kitchen table math, the sequel: Your Child Left Behind

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Your Child Left Behind

I think Mark Roulo left a link to the new article on Hanushek's research in the Atlantic.

I've posted a list of pulls on the Irvington Parents Forum.


SteveH said...

From Catherine's pulls:

“There’s a long-standing attitude that, ‘Well, smart kids can make it on their own. And after all, they’re doing well. So why worry about them?’”

Our public schools don't say that. They claim that they do it all. At best, the claim might be used on the few students who are clearly above the rest, but they don't have that attitude. Interestingly, at my son's old private school (using EM), there was no chance for advacement for my son because all of the kids were supposed to be above average. When we brought him back to our die-hard differetiated instruction public school in 6th grade, I got them to let my son skip a grade in math (based on his SCAT test results and taking the final test in EM). They also would have allowed him to skip a grade in all subjects.

The problem is that there is no normal top-level path for kids in K-8. It is the exception, and I'm sure my son is used as an example. Schools think they can have it all; full inclusion and differentiated instruction. They focus on the state tests and then claim that they are flexible. That's not enough.

As I mentioned in another thread, schools need to define and offer a top-level path for students in K-8. When they select kids for the algebra in 8th grade path, and when they select kids for honors classes in high school, they are defining key points in this path. I would like to see schools clearly define what these points are, and what they do to help kids get to them. They should ask what parents do to help their kids get to those points.

I don't think it will help to try and improve state tests. In high school, the top kids (and their parents) don't care about the state tests. They are focused on the level of the class and getting the best grades. In K-8, however, there is nothing defining a top path. Schools don't want to go there because it would destroy their ideas of full inclusion. They want the discussion to focus on just trying harder with differentiated instruction. This would be more difficult if key top-level tests were given along the way. Perhaps more parents (and kids)would realize that it's not that they are dumb; just that they were never taught the material or given enough time to practice.

Anonymous said...

And now, going in the *OTHER* direction, I'll contribute the article "The 95% Solution" from the Nov-Dec 2010 issue of "American Scientist." The interesting bit is an almost throw-away comment:

"Drawing on a large base of research, the authors demonstrate that by the time U.S. citizens are young adults, they are better informed about science than their international peers..."

So our kids suck in/during school and score poorly on the science tests compared to the international competition ... but seem to catch up as adults (on average, obviously ... it isn't like the kids who don't get engineering degrees suddenly blossom as adults and become engineers).

For what it is worth, this kinda fits some major differences that my Indian co-workers have observed between America/Americans and India.

Interesting ...

-Mark Roulo

PhysicistDave said...

I’ve been a bit of a heretic here on ktm for pointing out that one of the things the USA does right is our laissez-faire culture that says ultimately that the individual can do as he likes – sink or swim, drop out of Harvard or stay at Harvard, start Microsoft or become a bum.

The article Mark mentions does seem to support my point – as bad as our schools are, our laissez-faire approach does eventually let people pick up some knowledge of science.

Of course, that is not a defense of our schools – they force kids to waste more than a decade of their lives, pointlessly. The kids could be allowed to spend that time really learning, or at least playing.

Think of how bright Americans would be if we scrapped the schools but retained our “You’re on your own, kid” culture that does allow people to learn on their own. For examples (exceptional ones to be sure), think of "unschooled" guys like Lincoln or Edison.


Anonymous said...

test post

JRL said...

The problem as well is that the same people who are promoting all of this groups, differentiated learning, student-led etc. keep using data like this to say that we need to do those things MORE, not less, that they haven't yet successfully implemented them.

Our urban district uses bad scores to blame teachers for not being in the pacing schedule or for actually teaching tasks rather than letting kids figure it out on their own.

Bad scores mean teachers need more directives and more reform.

Of course, good scores show that their reforms are working and all we need to do is get the rest of the teachers on board. The teachers just need to have more cooperative learning and groups and student led learning and the goodness will continue.

So, we're kind of stuck here.