Departing education columnist on the madness: Through it all, children have continued to learn

Many of you read Michael Winerip’s insightful education columns in The New York Times. Concise and perceptive, he takes a scalpel to education issues.

According to his column this week, Winerip will no longer be writing about education for the Times. With that news, I wanted to share two things by him.

First, his note on his final column Monday:

This is my last education column. Again. The first time, in the early 1990s, politicians wanted to make our system more like Japan’s. (This was right before the Japanese economic collapse.)

A decade later, they devised a system to punish teachers if every child in America wasn’t academically proficient. Now they’re developing a standardized test to evaluate high school band teachers. And through it all, teachers have continued to educate children, and children have continued to learn.

Second, here is an excerpt of his recent dissection of Newsweek’s top U.S. high schools list. This is the stuff that I will miss:

What schools score highest on Newsweek’s index? Of the top 50, 37 have selective admissions or are magnet schools, meaning they screen students using a combination of entrance exam scores, grade-point average, state test results and assessments of their writing samples.

In short, to be the best, high schools should accept only the highest performing eighth graders, who — if the school doesn’t botch it — will become the highest performing 12th graders. Put another way: Best in, best out, best school.

Eight of Newsweek’s top 50 are charter schools. For those who think an important role of public education is taking struggling students and raising their academic performance, this sounds promising. Charter schools are supposed to accept any child who applies. If the school is oversubscribed, there is to be a lottery.

What could be more democratic?

The two top charter schools on the Newsweek list are the Basis high schools in Scottsdale and Tucson, part of an Arizona-based charter chain.

According to the Basis Web site, the curriculum is heavily reliant on A.P. and college-level courses, and it includes Mandarin and Latin. This means that only the strongest academic students need apply, and those who can’t cut it will leave.

What does the student body look like at a Basis high school? At Basis Scottsdale — the third best high school in America, according to Newsweek — 95 percent of the 701 students are Asian or white.

Asians make up 2.8 percent of the state population, but 41 percent of the Basis Scottsdale students. There are 15 Hispanics (2 percent) in a state that is about one-third Hispanic.

There are no Native Americans listed on the State Education Department’s web site, though they make up 5 percent of Arizona’s population. The site lists 13 African-American students and no children of migrant workers. There are no children who qualify for subsidized lunches or who need special education classes.

Clearly, best schools would do best not to get bogged down serving students considered un-best.

The remaining five of the top 50 schools are in suburban districts where enrollment is open to all, as long as they are residents. The one thing that these five schools have in common is that they are full of children from the nation’s wealthiest families.

Among the top 50 are high schools in Bronxville, N.Y. (No. 40), which has a median household income of $166,000, and Jericho, N.Y. (No. 41), which has a median income of $128,000, as compared with $54,000 for New York State; also, Falls Church, Va. (No. 45), with a $111,000 median income versus $59,000 for the state.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

63 comments Add your comment

d

June 14th, 2012
5:31 am

Diane Ravitch has said many times if you take poverty into account, our students are at the top when compared to students from around the world. Unfortunately, you don’t get elected saying our schools that don’t have to deal with poverty are doing just fine – just bash the whole system, and you get elected to mess it up.

drew (former teacher)

June 14th, 2012
6:27 am

So in short, if you want better schools, just get some better students. Ahhhhh…the simplicity! And all this time I thought it was the teachers!

mountain man

June 14th, 2012
6:33 am

Gosh, Maureen, you are finally running articles that say what I have been saying all along – it isn’t the quality of the teachers so much as it is the quality of the students and their parents. Or in old computer language – GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.

Lee

June 14th, 2012
6:37 am

Interesting. Everytime I mention the racial IQ hierarchy, I get the Pavlonian responses of being called a racist, that race is a “social construct” (whatever the hell that means), that socioeconomics is a better predictor of academic success (which conveniently ignores the fact that given the same socioeconomic conditions, the racial IQ hierarchy is still valid), and the usual politically correct hysterics.

Ever since the Brown vs Board decision, the politically correct have been trying to get a Shetland pony to win the Kentucky Derby.

