kitchen table math, the sequel: in other words, the answer is homeschooling

Saturday, January 12, 2013

in other words, the answer is homeschooling

For some reason, I stumbled upon an Education News interview with Joshua Angrist that contains the following exchange:
[QUESTION]
School quality and human capital ARE major issues for all Americans. But we all know that some schools are failing. What can the typical parent do for their child other than attempt to home school?

[ANSWER]
Some schools are better than others. For many parents, however, this is not worth worrying about. For example, I never worried much about my kids schooling. I told them that teaching is hard, many teachers are mediocre at best, and they should try to get something out of badly taught classes as well as inspiring ones. The evidence suggests that’s a reasonable approach for children in educated families like mine. I worry most about the children of teen mothers, from families where there isn’t much adult supervision, little in the way of role models, and little hope for a middle class life. In this situation, a good school can make a huge difference.

An Interview with Josh Angrist: School Quality - Who Decides? 
For white kids, good enough is good enough.

My first reaction was exasperation. Don't worry, be happy doesn't cut it, and I am in a position to know. I am the parent of a (white) college freshman, and I teach (some) white college freshman as well as black and Hispanic students. None of them -- black, white, or brown -- are where they should be, and Ed, who occasionally teaches (mostly white) freshmen at NYU, will tell you the same.

Maybe "the evidence" used to "suggest" that graduating high school as a white 18-year old with mediocre skills was "a reasonable approach," but this interview was published just 9 months ago, and things are different now.

See, e.g., the Hamilton Jobs Gap calculator. If the economy continues to create 155,000 jobs per month, which has been the rate for the past two years, full employment does not return until after 2025. At that point today's college freshmen will be 31 years old and will have spent their first decade of employment in a buyer's market for labor. In a buyers' market, employers have more applicants than they can sort through and, often, no real need to hire if they can't find a purple squirrel.

See Urban Dictionary for the expression that covers that situation.


"Never worrying much" about your kids' schooling is a luxury white parents no longer enjoy, along with all those other luxuries that disappeared when household wealth fell by 40% in 3 years time. Assuming Angrist is right about what parents "can do" (nothing) and I'm sure he is, then homeschooling is the answer.

That was my first reaction.

My second reaction was: jeeeeeezzz.

"...many teachers are mediocre at best..."

"...the children of teen mothers, from families where there isn’t much adult supervision, little in the way of role models..."

In one short paragraph, he's managed to insult both teachers and a fair share of minority parents, while dismissing afterschoolers and math warriors out of hand.

Pretty efficient, I'd say.

55 comments:

Jean said...

Wow, that's a really unsatisfying response. I have zero belief that white middle-class kids will be "fine" going to utterly mediocre schools, much less anybody else. As far as I can see, those of us in the middle class have spent the past few years trying desperately to stay there, and frequently not succeeding.


"I’m skeptical of home schooling. I haven’t seen any evidence this is a good alternative. I’d be happy to study it someday."

Another unsatisfying non-response. Meh.

My local elem. school is well-regarded, though probably at the beginning of a downhill slide for several reasons. It's a "fine" school, as defined by Angrist. All the same, my reasons for homeschooling are largely academic. The local school uses EM, and I'm determined for my daughters to understand math as well as possible. We do much more history and science, and I hope our language work is better (it's quite different, so I can't compare easily, but so far I'm very happy with what I'm doing).

I haven't gotten to high school yet and am considering all options. We will see. But I can't just say "Oh, this is fine, you will be fine, don't worry." Those days are gone.

Jen said...

Funny, well, funny in a sad way, that I had JUST now had a quick conversation with 21 yo college kid about how it may actually come down to homeschooling his little bro (10 yo).

Oldest kid got a better than average education in an urban district. He had some truly excellent HS teachers and was in an IB program. Whatever he missed out on that suburban kids had (nicer facilities, actual guidance counselors) was, we felt, more than made up for by the diversity of his experience, the exposure to so many different kinds of people and lifestyles, his ability to get along with all sorts of people in all sorts of settings.

BUT, the quality had slipped for the brother who is only 3 years younger. It was kind of a crapshoot to leave him be and know that he was only getting maybe 60% of the quality that his brother got. (Some very good teachers' positions not offered back to them, incompetent teachers mysteriously still there as the program went through a strange move and change of name and grade levels and the like, teachers retiring rather than deal with the craziness, etc.)

