it? Talk to Sonny. The leaders in Atlanta reduced the education budget by an amount equal to what the state received as stimulus money. It became a wash. Nothing at all was gained, except maybe Sonny et al had money to divert to roads and ponds.

DB

August 27th, 2009
12:10 pm

“Low achieving students” started kindergarten with thousands of other kids at the same time. They presumably sat through the same lessons, had the same homework, took the same tests (some multiple times, apparently?!), and had the EXACT SAME OPPORTUNITIES as every single other kid in that class.

So, at what point does a “low achieving student” become a “victim of an uncaring system”? Kindergarten? First grade? 7th grade? 9th grade? STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR THEM. Some kids, unfortunately, are just STUPID. That’s why there’s a bell curve. Lots of kids in the middle, a smaller group of truly intelligent children at one end, and an equal group of truly stupid kids at the other end. OK, let’s be PC and call them “academically challenged.”

Children are hammered with messages for 13+ years: “Stay in school. School is important. Go to college to improve your chances of a good job. Don’t get pregnant. Don’t do drugs. You can be whatever you want to be.” If someone chooses not to listen, throwing all the money in the world at them isn’t going to improve their hearing!

If they don’t make the grade, take ‘em out of the traditional school setting and start training them for jobs that don’t require high levels of academic training. If they realize they want something with more of a future and want back into the system — they have to earn their way back in by actually working. As parents, we all learned the basic rule: “I do not threaten. I make promises.” Why do we forget it when it comes to the continued teaching and training of children throughout their academic career? Threatening kids with failure is laughable, because they know that it’s not going to happen — schools are too afraid of being seen as “underperforming” if they have a spate of “academically challenged” kids working their way through.

Pandora, those “low achieving children” who are flunking out from year to year and still getting passed on, those 18 year old sophomores and those kids who use their time in class to perfect their rap routine instead of learning algebra are NOT going to be my doctor or lawyer. They are going to be one of those idiots that dance across the stage at graduation while their family whoop and holler in the stands and then wonder why they can’t get a job at Chick-Fil-A

DB

August 27th, 2009
12:16 pm

Bob, kids are “let go” in high school, because the high schools flat out tells the parents to “back off and give the responsibility for learning to your child.” Many high schools will make it very clear that while parent are more than welcome in a fund-raising capacity for booster clubs, etc., or to raise money for the Art department, they are NOT welcome in the classrooms or the school on a regular basis, because a parental influence is seen as “disruptive”. THAT’S why the parking lot is empty.

I have always remembered, though, a woman I worked with before I had kids. We were all amazed that she elected to be a SAHM when her kids started middle school — the time that many moms are deciding to re-enter the work force. Her logic always resonated with me: “They can’t get in but so much trouble in elementary school, between after-school programs and babysitters. It’s when they’re teenagers that they can REALLY get into trouble! That’s why I think I need to be home, now.”

Seen it all

August 27th, 2009
1:37 pm

Everybody seems to forget or doesn’t know is that there are no “low achieving” students. There are only “low achieving” schools. Students in low achieving schools DIDN’T have the same opportunities as students in “high achieving” schools. Students in “low achieving” schools had teachers who had attitudes similiar to the posters here on this blog. You know- teachers who thought their students were…… and not worth their time, effort, and energy. Teachers who didn’t create the warm, nurturing, cultivating environment that exists in “high performing” schools. Teachers who didn’t work to see that THEIR children learned and achieved. Teachers who did the absolute minimal required by their equally complicit administrators. Yet these same “teachers” made excuses ad nauseum as to why their students were deficient in reading, writing, or math. Worse yet these same teachers wanted to compare their students to those of the richer classes, who went to school in sparking, clean, modern buildings, with motivated teachers who cared and actually taught engaging lessons, who came from homes with lots of money and resources to boot.

Do we really want to blame the children for the failures of the adults?

JB

August 27th, 2009
2:41 pm

Why not teach mastery of a skill before moving on? How can a student move on to geometry if he does not understand algebra? Should it matter if it takes the student 3 or 4 tries if the end result is mastery of the skill being taught? I am not a teacher but I do know that there are a variety of ways a student can learn.