Newsflash: It’s not gonna happen….

mountain man

June 14th, 2012
6:38 am

It also shows that you cannot measure the teaching ability by testing the students – all that tells you is the STUDENT’S ability. You could take the best teacher in the world and put them in the ghetto teaching 5th graders who have 2nd grade proficiency, and they are NOT going to be at grade level by the end of the year. It would take a miracle. (of course, the best teachers probably would take a promotion out of teaching if they could, up to say, data analyst) A teacher at APS who takes 5th grade students from a 2nd grade proficiency to a 4th grade proficiency i a much better teacher than a teacher at Walton High who takes a 9th grader at a 10th grade level and turns him into a 10th grader on level.

Long time educator

June 14th, 2012
6:45 am

I agree totally that reformers are focused on the wrong issues. The quality of the students determines the quality of the school. The teachers are not the determining factor. The quality of the students is determined by the quality of the parents. The poor quality parents lack values; poverty is not the determining factor, although it often follows a lack of values. Good teachers often self select to work in schools with better quality students and parents, so over time there probably is a difference in the quality of teachers in good and bad schools. However, if you took the faculty of my county’s highest performing school and swapped it with the faculty of our lowest performing school, I do not think it would dramatically change the test scores. I would love to see this tried, but I think the social problems coming from the homes would override any superior teaching skills, and the “better” teachers would not have had the experience of dealing with these tougher kids. The other determining factor is discipline. Better schools have better discipline because of the better parents supporting the school. Even the very best teacher cannot teach if there is no discipline. On the other hand, all children can learn from a mediocre teacher if there is discipline. The tougher life the kids have outside of school, the more structured discipline they need in school. If society wants to educate these tougher kids,and we should because we are going to deal with them one way or another, we need to allow the schools to impose discipline upon them. Let’s focus on what will actually make a difference.

Cmomteach

June 14th, 2012
6:50 am

Well Lee that means you are genetically related to the very diverse group called idiots. Race does not determine intelligence. The choices we make as adults do. Until peope stop thinking as you do, race will continue to be produced as an excuse for our failure to educate these children. As a teacher, I’ve witnessed the best and worst academic performances from all racial backgrounds. In 18 years of teaching, I’ve never been able to look at a child’s skin color and determine that they can’t learn!

Cmomteach

June 14th, 2012
7:02 am

Enter your comments here

Long time educator

June 14th, 2012
7:08 am

The reason vouchers and charter schools are so popular is better parents are trying to band with other better parents to place their better students together in a disciplined environment so they can learn. I understand it, and I might do it if my child was assigned to a school with a majority of “un-best” parents and students who contributed to an undisciplined environment. You probably would, too. If vouchers and charter schools are not the answer; what is? Schools districts need to come up with solutions that address the parents’ concern that their child be educated in a disciplined environment with students who are there to learn. And what do we do with those students and parents who do not value education and are not interested in taking advantage of a free public education? Do they have the right to disrupt the education of those who want to learn? I think at some point the uninterested students should be removed and educated in a different setting, and sooner rather than later. There should always be the opportunity for them to rejoin the others if behavior improves. If schools refuse to do this, vouchers will win.

Long time educator

June 14th, 2012
7:10 am

Correstion: if my child “were” assigned to a school

Jack

June 14th, 2012
7:26 am

Bad parents beget bad students who beget,,,

Tabitha

June 14th, 2012
7:27 am

Public schools are failing. For a variety of reasons, not all their fault. The “battle’ between public schools and charters or vouchers misses the point. Parents want change, signficant change, for a reason. If public schools don’t adapt and change to meet the needs of these families, the parents will find other ways to educate their kids.
Massive change is required if the public school system is to survive in a recognizable form. I believe the most likely outcome at this point is a two tier system. In one system parents will drive signficant change and signficant participation. In the other sytem, we will maintain the system and see ever declining results. The techers who think that vouchers and charters are the problem will end up in system two.

NTLB

June 14th, 2012
7:47 am

@Long time educator: Touche! Although I may add that there are many “good” teachers at high performing schools that do minimal work and get away way it because of their students’ high scores. These students and their parents are going to make the grade, with or without the teacher (private tutors).

I always said that the most hardworking and dedicated teachers are found in the lowest performing schools. I do believe that if we flip flop the staff, many students in the high performing schools will achieve even higher scores, while their counterparts’ scores will probably not budge an iota or two.

dc

June 14th, 2012
7:57 am

It seems to all go back to the “value added” concept…..what does a group of kids know before a teacher has them, and what do they know after. It’s really hard to see any other way to measure teacher and school effectiveness. No measurement is going to be perfect….but at least using that approach would give a good indication over time of which teachers are actually able to impart some amount of knowledge effectively, and which ones are ineffective.