Youngest -- well, the new curriculum has basically proven itself a failure for everyone that doesn't have a concerned, aware parent at home and even for many that do. You could come out of our system now knowing almost NOTHING it seems. Gaaa. There's only so much you can teach over the dinner table and through browbeating.

Fingers crossed that 6th grade won't be as bad as I think it will.

Jen said...

To clarify -- we didn't know going in that the quality would be 60% (which of course is a made-up number!) worse -- that's more my now that he's done assessment of what he did still get that was good and what had been possible. Going in, for instance, there were assurances that IB trained teachers would have first crack at their jobs as the school transitioned. That had been reassuring to us...but turned out to have been yet another empty promise. Yes, one bad IB trained teacher left, but so did at least 3 really good ones.

Crimson Wife said...

He's an MIT professor so he probably lives in Lexington or Lincoln or one of the other chi-chi Boston suburbs, maybe even the town where I grew up (several of my H.S. classmates were the offspring of MIT professors). His kids' schools may have been so-so, but they weren't truly dreadful like so many U.S. public schools are. I don't think he has a *CLUE* was the typical school is like.

momof4 said...

I can't let this one pass; that suburban guidance counselors are a plus - I emphatically disagree. My kids went to (deservedly) highly-rated suburban schools and the guidance counselors were all disinterested in academics and knew next to nothing about that area, to the point that it was safest to assume that their every statement should be checked for accuracy. Their interest was all on the counseling side. Besides, the top colleges all wanted recommendations from academic teachers, not counselors. Very few kids would qualify for any need-based financial aid, so I assume the guidance staff was equally clueless about financial matters.

Catherine Johnson said...

Another unsatisfying non-response. Meh.

You took the words out of my mouth.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm thinking that tenure may be a major intellectual impediment to microeconomists grasping the situation we are in.

Last year Ed was hiring an assistant administrator for the Institute (which is very small). He got hundreds of resumes, all of them from college-educated people with good recommendations, as well as some from people with Masters degrees (and people who had worked on Wall Street). There were many, many, many applicants who would have been fabulous hires.

We both found it incredibly depressing.

That is the way of the world now unless we have 'regime change' at the Fed.

I actually dimly recall the days when it was a seller's market for labor. Employers needed employees, and they needed them yesterday. A seller's market for labor is the reason why Clinton could reform welfare and welfare mothers could all get jobs.

Remember "teacher shortages"?

Remember "nursing shortages"?

Ed talked to an acquaintance yesterday whose kids are now near college age. She said when she graduated from college she was instantly hired by Wall Street "and I knew nothing about Wall Street."

As a college graduate she could walk in off the street and get a good job with a future.

THOSE DAYS ARE GONE.

Gone for the duration, at least.

Catherine Johnson said...

Speaking of guidance counselors, this particular parent was upset because our high school guidance counselors are STILL telling kids that SAT/ACT scores don't matter.

Catherine Johnson said...

There's only so much you can teach over the dinner table and through browbeating.

That should be the new ktm slogan!!!!!!

momof4 said...

Cheer up; at least the kids would still have the coursework and class rank. At my oldest kids' school, guidance counselors routinely, for years, told entering freshmen/parents that they should take no more than 2 honors courses. Since virtually ALL of the top 10%, and most of the top 20% of the class took ALL academic classes at honors and AP levels, anyone following this advice was well behind the 8-ball by the end of the first semester. This was in spite of dozens of parent/student complaints, every year, about the blatant untruth of the counselor's message. Fortunately, the student/parent grapevine was much better-informed.

Jen said...

Ah! I hadn't even considered guidance counselors doing *academic* counseling. My oldest didn't even know the NAME of his official guidance counselors. A couple of teachers took on the college process for the "gifted" kids and that was that. And here, by process, I mean literally that. They made sure that the recommendations were there to send out, the transcripts, etc.

Next kid got the first year of a guidance counselor who seemed to have never done college apps. Things went in late, transcripts were sent out undated, scholarship information not given out until the day it was due. The list goes on...

