Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Smart get Smarter

I was just informed of a very interesting situation.  You know about that thing we call the achievement gap.  Where we have smart kids who are doing excellent and not so smart kids that are struggling. The very smart kids take challenging courses (AP/IB), and the normal and not so smart kids take normal courses.

With all this in mind, who do you think should have Summer homework to help them advance academically.  Of course it should be the not so smart kids...  I mean we want to close the gap, right???

Of course, the reality is that it is the AP/IB students who are given Summer homework assignments that apply to their Fall courses.  I mean they have the best study habits and most supportive parents, so I suppose there is a better chance that the homework will be done...

Now I think there is Summer school for some of the most challenged students, however I think this ~2 weeks in duration. 

So how do we help close the achievement gap if we keep challenging the smartest kids while letting the others twiddle their Summer away?  Anyway to get the challenged kids attending year round?  That seems like the logical solution...



jerrye92002 said...

How about this: Instead of closing the achievement gap, let's "educate every child to their full potential" as the educrats are so fond of saying. That means the smart kids get smarter, and the dumb kids get smarter, too. The "gap" closes as a result, because the slower kids can be brought higher and more quickly than the smarter ones. The other gap we need to overcome is between our best and brightest and those from other nations, followed closely by the gap between our "average" students and theirs. Right now, American schools are pretty much not making the grade, and slowing down our best minds to solve some "gap" is not the answer. It's as stupid as taxing the rich to reduce the income gap.

Laurie said...

welcome back to comments, Jerry, I missed your perspective. I even agree with your comment this time, except that last sentence. The goal of raising taxes on the rich is to raise needed revenue, the minor reduction in the income gap is just a side effect.

Laurie said...

I think extra "close the gap" funding should be given to schools for the explicit purpose of expanding the school day or school yr for students who are below grade level.

I think principals need to do what they can to make sure the teachers make the most of this time. At my (low test score) school many teachers have too laid back of an attitude about our summer school program. One teacher treated his 3 weeks as a time for enrichment and taught weaving. My students complained about the amount of work we were doing.

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, thanks. If I thought that the purpose of raising taxes on the rich was to raise "needed" revenue, I would still have the same complaint. First of all, government doesn't need the revenue; they need to tighten their belts, set some priorities and live within their means. Have you ever seen the deficit go DOWN after a tax increase? Besides that, this last round of MN tax increases, which hit the poor the hardest on a percentage basis, by the way, was ALL about "making it fair." Of course, if fairness was the goal they could have LOWERED taxes on everybody but the rich but that isn't what they did. They increased taxes across the board, and then figured out what to squander it on.

I have no objection to giving schools extra funding to "close the gap" but it MUST be specific, and it must be done by raising the scores of the lowest achieving students, not lowering those at the top. Furthermore, the school will have to deliver that improvement or the funding goes away! I have too long been troubled by the obvious fact that, if the public schools really knew how to raise achievement they would have done it long ago, and it has only gotten worse.

John said...

Interesting Links...
NEA Strategies
EDU Closing the Gap

Now J, I have to wonder if this is true. "The "gap" closes as a result, because the slower kids can be brought higher and more quickly than the smarter ones."

To me that implies that you believe all kids are equally capable. Which in my many years as a student, I found to be terribly untrue. I knew people who worked hard to understand dozens of course and failed miserably.

Besides the environmental issues, there are genetic issues that must be addressed. And beyond these we have the unfortunate consequences of drugs, alcohol, smoking, poor nutrition, poor healthcare, etc on how the fetus and child develop.

I am not saying that we should lower the standards due to these issues, however we also can not ignore their reality.

I think the struggling kids will require a great many more hours and effort to help them catch up with the highly capable kids.

I think year round school and longer days for the lagging students should be mandatory. And the Summer curriculum should be about the the 3 R's and science, not "broadening"... (ie catchup so they can get back on the regular schedule ASAP)

Laurie said...

A while back I saw a show on education that included a segment on S. Korea. Over there it was illegal to offer classes after 11:00 PM. They had a patrol out looking for schools illegally educating students late at night.

A quick google search turned up this article about the problem:

Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone

I agree with John that failing students here need more time and instruction to catch up. Expanding summer school from what little bit is now offered would be a good start.

John said...