Bane of union shills

June 14th, 2012
8:02 am

@LongTimeEducator:

Bravo—You win this morning’s prize for straight, sensible talk.

In case you’re new to the blog, the way it works is that Maureen finds columns supporting the insupportable. Then someone like you points out the inevitability of education reform, despite the nonsense mouthed by the guest columnist.

This is followed by a day-long parade of union shills (many of them the same person) chanting from the union’s book of bankrupt arguments and evasions … interspaced liberally with “But what if …?” scenarios designed to confuse the issues.

And to keep the topic from focusing on why parents shouldn’t have the right to choose their kid’s school.

Male Teacher

June 14th, 2012
8:12 am

The supporters of charter schools and vouchers want to create an educational caste system which places the “unbest” in traditional public schools and everyone else somewhere else.I understand wanting your child with better disciplined children,but underfunding schools for the unbest or lower class children is no way to go in a capitalist,democratic society. I’m an administrator in rural Georgia and what these children need is an alternative education that can best be created by the local BOE based on local needs.I know I will be accused of “dumbing down the curriculum”,but I feel most of the parents of these children would welcome the change,but what do I know. I only work in a school. I’m not one of the “enlightened” in Atlanta or Washington.

carlosgvv

June 14th, 2012
8:15 am

It’s clear the best schools get the best students. In America this means their will be a racial disparity. Since this is politically unacceptable, social experiments have been going on since the 60’s to assure all students perform at the same level. None of these experiments have worked. As a last resort, many school administrators turned to cheating to level the playing field. Now that this has supposedly stopped, it’s back to square one.

Mountain Man

June 14th, 2012
8:19 am

If the reason that people like charter schools so much is that they can be exempt from some requirements of regular schools (such as: not dealing with discipline, have to spend inordinate amounts on SPED students, dealing with absenteeism), then why don’t we make these changes at the PUBLIC schools. Why let chaters out of dealing with problems that we won’t solve in public schools.

Maureen Downey

June 14th, 2012
8:24 am

@Bane, If you think Michael Winerip qualifies as a union shill, then I question your reading comprehension skills. I suggest you read a few of his columns and report back. And while you are reading, look up the results of choice programs around the country in place for the last 20 years or more and show us the seismic changes that you contend should be the result.
Maureen

Lee

June 14th, 2012
8:31 am

@Cmomteach, thanks for proving my point.

williebkind

June 14th, 2012
8:42 am

“Ever since the Brown vs Board decision, the politically correct have been trying to get a Shetland pony to win the Kentucky Derby.”

Now that is a first for me and I do like it.

“it isn’t the quality of the teachers so much as it is the quality of the students and their parents”

Now I disagree with half of that! The quality of their parents sounds like class warefare. I see low income and non-engaged parents who have children doing very well in school. What do you mean exactly when you say quality of parents?

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

June 14th, 2012
8:43 am

@Maureen,

I suspect Bane thinks several of the rest of us regular posters are “union shrills”. “Union shrill” seems to apply to anyone who disagrees with his/her point of view.

Something I have learned in my decades upon this planet – that people tend to view others based upon their own behavior and value systems – thus, if you are someone who is prone to post the same message under many names in order to make it look as though your opinion is widely shared, then you are likely to assume others do too. I do not like to think others are willing to deceive people like that… but after months of seeing the same messages using the same “voice” under different names?

Are others pretending to be more than one individual? Perhaps. I don’t have access to IP addresses. However, I do know that *I* am only myself and receive no money from any union. I don’t even belong to a union, so I am not much of a “union shrill – though I have been accused of it.

Ron F.

June 14th, 2012
8:51 am

Lee- in twenty-plus years of teaching, the differences in kids depend more on economic levels than race. It’s easy to generalize to race because poverty concentrates heavily among black and hispanic groups, but that’s not the real story. Because middle and upper class families are more concerned about achievement and maintaining social status, those kids do better in school. Kids from poverty don’t generally grow up regarding academic achievement as an important goal. In a high poverty school like mine, a lot of our work focuses on helping kids understand the importance of academic achievement and planning for future career goals. It isn’t easy, but we do make an impact on many of them. In the future, you might want to consider how economic level affects kids and their IQ and achievement levels. I’d suggest Eric Jensen’s book Teaching with Poverty in Mind. It helps me understand how one’s socio-economic level affects learning. That is the real problem- not race.