I honestly have no idea how parents who haven't gone to college themselves get through it! Bad enough to have only decades old information.

Cassandra Turner said...

Remember "teacher shortages"?
There are probably no teacher shortages in Irvington, Edina or Fort COllins, where I live, but head to the rural areas and the inner cities and there is a dearth of decent educators. The Navajo Nation, North Dakota, Eastern Wyoming...There are plenty of openings.

And the "Dance of the Lemons" is alive in the inner cities.

Jen said...

Not in my urban area.

300+ furloughed last year. Now, is there still a huge turnover? Yup. But the output of certified teachers makes my state an exporter of teachers -- big competition amongst those left.

IF the schools stopped turning them out, though, there might be. Of my master's certification classes, I'd say half or fewer are employed in full-time (or almost full-time) positions and most of those are with charters.

The teachers that stay in the public schools here tend to have come from smaller, local state colleges. Others tend to leave pretty quickly -- or go to private schools.

Genevieve said...

-Jen,
At least the transcripts were sent. One of my sister's best friends was denied admission to a school because the high school never sent her transcripts. This occurred even after the student reminded the high school. Nothing like a large, semi-urban, poor school to mess things up for students.

Jen said...

The one his school finally accepted wasn't sent until August. As in days before he was going to be not enrolled.

Turns out they had sent one earlier, but had never filled in a couple of the required boxes (like date of graduation). If his university hadn't reminded US yet again and I hadn't called them three times to make sure it was all in order...it took an email with three cc's on it to get action. @@

I didn't even mention that they never told him about his National Merit status. *I* found out when I got an email from some place in Florida trying to recruit him. That ended up going in very late, but fortunately NM people were understanding about the incompetence at his school.

(And oh lordy, now I've pretty much completely outed myself -- the youngest child may well be doomed!)

Laura in AZ said...

Well Catherine, you've managed to thoroughly depress me now! I'm imagining my DD living with us for the next 20 years, taking Community College classes and working part time (>30 a week at McD's)...

I guess the good news is that since I already homeschool, I at least have some control over the curriculum we're using and the directions we're going in...

Hainish said...

Catherine, FOR WHOM is homeschooling the answer? Certainly not for the students who don't have a homeschool-capable parent at home.

(Bright kids could self-homeschool, I suppose.)

momof4 said...

Jen: Every semester's scheduled had to be OK'd by the assigned guidance counselor; hence the problem. Since kids kept the same GC throughout HS,parents learned early they had to do everything. Even getting a check "recommend" on a state-school app for an all-honors/AP/varsity athlete required parent intervention to meet the deadline. Useless. Fortunately, this was a school where almost all kids had college-grad parents, most with at least one grad degree, and a very good student/parent grapevine.

Crimson Wife said...

A lot of decent HS curriculum have scripted lessons so it doesn't take a genius to read the TM. The parent will probably learn an embarrassing amount even from the elementary books (yep, that would be me, the Stanford grad with impressive-on-paper academic qualifications).

Now I agree that it does take a parent with the time to homeschool, and unfortunately that's something of a rarity these days with the high cost of basics.

K9Sasha said...

I taught for a year and a half at a charter school that supports homeschool families, and I can tell you that not many of those families were like the people on this list. Very few of my families did sufficient work to get through a year's worth of academics in a year - and this was elementary level where schooling for 3-4 hours per day should be enough to cover everything. Parents coming into the school didn't understand what a commitment homeschooling is, and while they believed that it was better than sending their kids to public schools, failed to make it so.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, high school guidance counselors.

I remember saying, at 14, "No offense, but if I want career advice I'll get it from someone whose career I want."

I went to one of the schools a fellow like Angrist would never in a million years send his kids to - that's why you buy a house in Brookline, so you don't have to. A median house value of 630K will buy a lot of school.

Jen said...

K9Sasha --

Having seen some kids return to school from being homeschooled, I can agree that most of them were far behind the same-age kids. And where I was teaching, those kids who had been in school had started off behind as well and still weren't caught up -- meaning the newcomers were shockingly unprepared.

AC said...

Homeschooling has always struck me as a bi-modal distribution.

Group A are the parents that choose to homeschool because they are horrified by the quality of instruction in today's public schools.