If the true intention is to educate the student, not just the ability to parrot the correct answer we need to make some hard decisions. Shirking our shoulders and blaming everything on unmotivated troublemakers sounds like an easy fix. As H.l. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.”

We need to understand that commitment to learning needs to be a two way street. A group wanting to learn should not be held back by the few who either can’t or refuse to learn. Those who can’t need to be targeted by teachers to find out why they can’t and to change how they are taught until they succeed, and those who won’t need to be directed to a class that teaches them how to say “You want fries with that?” A few of those classes may provide a little motivation and understanding that they need to be a willing participant in their education.

ScienceTeacher671

August 27th, 2009
4:08 pm

DB, your 12:10 pm post says ““Low achieving students” started kindergarten with thousands of other kids at the same time. They presumably sat through the same lessons…”

Yes, they did start at the same time, but they were behind even then. They didn’t know their colors or their numbers or their alphabet, most of them had been read to very little if at all, and most had few if any books in their home. They didn’t know that those symbols on a page stood for words and ideas and numbers, and they had much smaller vocabularies than the “high achieving” students did, because they weren’t talked to as much as the high-achieving children were. In fact, many of them weren’t really talked to at all – just given commands or fussed at.

And while they did learn, the high-achieving students learned too – more and faster – so the low-achieving students who started out behind have never caught up.

ScienceTeacher671

August 27th, 2009
4:17 pm

Not a totally tongue in cheek question, but if we get rid of all the low achievers, who’s going to sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, and mow the grass? Who’s going to take out the trash?

Reality 3

August 27th, 2009
5:03 pm

ScienceTeacher – I don’t think thats funny. Your a teacher? and you are making fun of students who are average or alittle slower. I guess all your children went to Harvard? Their are children who are good kids and just not that smart. They feel bad about themselves because of comments like yours. Many smart kids just play the game well, and drink and drug on the weekends. Those are the kids that only think about themselves and what mommy and daddy can buy them like cars and a college education.

Reality 3

August 27th, 2009
5:09 pm

ScienceTeacher Are you serious? Why are you making fun of slower kids or maybe your making fun of every kid who cann’t make an A. Did all your kids go to Harvard? Their are many smart kid who just play the game well and drink and drug on the weekends. They mainly think about themselves and what mommy and daddy and buy them next, a car, college…. shame on you

V for Vendetta

August 27th, 2009
5:35 pm

Pandora, if anyone can pass a test, then why doesn’t everyone pass the tests?

Seen it all, a school can be labeled low-achieving for myriad reasons. To think that all of the children inside are innocent victims of their teachers’/admins’ ineptitude is to prove that you’ve never step foot inside a classroom. Again, being in a bad environment–be it a neighborhood, city, school, etc.–does not give you the RIGHT to be in a good one. Not having an opportunity isn’t a RIGHT to have one.

EducationCEO

August 27th, 2009
5:39 pm

Seen it All,

You said it all…thank you for speaking the ugly truth because there are not enough people in the profession and community like you. This practice is prevalent in Gwinnett County, where (in 2008) 70% of the students in Gifted programs were White, 16% were Black, and 3% were Hispanic. Blacks and Hispanics made-up approximately 26 and 20% of the total student population, respectively. If you look at the enrollment in Special Education, you will see almost the exact opposite. I find it hard to believe that the majority of the minority groups are not bright enough to qualify for Gifted, only disabled or emotionally disturbed enough for SPED. I used to teach SPED and the majority of my students were Black, even in a predominantly White school district. It is time to stop using these antequated assessment measures and use those that are constructed with an awareness and consideration for cultural differences, as well as different learning styles. The researchers have been telling districts this for years but they are not listening because they are afraid that if they give minorities the same access to rigorous curricula, they will exceed and may even surpass Whites.

Rosie

August 27th, 2009
7:10 pm

D,

You are absolutely correct about the differences in today’s classroom and the classroom ten or more years ago. I never saw an essential question or standard, but I always understood the topic for the day. Word walls are a more entertaining way of learning vocabulary. We wrote the words and looked up the definition to keep in a notebook. Today classrooms are plastered with colored strips of paper w/words adn maps. Concept maps were developed in the minds of young people as they connected ideas. Now we have credit recovery just in case you don’t feel like studying or doing your assignments the first time around.