Ron F.

June 14th, 2012
8:59 am

@I love teaching 8:43- I’ve noticed the same thing, and it is common on a blog like this to use various names and post essentially the same comments. Name-calling, while it evidently makes the poster feel better for the moment, only weakens the effect of the argument being made. When one takes a narrow point of view and refuses to consider the possible validity of others, then one reaches the point where anger and childish name-calling become the only course left to take. I’ve been sucked in by it a few times- that’s what the poster wants. It makes him/her/them feel better to reduce everyone to that level.

cranky old man

June 14th, 2012
9:14 am

Mr. Winerip’s observations seem to state the obvious – that schools can produce better results when they can screen out students who are not statistically likely to succeed. But let’s assume there is merit to the argument that more experienced, talented, motivated teachers can make a difference. Guess, what? The better teachers are going to end up working at these schools anyway. If the school system uses a seniority system, the more experienced teachers will choose to teach at the better schools. If the system uses a merit based ranking system, those ranked higher will choose to teach at the better schools. And if you try to prevent this in some way, maybe forcing a certain number of high seniority or highly ranked teachers to work at the lower performing schools, they will thwart you. They will either switch districts, or perform just well enough to get a raise, but not well enough to fall into the pool of those forced to teach at the lower performing schools. I can see their point. If the reward for hard work, continuing education, and high performance is to be forced to work in a school with high poverty, crime, drugs, violence, truancy, and limited resources, what is the incentive? Maybe pay them extra money? It would have to be a lot of extra money. I, personally, would rather work at a job I enjoy making $50,000 per year than a job I hate making $75,000 per year. Now, if it was a choice between $50,000 and $750,000, I’d probably do it. But I would save 90% of my income, and then I’d quit and retire after a couple of years.

Solutions

June 14th, 2012
9:20 am

The problem is really very simple: IQ makes a difference, both for the teacher and for the student. We have almost twice as many teachers per student as we did 30 odd years ago, but those teachers are not nearly as smart. Why? Think about it, up until about 30 or so years ago, smart women had only three acceptable career options, school teacher, nurse, or stay at home housewife. Since then, the smart women have not gone into teaching, they have gone to medical school, law school, obtained MBA’s and become engineers. The data for my assertion exists, but the government is carefully hiding it from the public. The other half of the coin is the student’s IQ, and the main streaming of the low IQ types with the other students. Standards have been lowered so much that the top IQ students are not challenged much, and therefore do not develop the learning and thinking skills the future leaders of science, business, industry, and government will need. The text books for public schools are now required to be written at the 4th grade level of comprehension, even books designed for 12th graders.

Bane of union shills

June 14th, 2012
9:37 am

Maureen, let’s acknowledge that you and your union allies will never willingly agree to meaningful education reform, much less parental choice—shall we?

And that your blog posits all such questions in a way which stacks the deck against allowing reform an opportunity to uncover solutions … to problems the education establishment CLEARLY has no answers to.

Nikole

June 14th, 2012
9:40 am

Lee—You are wrong. Race is not an issue, but class is. That is why your race/IQ comments are often ignored. Many of us that have taught for any amount of time know this.

Lee

June 14th, 2012
9:41 am

@RonF, several days ago, Maureen posted a matrix of the SAT performance of white students for the top schools in Ga. Even in those top performing schools, which it is a safe assumption that the socioeconomic levels of the students are normalized, you still find the IQ hierarchy in play.

Rank / School / Asian SAT / White SAT / Black SAT / Hisp SAT
1 Chamblee Charter 1241 1216 1026 931
2 Wheeler 1208 1198 957 965
3 North Atlanta * 1173 879 893
4 Decatur – 1143 869 *
5 Riverwood * 1164 982 1002
10 Norcross 1051 1154 902 960
15 Chattahoochee 1249 1135 955 1078
20 Fulton * 1121 * *
25 Parkview 1114 1115 964 1073

* Not enough participants from that group

Bottom line, when socioeconomic factors are normalized, the IQ hierarchy is still prevalent.

Maureen Downey

June 14th, 2012
9:46 am

@Bane, As I thought, more broad statements. No evidence.
Maureen

Solutions

June 14th, 2012
9:47 am

Lee is correct, but IQ is the one piece of information the government absolutely does not want to consider, data bases are being scrubbed of as much IQ data as possible, to hide the real problem from researchers. Select your teachers and your students based on high IQ and you will have a very high achieving school. Dumb down education to the minority mean of 85 or so, and you will have a failing school system, which is what we have today.