Group B are the parents for whom homeschooling is thrust upon them due to social and behavioral factors with their child causing the child to fall further and further behind.

I think this latter group figures if they aren't learning at school, maybe they'll be able to learn at home. If it's something they're doing in reaction to other problems it's probably not going to work out all that well. After a couple years they give up, re-enroll their child and to no one's surprise the child is about the same or worse than when they left.

IMO, we need to keep in mind the two groups and not make judgements towards one based on experience with the other.

AC said...

"No offense, but if I want career advice I'll get it from someone whose career I want."

Hahaha! Hilarious. :-)

Jean said...

There are a lot of reasons to homeschool, so you'd have to divide families up into more than two categories.

It's true that the 'emergency homeschooling' contingent is growing--I've had several friends who pulled their kids out because of learning or other problems. For the most part, the parent's motivation and intense focus on the issue--IME--can help the child quite a bit. Such parents may or may not put the child back into public school, depending on the situation.

Either way, a discussion on the merits of homeschooling could take a while...

Anonymous said...

But Jen, that's not a good sample group. These are kids whose parents decided to no longer homeschool? Why? I don't know, maybe because they're not any good at it?

K9Sasha said...

The large majority of parents homeschooling at the charter school where I worked were homeschooling for religious reasons, not for academic or behavioral reasons. Wait, now that I think of it, there was a large contingent of high schoolers who were there because of behavioral reasons. Unfortunately, those students were often left on their own to learn. Since they were students who lacked study skills in the first place, they were mostly unsuccessful homeschoolers. Homeschooling takes much more time and effort to do well than most people realize or are willing to put in.

Jen said...

Anonymous --

I don't see that I said anything about my sample being any sort of general sample. In fact, I clarified it down to being at the couple of schools where I either taught or subbed at the time, which I then went on to describe. And it was in response to another poster's also very specific sample.

Neither of which is likely to reflect the parents who post here -- which was the point.

Jen said...

Agreeing with Jean -- there are likely as many different types of homeschooling. It's unlikely that any description of the group as a whole would be accurate beyond "they aren't registered full-time in public or parochial school."

I even hear some parents around me talk about how they homeschooled for "a couple of years" or "several years." When you inquire further it turns out that it was during the years before their child was even school age! I used to just call that "being at home with the kids." ;-D

Catherine Johnson said...

Hainish --- yes, obviously.

Homeschooling is only the answer if you've got parents capable of homeschooling.

The title of the post is ..... well, it's desperate, I guess!

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, this is something other people at ktm have discussed over the years, so I'm drawing on their ideas, too,....but I personally don't think 'schools' are a particularly idea, no matter what kind of school we're talking about. (I make an exception for Morningside Academy.)

I'd like to see us experiment with "Teacher Practices" organized in the way private physician practices are organized ----- OR perhaps organized in the way I think physician practices owned by hospitals are.

A group of likeminded teachers would establish a practice, and parents would choose the practice whose mission and approach they believe in.

(That is already happening amongst very wealthy parents in Manhattan, btw.)

I can imagine the state playing a role in terms of requiring transparency, perhaps providing parents online tests THEY can administer to their own children if they like as an external check on the 'Teacher Practice.'

I can also imagine the state -- or private companies -- handling the administrative work: providing a campus, a la the kind of campus a community college might have, handling the health care billing, etc.

IN fact, I can imagine a number of different teacher practices all working on a community college-like campus (or inside a public school building ...)

I would like to see teachers much, much closer to parents, without all the 'middlemen' and decrees from on high.

There is a very good reason WHY we have so many decrees from on high, of course; schools haven't been producing the results people want them to produce.

But decrees from on high just don't work at all in public schools (or anywhere else?)

Some private teacher practices would become schools, I think, and some (or many) of the private and parochial schools we have today would stay in business -- and might become more transparent and accountable as a result of the competition.

Catherine Johnson said...

Laura --- Sorry to depress you!

Aaauuuggghhh!

But, there may be hope!

I guess it's no secret I've become a Fed watcher & macro enthusiast ..... with the result being that I'm convinced there is a clear and direct way back to a healthy booming economy, and that way is level NGDP targeting.