Now I like continuous learning, but that is simply disturbing.

More fun facts about time zones and travel before I leave Korea tonight. Currently it is 8:44 PM Wednesday in MN and 10:44 AM Thursday in S Korea. (14 hrs ahead) I will leave here ~5 PM Thursday and land in Detroit at about 5 PM Thursday...

Laurie said...

time zones and long distance travel always confuses me, especially if it involves crossing the date line. By my understanding you must have "lost" about a day on your travel over there.

I read something today about the luxuries of first class travel, so that should help a little with jet lag. The writer was making an analogy with air travel and our economy, which made sense to my lefty pt of view.

John said...

After 13hrs in "economy comfort" those business and first class seats look real nice. So what would a lefty do, forcibly take the seat and let other less fortunate passengers sit there for 50% of the flight??? (Ie wealth transfer)

And yes I left Sunday at noon and arrived Monday at 3 PM... That 27 hrs that passed in just 13... How time flies when you are squeezed in.

One more side note, the guys I was sitting by were Army folks on their way over to conduct a 29 day training exercise that is held 2 or 3 times per year. Apparently having bases here means a lot of airline tickets... Keep that economy moving....

Anonymous said...

This may be slightly off topic and if so, my apologies. But here is something I wrote about an op ed piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

There were lots of absurdities in the article. The writer, for example, claims that many folks expected a rapid rise in test educational test scores after Mr. Obama's election. It's hard for me to even imagine anyone knowledgeable about educational issues believing that an election outcome or any other specific event would cause a rapid rise in test scores. What I do think is the case is that a lot of people, and that includes me, would instead have a tendency to assume or at least suspect that any rapid rise in test scores would be the result of cheating in one form or another. It strikes me as odd that the possibility of cheating seems to have eluded the Harvard professor.

Anyway, what the article does acknowledge in a backhanded sort of a grudging way, is that we are making substantial (although hardly rapid) improvement in educational achievement as measured by NAEP. I think it's also the case that this trend extends further back in time then the enactment of No Child Left Behind. Here is what I thought was a critical portion of the piece, one that illustrates the confusion many folks have about test scores and what they mean:

" Annual gains have been limited to one-and-a-half points for blacks and to three points for Hispanic students. Whites gained two points annually, slightly (though not significantly) better than those registered by African-Americans. In other words, gains under the Obama administration by all students range between minimal and nonexistent, and the black-white gap on test scores threatens to widen after having narrowed steadily over the previous nine years."

Isn't there a contradiction between the first and second sentences and the third? In the first and second sentences, the author tells us that there have been gains, although they have been limited in some way that he doesn't take the time to explain, and in the second sentence he tells us that gains by "all students" range between minimal and nonexistent. Now it is in fact true that we would like to see the gains to be greater but that's no reason at all to pretend that the gains we are seeing don't exist. What this is, is another example of a writer distorting information concerning our schools in order to further a political agenda. Shouldn't we acknowledge that our schools have been getting better in recent decades, under both Democratic and Republican presidents; that such progress has been less than steady, subject to the occasional setback, and not nearly at the rapid pace we might want, but that it has been both real and demonstrable? And with greater focus and lots of hard work, and yes, more support from a lot of different elements of society, is something we can get better at?


jerrye92002 said...

Now J, I have to wonder if this is true. "The "gap" closes as a result, because the slower kids can be brought higher and more quickly than the smarter ones."

I'm just talking about simple math. Kids achieving at 90% of grade level (or whatever metric) aren't going to gain much by a 50% reduction in "instructional impairment" (what I call the public education process in many cases) gains 5 points, while a student achieving at only 30% of grade level (typical of the gap) gains 35 points, closing the gap by 30 points or half the gap!

Your links look interesting. The first tells me that the NEA has known for years how to close the gap, yet it still exists. The next two tell me why. That is because the focus is on PROCESS (understanding diversity and culture and blah-de-blah) rather than setting high expectations for teaching and learning and behavior, with a strong curriculum that challenges all levels of student.

Laurie said...

about test scores-

Hiram's link:

Paul E. Peterson: The Obama Setback for Minority Education

my link:

Student Test Scores Continue to Rise, Just As They Have For the Past 40 Years

from the graph that Drum includes we can see that scores did flatten a little for 9 yr olds. For 13 yr olds reading gains continued at the same pace and math scores improved by more under Obama than previous 4 years.