Bane of union shills

June 14th, 2012
10:00 am

Maureen, try this: Stand apart from your union cohorts just this once and stop, for instance, savaging the bold education reforms being implemented by Gov. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana.

Parents in Georgia’s worst school neighborhoods don’t have your income. And they are desperate for their children to escape a sinking ship.

Stop abetting those blocking the way to the lifeboats.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

June 14th, 2012
10:17 am

@cranky old man “If the reward for hard work, continuing education, and high performance is to be forced to work in a school with high poverty, crime, drugs, violence, truancy, and limited resources, what is the incentive? ”

Cranky. I spent much of my early career in “tough” schools, and would love to return to that environment. I went into teaching to make a difference in students’ lives, and never felt more useful than in those difficult schools. However, after being physically attacked numerous times, and having nothing done to discipline students who punched, kicked and choked me, I felt I needed to get out for my physical safety. I left the year after a fellow teacher was stabbed in the abdomen by a “troubled” student, and I was hit over the head with a chair. Both students were back in school the next day.

For me? Best way to start improving schools would be to “remove” behavior problem students from the classroom and place them in an alternative setting. Make the regular classroom a privilege that you can lose though violent or repeatedly disruptive behavior, and have the then re-earn through appropriate behavior. Furthermore, stop tying a schools success to things like “discipline referrals” etc. which just discourages schools from actually dealing with behavior issues. Stop kowtowing to parents who don’t bother to ever show up for conferences, but storm into the office to throw a fit when little Johnny gets in trouble for punching someone.

How about Charter schools for students with behavioral issues? Schools with additional resources like counselors and behavior modification training, specially trained teachers and strict discipline measures? Schools that would work to help turn these students around so they could function in a regular educational environment? In my mind, the money spent would be worth it, since the alternative is often paying later for incarceration – but no one seems to want to spend money for “troubled” children.

Long time educator

June 14th, 2012
10:20 am

@williebekind -What do you mean exactly when you say quality of parents?
What I mean by quality of parents is:
Better parents value education and demonstrate that value by supporting the school in disciplining and educating their children. They expect their children to attend unless sick, do the assignments to the best of their ability, follow the rules, show respect for adults and other students, and take advantage of all public school has to offer. The better parents follow up to make sure this is happening by contacting the teacher, attending parent events, and volunteering when possible. (Sometimes it is not possible and teachers understand that. Mainly they want the parent’s support in requiring their child to follow the rules and give his best effort.)
The “un-best” parent does the opposite on all the above. This is not racial or economic. I have known some of the best parents to be illegal immigrants who do not speak English, cannot help with homework, and often have trouble coming to the school because of work issues and qualify for free lunch. BUT they provide the most important support with discipline and effort that is at the heart of their child’s success. They value free public education and expect their children to make the most of it. This is a “better” parent.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

June 14th, 2012
10:26 am

@Bane “Maureen, try this: Stand apart from your union cohorts just this once and stop, for instance, savaging the bold education reforms being implemented by Gov. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana.”

Have you actually read any of the descriptions of those schools offering “bold educational reforms” in Louisiana? Schools that teach only “Bible based” learning and no science in order not to “confuse children” with things like facts? Schools were children sit around and watch videos all day on a television? Schools than have fewer that 50 students and are fending off shutting their doors by offering vouchers so they can get their hands on taxpayer money? Oh…and an “Islamic” school too! But it pulled out after Republican lawmakers said they couldn’t support Jindal’s bill if money went to an “Islamic” based school – though Fundamentalist Christian schools funded with taxpayers money seems just fine with them!

Are there good schools offering vouchers? A few, but most of them will carefully decide which students they will take, and the rest of those students will be looking at schools where children are taught that dinosaurs died out because Noah forgot to put them on the Ark. You think it is fair to ask taxpayers to fund THAT kind of education? And please don’t tell me it is better than what we have….

Jindal has jumped in with both feet, without bothering to check the waters for sharks.

Ron F.