I *****think***** I recently saw an estimate of how long it would take for things to right themselves if the Fed undertook "regime change": 2 years. (Don't quote me on that....I fear I wouldn't be able to track the cite...But whatever the estimate, it's not going to be a lot longer than that ---- )

It looks like England's central bank is going to be the first to adopt level targeting. If they go first, I would bet a modest sum we'll go second.

If England goes first and we go second, the ECB may have no choice but to follow suit, but we'll see. That is one arrogant, nonaccountable lot of policy elites, and they do what they do.

Meanwhile, who knows what Bank of Japan is doing. They've apparently raised their inflation target from 1% to 2%, but they need to drop inflation targeting altogether.

They need to target nominal growth, which is the source of all good things where the economy is concerned.

Catherine Johnson said...

Jean wrote .... "emergency homeschooling"

I'm laughing!

Oh my gosh.

What a world.

Catherine Johnson said...

(I'm laughing because the term is so clever, not because parents are having to pull their kids out of schools in a state of emergency .... MUST make that clear---)

Catherine Johnson said...

A median house value of 630K will buy a lot of school.

No! No! No!!!!!!

Anonymous, if you're still around (and have time), take a look at some of the posts on "nominally high performing schools."

Or read Laurence Steinberg.

Steinberg (in a 10-year, NIH-funded study) concluded that what you're really paying for when you spend a fortune on a house in a rich suburb is the peers, not the school.

(That's nothing to sniff at, of course, but we should be aware of what, exactly, most affluent white suburban schools are giving parents.)

Suburban schools look good because of the demographics, not because of the value-add.

In my experience, rich suburban schools are actually value-subtract, as Paul Attewell found in his study.

Catherine Johnson said...

K9Sasha's comments are all 'on point' ---- I think the future of homeschooling may be more like what I've described above. The parent oversees the education, chooses the teachers (or the "Teacher Practice"), perhaps teaches the subject s/he is expert in, etc.

That said, I do think one parent can do a fantastic job teaching K-6 if s/he has a good curriculum.

Catherine Johnson said...

Wait!

What am I saying!?

This particular post is specifically about highly-educated, generally well-heeled parents ---- exactly the kind of parents who can oversee homeschooling and/or do it themselves.

Homeschooling, at this time, IS the answer for a parent like me, and I wish I'd know that going in.

kcab said...

Homeschooling, at this time, IS the answer for a parent like me, and I wish I'd know that going in.

I think homeschooling would have been a good plan for my family too, and also wish I'd known that a long time ago.

Instead, now I'm browbeating at the kitchen table, plus enlisting the help of others to do the same. I knew my oldest needed better writing instruction, knew it *years* ago and asked teachers for it, but the positive comments and high grades were unwavering until this year (sophomore) in a different school system. Sigh. Poor kid, she was really misled by her faith in her teacher's judgement.

K9Sasha said...

Throughout elementary school I kept asking my son if he wanted to be homeschooled, knowing I could do a better job of teaching him than the schools. He always said no, and I let him go to school. Finally, by 8th grade I'd had enough and told him he no longer had a choice. At that point he couldn't write a paragraph and didn't know his math facts, and the school wasn't going to teach him those skills at his age.

By the end of the first year he knew his math facts and his writing had improved. After that, I kept asking him if he wanted to go back to school and he would say no. He discovered he really liked homeschooling and being done by noon.

The thing that makes me proudest is that in college he had excellent time management skills and made the deans list several times while studying civil engineering and being deeply involved with the rowing team. Homeschooling IS the answer, when the setup is right.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Anonymous said " A median house value of 630K will buy a lot of school." Not in California—here you can get fairly poor schools even with $800k median home prices, because the property taxes were capped for old money and businesses. My house (worth about $800k) only has about $4k in property taxes. This is one reason California has gone from having the best K–12 education in the country to barely above average.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, this is that Anonymous again. Yes, of course, you're right about this. The parents' careful guidance, as well as the hard work of the mediocre teachers, have little effect on long-term outcome for the kids. What's most important is the genes, er, the peers.

The reason Mr. Angrist lives in Brookline rather than Cambridge, where he works, or Boston, which is both closer to his workplace and cheaper than Brookline, is the demographics of the public schools, and the safety of the public schools. Cambridge spends considerably more per student than does Brookline, but mostly because the rate of special needs is so much higher. Boston also has a considerably higher rate of poor, minority, and special needs students in its school system.

