Do you think we can really close the achievement gap in our public schools?
Our public school teachers are trying everyday in all kinds of ways to close the achievement gap. But, I wonder if as they are bringing the lower achieving students up, aren't they bringing the higher achieving kids up too?
Not necessarily. There is not always a correlation between bringing the lower achieving students' skills (or scores) up and the same for higher achieving students. Higher achieving students generally have intrinsic motivation but if the assignments they are given are not challenging, they will simply do the minimum assigned, do it well, and be labeled "high achieving." This does not mean that they either actually are high achieving on an absolute scale or that they are being challenged to learn more than they could/would on their own or that their advanced learning is being monitored.
It all depends on what interventions are applied for the lower achieving spectrum and whether multi-level techniques are truly built into the curriculum.
We would need to do the following: Stop holding back high achievers with dumbed-down curriculum. Eliminate social promotion and instead dedicate resources to intensive reading and math instruction for the struggling students. Work on the "family gap" which means kids without supportive families need other scaffolding to help them catch up with those kids who have functioning families. Finally, demand appropriate behavior from all students--teach them that they should value themselves enough to behave with dignity and respect and kick out those who refuse to cooperate.
They will never succeed in closing the achievement gap. There are too many issues when it comes to students and achieving for them to fix or remedy.
"Finally, demand appropriate behavior from all students--teach them that they should value themselves enough to behave with dignity and respect and kick out those who refuse to cooperate."
Your insightful comment reminded me of something. Back in the 90s, I met a former administrator, who was one of the pioneers in Fundamental School movement. A Fundamental School makes more demands of its students and of their parents.
If a student isn't diligent in doing their homework, or if they act up in class, or if the parents don't encourage them sufficiently, then the student is kicked out of the Fundamental School, and must attend a more conventional school within the district, where teachers spend 90% of their time and energy on crowd control, and where precious little learning takes place.
I like that idea. If students and their parents are serious about education, then a real learning environment will be available within a public school!
Wholeheartedly agree with kschimmel's answer - said it better than I could have.
Larry outlined a second and very large problem which is no doubt 100% worse now than when I went to high school 17 years ago: "...teachers spend 90% of their time and energy on crowd control, and where precious little learning takes place." That was half of my problem right there.
If it hadn't been for this lack of control over moronic bullying, I literally might have been working at NASA. Bitter? Of course. I can remember the day I had had enough and lost my motivation. There were other problems obviously holding me back, but I am sure things would have been at least somewhat different if someone had given a damn.
High school shouldn't be a playground that resembles a prison yard, it should be a place of higher learning. Closing the achievement gap just makes better students dumber (yes I said that). We need separate places for kids that need more help and also to encourage those students with more potential and a place that is safe.
Quite a potent question!
I don't think they can, but this will not stop them from trying because it is politically inexpedient to tell the truth in these matters.
The mad rush to push every child toward college is partially responsible for the push that resulted in No Child Left Behind which ended up leaving MORE children behind, and most of them the strong, middle class kids with great potential who have been stymied by being taught to the test.
"Tracking" is viewed as an evil in education but it is ridiculous to believe or perpetuate the myth that all students can be turned into college material. They cannot, and should not! All that is doing is making BILLIONS for the post-secondary education market and strapping too many with untenable debt and no better life.
We need people who can fix cars, wire houses, build buildings, repair small equipment and manufacture robotic parts. We also need people to do simple labor like take out the trash, mow the grass, babysit the increasing elderly population and more. It's time to STOP pushing the pablum thay every kid in K-12 has the potential to be a Rhodes Scholar and start teaching kids to rise to their highest potential. Then as real adults we need to model behavior that shows respect for ALL working people in ALL occupations so that kids have a model to follow.
Lastly - this economic mess needs to be mitigated so that hard-working, honest folks who didn't end up working for a hedge fund on Wall Street can make enough of a living to buy a home, feed their family and take an occasional vacation.
Well, its all based on an inane grade anyway. Dumb kids can get straight As and very intelligent kids often do poorly or drop out. So the system is off course from the beginning. I know that there is a learning gap in public schools. Even the highest performers often don't know anything.
You folks all have wonderful answers. I think the problem is multifaceted and will not be solved easily. But, requesting buy-in from families is one important piece. If families do not believe in education and do not support their children in getting an education, the school system will not well succeed in educating them. Second, as kshimmel said, if students come to school exhibiting the proper behavior that allows themselves and others to learn, instead of spending time misbehaving, there would be a much better chance of students learning. Right now, there is so much time spent on reminding students of how to behave that we lose valuable teaching time.
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