June 14th, 2012
10:34 am

Solutions: IQ isn’t a permanent factor. It can and does improve with quality instruction. I’ve worked with a lot of kids labeled “slow learners” because of IQ, and they often do improve. One reason we have a lot of the problems we have now is that we see that as a constant, which it is not. You write “data bases are being scrubbed of as much IQ data as possible, to hide the real problem from researchers”. Can you prove that? I’m not being negative, just trying to debate an answer and find evidence.

Ron F.

June 14th, 2012
10:40 am

“Jindal has jumped in with both feet, without bothering to check the waters for sharks.”

Right now, it’s considered “bold reform”… let’s see how it’s labeled in a few years if it doesn’t work out. Voucher systems haven’t yielded anything more than broad charter movements in the long run. The reason: you still have the same pool of children and no “bold reform” movement out there really wants to take the time and the money to address all the needs of the kids. The goal of most reform movements is to give the mobile and economically successful the means to get away from those they deem unworthy.

William Casey

June 14th, 2012
10:54 am

Interesting. Schools that are ranked highest are those that recruit best. Just like basketball.

My contribution to the IQ debate based on 31 years (1976-20006) as a teacher, coach and administrator in public (25 yrs) and private (6 yrs) schools:

* The education establishment has tried to ignore the entire issue of IQ (yes, I know about “multiple intelligences”) for the last thirty years and this is NOT good. Genetics is REAL science, though open to interpretation and misuse at times.

* Based on my observations in the classroom and in other settings, my very best African-American sudents tended to score about ten points lower on my very demanding tests than I would have expected. Socio-economic and parental involvement issues were not in play. I’m not afflicted by “liberal guilt.” I also don’t uncritically assume “cultural bias.” However, this phenomenon was so consistent over my long career, I could not ignore it. What bothers me most, though, is the fact that the ed establishment has made this topic the “third rail” of reform discussion.

* I was both a serious teacher and a serious basketball coach. Over the years I often taught and coached the same guys. Many a classroom “dullard” was magically transformed into an avid and accomplished learner when he walked on the court. There’s more to being a good player than being able to run and jump. Yes, I know that we are all better learners when it’s a topic we love. However, I think that there’s more to it than that.

* I’d be willing to bet serious $ on the proposition that the average IQ of secondary school teachers entering the profession in 1970 was significantly higher than that of those entering today. Maybe I’m just a cranky old guy but don’t think so. There is more than just “smarts” that makes a good teacher but, that’s a good place to start.

Reform efforts seem so simplistic and often mindless to me.

William Casey

June 14th, 2012
11:00 am

@ I Love Teaching…. Your 10:17 post makes strong points.

William Casey

June 14th, 2012
11:04 am

One thing I like about LEE’s 9:41 post is that he offers evidence to ponder. One of the WORST things to happen in the last 40 years is the ed establishment’s increasing willingness to ignore inconvenient truths.

cranky old man

June 14th, 2012
11:08 am

@I love teaching,

Precisely. I actually earned a GA teaching certificate about 15 years ago. I was given a leave of absence from the Army for a semester, as part of the Troops to Teachers program. I already had a BA, as well as quite a few education courses from a decade earlier, when I was planning to become a teacher before the Gulf War. Paine College had a program at that time where you could earn a teaching certificate in a single semester, taking classes at night, and student teaching during the day. My student teaching was 9th grade Geography in one of the worst schools in Augusta. Discipline was a problem, but it never felt dangerous (I weighed 210 lbs, and it wasn’t fat back then). My biggest problems were getting them to show up on time, and sitting in their seats quietly. It’s not that they were deliberately trying to be problems, for the most part. It’s just that 9th graders can’t stay focused for very long. And the truancy was probably what hurt most of the kids more than anything. If they missed more than a certain number of days, they wouldn’t get credit for the semester. But they made them come to class anyway. That never made sense to me. If a kid knows he’s not getting credit, there is no way he’s going to try to do any work. He’s just going to be bored, and he’s going to want to chat with his buddies, which is going to distract the kids who actually want to learn. Making them come to school when they couldn’t get credit seemed to confirm the suspicions people have that schools are seen primarily as babysitting services.

I never did become a teacher. I got out of the Army in January, and I found what I thought would be a temporary job to pay the bills until I could start teaching in the Fall. But I ended up liking the job, so I’m still there.

William Casey

June 14th, 2012
11:11 am

A fact worth considering is the increasing “intellectual class system” resulting from the proliferation of AP classes in the last 40 years. AP classes are overwlemingly real classes with real standards. Regular classes have been dumbed-down. I taught both every semester 1981-2006.