In both Boston and Cambridge it's like there are two cities - one you see in the schools (90% black and hispanic, overwhelmingly impoverished) and another you see walking around (prosperous, 50% white, 50% a broad mix of world origins). In Brookline, it's different.

When you buy a house in a (by local terms) expensive neighborhood, what you are buying is not a better school but better casting at your kids' school. You're buying richer, whiter kids with richer, whiter parents. You're not getting better teachers, nor are you getting better teaching methods (you probably are getting better facilities). You're getting your kids to go school with people like them, like you. That's the point.

Angrist doesn't have to worry about his kids in school because they're going to turn out just fine. Of course, that'd be true no matter where they went to school. They're his kids, and they'll be a lot like him and his wife when they grow up.

But he has to worry a lot less than he would in the cities closer to his workplace because the in-school crime rate is much lower in Brookline than it is in Boston - his kids are less likely to be stabbed or shot there. The nerdy kids fascinated by robotics rate is also much higher - his kids might well have friends who are intellectual peers instead of being the only ones in their class who can read above grade level. It's not going to be horribly awkward inviting the parents of classmates over. And that's nice, isn't it?

As for me, yeah, I live in a cheaper neighborhood of Boston (median house value half that of Brookline), I homeschool, and my kid has plenty of nearby homeschooling friends who are intellectual peers. Homeschooling is very much the answer for us (and not just because we get to avoid TERC Investigations).

Catherine Johnson said...

The reason Mr. Angrist lives in Brookline rather than Cambridge, where he works, or Boston, which is both closer to his workplace and cheaper than Brookline, is the demographics of the public schools, and the safety of the public schools.

ABSOLUTELY.

I always find it dicey to talk about this, because I don't want to be misunderstood.

When people spend themselves into the ground for districts like mine, a HUGE part of what they are consciously buying is safety.

I can attest that suburban parents all think we're buying quality, too (we sure did) ---- but safety is a big part of the equation.

Suburban schools do deliver on that part of the exchange.

In my experience, however, they do not deliver when it comes to providing an emotionally safe climate.

Bullying is left to students and parents to address.

The bullying issue has been so thoroughly outsourced to parents that we now have a parent-run Character Education fundraising organization.

Parents can fundraise re: bullying all they like. It's up to the school to prevent bullying.

Catherine Johnson said...

My house (worth about $800k) only has about $4k in property taxes.

Why did we leave Los Angeles?

Our house, also $800K to $900K, has $25K property taxes.

And we ended up taking C. out of the high school, just as we would have done in CA.

I am very skeptical that Proposition 13 caused the decline in CA schools.

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, I've now had two southern students in my composition classes.

Both were much more knowledgeable than the NY students.

I don't think that's a coincidence. They weren't better students; they had more knowledge.

lgm said...

I can see that in the Boston area. Move to a richer district here in NY, within the NYC commute radius, and you don't get snow white everywhere. You get a greater percentage of parents who are middle class and up, mostly diverse world origins. The commonality is class and attitude toward education, not skin color.

The schools are different when the majority is middle class or more. They don't have security guards or an SRO and they don't need as many remedial sections, social workers, or school pyschs. That means they can offer 7th grade Algebra, 12th grade Diff Eq, an honors program, AP classes, a music program, a sports program and have extracurriculars. That can't be done in schools with massive sped needs and criminal behavior.

Catherine Johnson said...

I live in a cheaper neighborhood of Boston (median house value half that of Brookline), I homeschool, and my kid has plenty of nearby homeschooling friends who are intellectual peers. Homeschooling is very much the answer for us

Exactly what we should have done.

Catherine Johnson said...

Well....rich suburban schools **could** offer 7th grade algebra.

But they don't.

Not in my experience, anyway.

And if they do, they only kids taking the courses will be the ones whose parents can teach math at home.

lgm said...

Arlington does. Being a huge district has the advantage that they can meet minimum class size and run that class for the top students. Most schools don't have enough prepared students.

Catherine Johnson said...

Where is Arlington?

Catherine Johnson said...

