Saturday, April 14, 2012

IQ vs. Achievement

From a comment to a NYTimes article, After Number of Gifted Soars, a Fight for Kindergarten Slots:
Nancy, PA

I teach gifted kids, albeit at the secondary level, and what's described here doesn't sound like "giftedness" to me. Truly gifted children are often NOT high achievers - they're much more likely to be the oddball dreamers, the ones who are disorganized, the ones who don't necessarily behave, who refuse to cooperate because they don't see the point of what they're asked to do. In my experience, there's actually an inverse relationship between IQ and school achievement. The brighter the kid, the more turned off by school he or she tends to be. Which is why gifted kids need special programming - not a curriculum aimed at eventually getting them into Ivy League schools (although some of my students do end up there, even though we're a small, relatively poor, rural high school), but one aimed at intellectually engaging them and stimulating their natural sense of wonder.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Defensive, or Arrogant?

School districts don't really care what parents want, especially if they are chronic complainers (i.e., any parent who complains more than once.) — Guy Strickland, Bad Teachers
This post is a response to Chris' recent post at A Blog About School. To recap: the public elementary school attended by Chris' kids has brought in an authoritarian classroom-management system (PBIS), and, among other problems, has turned lunchtime into an exercise in trying to prevent the kids from talking normally to each other through constant scolding and punishment. Chris is engaged in a discussion with the principal at his local elementary school to discover why this policy was agreed to in the first place. The principal is increasingly refusing to interact with Chris.

Chris says:
This strategy of avoiding public answers genuinely puzzles me. It just makes the district look defensive, as if it lacks confidence in its own practices.
I don't think the district is being defensive, or lacks confidence in its practices. From the point of view of the district, the fact that a policy has been adopted means that it's right. PBIS is the latest and greatest, and will continue to be until the next fad comes along. The idea that parents should be able to question it, or demand answers as to who made what decision, is completely foreign to them.

Imagine that you had an irritating neighbor who was always coming around to complain that you don't mow your lawn frequently enough, or your porch needs to be repainted, or you shouldn't let your kids leave their bicycles out. Would you be interested in an ongoing public dialogue with this neighbor? Of course not. You would say to yourself, "who does he think he is telling me how to run my household?"

This is exactly how a public school district thinks about parents. Who do they think they are telling us how to run our schools?

I close with one of my favorite Guy Strickland (op. cit.) quotes:
Bastions of ignorance aren't bastions for nothing.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

No School Volunteers in England

In today's NYTimes, The Non-Joie of Parenting, U.S. Style. The author contrasts the relaxed, adult-centered life of European parents to the harried, child-activity-centric life of American parents:

The word “volunteer” was never used in England, where my children’s primary school teacher felt the need to warn me, as an American, that my services would never be needed. “In the morning you will drop your children off and you will leave,” she instructed me. “And in the afternoons, you will not come in, you will not talk to the teachers, you will not ask to help with anything, you will just leave,” she repeated. “Sign me up,” I said, happily.

Please, sign me up too! Involve me out!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

NCLB to be Repealed

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have agreed to push for the repeal of the No Child Left Behind education-reform law, and will abandon their own program, Race to the Top.

"It's time to let parents and teachers work together to determine the course of their local schools," said President Obama. "We've relied on coercive, top-down measures for too long. Nothing has been achieved by years of testing except stress heaped on children and teachers alike."

Obama and Duncan are developing a new educational program, called the "Actual Learning Project", which will focus on curricular reform. "We'll look for the world's best curricula, and encourage all our public schools to use it. Currently, we're researching Singapore Math, phonics-based reading programs, and the Story of the World series. We will encourage all public schools to use the most effective, engaging, and relevant curricula."

Under the "Actual Learning Project", public schools will be strongly discouraged from using authoritarian classroom management systems such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports or Whole Brain Teaching. "These systems have almost nothing to do with learning, and create a school environment that is hostile to the goals of developing citizens of a democracy," said President Obama.