Bane to union shills

June 14th, 2012
11:13 am

@WmCasey: Parents have known what you know since—well, at least as far back as Alexis de Tocqueville.

Liberals do too. They just hate themselves for realizing it and its implications.

But they needn’t. The demographic groups you reference can lead productive and even financially rewarding lives—if we simply stop kidding ourselves (Ron F, et al) and set about designing an education system with something for EVERYONE.

Tuition vouchers and the free market will quickly accomplish just that—if the well-meaning liberals will stop listening to those other liberals driven by selfish or mean-spirited agendas. And just get out of reform’s way!

Ron F.

June 14th, 2012
11:27 am

Here is one thing to consider in the debate over test scores variances by race: what do we do with that information? I’m wondering how it affects the way we teach and the expectations we set. Does it alter or improve our teaching, or just become an excuse for those differences in outcome? If I know a certain group, based on whatever factors given, are likely to score lower, do I just continue to teach the same way? If so, could it be that I’m helping to continue the score disparities and even encourage them, entirely without any negative intent or purpose? Not trying to start anything here, just honestly wondering and asking for other professionals to give an opinion. It’s easy to just say it’s genetics, but is that all there is to it? As a teacher, when I encounter a group performing lower, that signals to me that I need to alter my teaching in some way to better reach that group. For me, and this just my opinion based on my experiences as a teacher, if I allow or excuse performance based on differences in race alone, then I end up perpetuating that performance because I come to expect it. Am I right to think that?

Ron F.

June 14th, 2012
11:30 am

“One of the WORST things to happen in the last 40 years is the ed establishment’s increasing willingness to ignore inconvenient truths.”

At one time, William, I would have agreed with you. What I see in my school in recent years is that we’re finally trying to get behind the data and see what we can do in practice to change it. In the nightmare that was and is NCLB, one reasonable result of it is that in SOME schools, we’re actually trying to work from that data as a means of altering or improving practice. It isn’t easy, but I see some progress.

William Casey

June 14th, 2012
11:53 am

@Ron F: I retired in ‘06, so I’m hoping that you are right across the board. Maybe the NCLB fiasco will lead to some good down the road.

William Casey

June 14th, 2012
11:55 am

@ Ron F: “if I allow or excuse performance based on differences in race alone, then I end up perpetuating that performance because I come to expect it. Am I right to think that?”

My thoughts, exactly.

Lee

June 14th, 2012
12:01 pm

@Ron, re your 11:27 post. You’re asking the right questions and in questions, there is wisdom.

The problem is that the “equal outcomes” crowd has ruled public education for fifty years now. Closing the black/white “achievement gap” is an obsession with them. If they haven’t closed that gap in 50 years, you would think they would start asking whether or not there are other factors at play.

Socioeconomics is a crutch for them. But yet, they don’t consider the role of IQ in the socioeconomic condition. I.e., you’re not going to see many folks with 120 IQs in the soup line or in Section 8 housing.

The bottom line to all this is that you cannot teach a student with an IQ of 80 in the same manner and pace that you can the student with a 120 IQ. But yet, that is exactly what our schools do – especially in the elementary grades. It is only at the high school level the students self segregate by ability level by choosing A/P, college prep, and other higher level classes.

The elementary years are the most important and our public schools botch them terribly.

Solutions

June 14th, 2012
12:08 pm

IQ scores are very consistent across decades for individuals, the best predictor of a person’s IQ at 30 is his IQ at 10. Disease and trauma are the main factors influencing IQ’s over time, and they are almost always negative. Very few methods have been demonstrated for improving individual IQ, once a person had adequate nutrition, the MDR in vitamins and minerals, there IQ is very unlikely to change by more than a few points on an IQ test. There is a difference between IQ and education, education does not change properly measured IQ. IQ appropriate education is the direction we need to be moving in, group children by IQ, and provide them with the appropriate education for that level. If the lower IQ students want a more challenging education, they can waive the risks and move into the more advanced group, but the group will not be slowed for them to catch up, and if they fail, they are out. No learning disruptions will be tolerated. As for IQ data, just try to obtain such information for teachers from 1970 or 80 and teachers from 2000 or 2010, its very existence will be denied.

Solutions

June 14th, 2012
12:10 pm

Yes, I know I misused “there,” I type stream of consciousness, no proof reading.