My district is, to a large degree, ideologically opposed to classes for advanced or gifted students.

I see that elsewhere, too.

That's why districts are so interested in the Cambridge Pre-U classes. They can put all students in the classes because they do group project & Powerpoints, and the main mode of learning is class discussion.

In my experience, and in the school I visited, students who don't write well, and don't fare well on tests & memorization, often hold their own quite well in class discussion.

momof4 said...

Imagine a school with very advantaged kids and essentially no behavioral problems, where parents have college degrees and value education enough to make sure kids do the work and to supplement as necessary. Add to that a tax base high enough to be able to hire high-quality teachers, in terms of subject knowledge. With all that in place, add Singapore Math and either the CK or Classical curriculum, with specific instruction in grammar and composition. Group kids by level, by subject. Tell the teachers to teach; never mind discovery learning and groupwork. Can you imagine how far and how fast those kids would go? I just don't understand why a small district (one HS) like this one wouldn't want those results. It's depressing to wonder. (I do know one district like this, Scarsdale, that has started Singapore Math).

Jean said...

Well, I did not invent the term "emergency homeschooling," --I heard of a book being written about the topic, which is great idea for a book but I don't know if/when it will be finished. I do know a lot of people who have done it when school has failed their child for one reason or another.

lgm said...

Arlington is in Dutchess County, at the far end of the Metro North commuter rail line. It draws from City of Poughkeepsie as well as the suburban/exurban/rural areas around the Taconic. There are other high schools in NY that also allow students to place appropriately, but they are few. As you noted, the emphasis is on not letting these children get ahead of those who learn by hearing, rather than reading.

SATVerbalTutor. said...

Just wanted to chime in since I actually *attended* Brookline public K-12. A few points: first, Brookline may be wealthy, but it's not exactly a typical white-bread homogeneous suburb. The high school has kids from something like 80 countries, and about half come from homes where English isn't the first language. Yes there are some race/class tensions, as there are in most schools, but it's extremely diverse (especially in comparison to suburbs like, say, Wellesley and Weston, which are as rich and white as they come). Even my elementary school, which drew kids from some of the wealthiest areas of town, was fairly diverse: I knew kids from Saudi Arabia, Greece, Ireland, Nigeria, israel, and Japan, among other places.

Second, yes I was surrounded by some very serious, motivated, intelligent peers in high school, but I also learned a lot from my teachers. Sure, some of them were mediocre, but some of them were really and truly extraordinary. Granted my math education sucked (mostly because I didn't take honors math), but my education in the humanities went beyond pretty much what I've seen at all but a handful of other, mostly private, schools. It was really hard, and I worked my butt off for A-/B+ grades. College was a lot easier in many ways. The school also had no problem tracking us: I took four years of "AP" French, and although some of my teachers weren't stellar, I was more or less fluent by the time I got to college, despite the fact that I'd never set foot in a francophone country.

Third, Brookline is very progressive socially -- it has, I believe, one of the largest gay-straight alliances in the country. It also has an alternative school (School Within a School), for kids who want a less rigid learning environment. Most of the typical high school social hierarchies don't really exist. I'm not saying it's perfect, but on the whole, it's a very tolerant atmosphere.

Finally, parents in Brookline who really want their kids educated in a wealthy, more homogenous environment send their kids to private school -- 50% of kids actually go private ("private" being defined as Milton, Groton, St. Paul's, Andover, etc.) It's primarily a social distinction; the education itself isn't all that different.

It's possible that things have changed since I graduated (a lot of the teachers I had are retired now), but I imagine it's still a pretty serious place academically. Yes, plenty of kids have parents who teach at Harvard, MIT, etc., but the schools do a lot more than baby-sit them.

momof4 said...

Catherine: If you want to see a display of ideological opposition to gifted programs or leveled (homogeneous) grouping, read the education section (under local) in the WaPo.(our kids were raised in that area) It seems as if they have a whine on the topic almost monthly and the comments often agree. Disagreement comes from parents whose kids are bored stiff and/or hate peer tutoring (which would end fast if they had to pay them union wages!) There's particular animus against the Thomas Jefferson sci/tech magnet HS, which has been described as the best public HS in the country. Let no child get ahead.