I know in my school we continue to focus almost exclusively on math and reading. Would we work harder if we felt we were in danger of being shut down? probably, but I think the cost of making everyone extremely stressed out, staff and students, is greater than the benefit of maybe gaining a couple pts on the MCA.

I think if I was in charge I'd make principals and teacher leaders spend time learning what works at schools that have the highest test scores/gains. I know there is a school a few blocks from us that does much better at test scores. I know one thing they do is an extended school day. I am curious about their budget and how they manage to fund it. I believe some successful charter schools require their teachers to work a 10 hour day.

Anonymous said...

I think if I was in charge I'd make principals and teacher leaders spend time learning what works at schools that have the highest test scores/gains.

I would be surprised if the teachers at North have that much to gain by spending time with the teachers at Blake. My guess is that if you traded faculties between the schools, the North faculty would do a lot better than the Blake faculty.


Laurie said...

I wasn't clear, but I was thinking of "beat the odds" schools with demographics somewhat similar to ours (though few can match 95%poverty and 95% English language learners.)

There are some charter schools who do very well with at risk students, including one right in our neighborhood.

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, first of all let me applaud your service. I appreciate the challenge because I struggle with such students even one-on-one. And I think you have it exactly right. The cure is, indeed, to find out why other schools are so successful with the type of students you have, and then somehow copy what they are doing as best you can. To my mind, that is what the State and Federal "department of education" should be doing-- acting as a clearinghouse for best practice.

It seems so simple, but you have to understand that there are, for the most part, perverse incentives at work preventing such simple improvement. For example, teachers' unions negotiate contracts that pay according to seniority and such, so teachers get paid the same whether the kids learn or not. Most, like you, care a lot about kids, but "the system" doesn't. Then, there are the education schools who insist that only trained teachers can teach, and that it must be done such and so a way. As a result, in education, we haven't had a "productivity improvement" in 150 years. It still takes one teacher 12 years to produce 25 HS graduates. In many schools, it's a lot less "productive" than that. I know schools that take lower class students and graduate top notch students with average class sizes of 40; it can be done.

So long as we let the "professionals" tell us that more money is all that matters in education, and after getting more money they deliver nothing much at all, we are going to continue to waste another generation of human potential. To me that is just maddening.

Anonymous said...

As a result, in education, we haven't had a "productivity improvement" in 150 years.

Depends on how you look at it I suppose. I am sure one room schoolhouses on the prairie set a standard for productivity that it would be very hard to meet in the present era. I wonder if that could provide a model for schools today.

One way to increase productivity is to look at things from a risk reward perspective. Around about third grade, we could evaluate each child to determine their long term potential. The brighter students could be placed on a high achievement track that leads to high school, college and beyond. Those, not so bright, could be put on a dead end track, one stopping in the 8th grade, perhaps, so their poor achievement wouldn't bring down test scores. That kind of program could make great strides in increasing overall productivity. Indeed, it bears great similarity to our historical models, which did such a good job on that score.


jerrye92002 said...

I think the one room schoolhouse did, in fact, offer some valuable pedagogic models, the most important of which, I think, were high expectations for learning and behavior. Those are both sorely missing in too many schools today.

As for the REALLY high stakes testing you propose, I'm not really opposed to the concept but believe it could be done better. First of all, I do not trust the current public school system to not "cripple a kid for life," by not preparing them adequately and, in your scenario, getting "on the wrong track." Second, third grade is too early to decide what a child's "full potential" is. Finally, testing in third grade, and at every other grade, should be to determine where the following year's (or even summer's) effort should be focused to bring that child's learning up to what it could be. Right now, our District requires heavy intervention if a child is not reading at grade level by 3rd grade, preceded by milder interventions at 1st and 2nd to avoid it, and that's as it should be. Most every kid can learn to read, write and calculate up to the 8th grade level. There is no excuse that 1/2 or more of a class should not be able to pass a basic skills test.

jerrye92002 said...

"Anyway to get the challenged kids attending year round? That seems like the logical solution..."

Sorry, but testing proves that the longer our kids are exposed to our public schools, the further behind international competitors they get. How about this: Any kid not making it in the school they are in gets a voucher to find a better one, starting with a summer session?

John said...

"testing proves that the longer our kids are exposed to our public schools, the further behind international competitors they get"

My BS meter just went off through the jet lag fog. This statement seems so foolish that it requires some factual back up. Please provide a source.

I'll try to get through all the discussions and links later to catch up.

Laurie said...

My kids attend(ed) the same high school to which I went. I'd say the quality of their education has improved over what I was offered. Calculus wasn't even offered and now my son can take AP calc as a junior. I took the college prep track and by my memory did homework only once when I had to write a research paper. They can choose from over a dozen AP classes and have homework everyday.

Our school makes the list year of best schools year after year for their AP offerings and the number of students who are taking them.

jerrye92002 said...

" Please provide a source."

I don't usually indulge such requests, but this one seems so obviously factual-- I've known it for years-- that I'm surprised you even question it. Look at the TIMSS data, the International comparison of math and science testing. The last time I looked, our 4th graders were better than most, our 8th graders a little below average, and our 12th graders next to last.

Here's more evidence: Remember how the DFL passed that all-day kindergarten bill through the MN legislature this year? They did it because they have "studies that prove" that kids who attend all-day K do better academically than those who don't. What those studies do NOT say, of course, is that some kids have parents who care and believe their kids should be in all-day K and THOSE kids are more likely to be successful, regardless. Other studies point out that the difference between those who have all-day and those that don't disappears completely by third grade! How can you give a kid a big academic advantage 1 year, and then take it away the next? The same thing is true of reduced class sizes, in that the "advantage" disappears by third grade, so we are paying a huge price for a totally fleeting improvement. When the public schools learn how to make these costly advantages persist, the gap should disappear by itself. That's the problem: so long as we focus on the gap, we'll continue to see it. Concentrate on educating kids-- all kids-- as best we can and the gap takes care of itself.

John said...

Ah, that's what you mean by this...
"testing proves that the longer our kids are exposed to our public schools, the further behind international competitors they get"

TIMSS 2011

Now I think we have another "causation" problem here... G2A C vs C I am pretty sure "Public Schools" are not the only factor at play here... What other things could be causing our children's capability to not increase at the same rate as other countries who have public education systems also?

- 9 mths vs full year
- Sports/Social culture vs Academic
- Coddling Parent's vs Driving Parent
- Creative vs structured cultures
- Others?

I am not saying that the "Public Schools, Unions, etc" are not a factor. However I am hard pressed to apply more than 30% of the contribution on them.

It's kind of like saying American's are fatter than most others in the world because of our food producer's... It is a factor, but definitely not the cause...

jerrye92002 said...

I cannot let you get away with assigning "30% of the [blame]" for poor education to the public schools. They must own 100% of it! They have, after all, a virtual monopoly on education and mandatory participation. They do not just /offer/ to educate our kids and accept a binding contract to do so, they DEMAND that we make the contract, even as they fail to deliver on the implicit terms of it.

We're going about this education thing exactly backwards, BTW. We should not be looking for reasons as to why schools cannot succeed for all students, but why schools DO NOT succeed for all students. Theirs is the responsibility, and until they can do better with what they have they shouldn't be rewarded with another nickel. And offering them even more excuses is exactly the wrong thing to be doing. It is going to be far easier to fix the schools than to fix things like poverty and poor parenting, and fixing the schools will eventually solve those problems. No more excuses.

John said...

So you are saying you want them to fulfill the role of parent, social worker and educator. Thereby turning all children, no mtter how screwed up their life is into smart mature citizens. Yet they can't judge or influence the real parents or community, and we only fund them to teach. Now who is being unrealistic.

jerrye92002 said...

Seems to me you are a bigot, expressing "the soft bigotry of low expectations." I think you need to tell us, or have the schools tell us, exactly which children and what percentage overall, are going to fail. We could save a ton of money by just not sending them to school at all, right? (sorry, that is a bit snarky)

I thought the whole idea of public education was "the great leveler," the way for people to escape poverty and circumstance (and I'm willing to pay for that). Instead, you would condemn them to perpetuate their situation? You cannot tell me that 50% of the kids going into the Minneapolis schools would fail, as they do now, if the schools were doing the job they are supposed to do.