Redesign acknowledges failure to close achievement gap

The high school dumbing down (aka high school redesign) shows the MMSD administration’s loss of will, as well as its refusal to adopt curriculum changes needed to close the achievement gap.
The gap begins in elementary school: 46% of black students score below grade level on the third grade reading test, but only 9% of the white students.
The gap remains into high school: 49% of black 10th graders score below grade level in reading, while only 12% of the white students are at the minimal or basic levels.
Facing the failure to raise the performance of black students, the MMSD superintendent and his administrators have thrown up their hands and turned to dumbing down the curriculum.
The gap remains because the superintendent and administrators refuse to use curricula that will raise performance. For example, the MMSD clings to expensive and ineffective Reading Recovery and fuzzy math in the lower grades, while refusing to expand Read 180 which the district’s reading staff trumpeted for its success in upper grades.Previous boards and some current members share the responsibility too, because of their insistence that they have no role in curriculum issues.
Fortunately, the insistence of some board members to hold a public session on high school dumbing down might represent a modicum of hope that curriculum improvements may be possible.

One thought on “Redesign acknowledges failure to close achievement gap”

  1. One key point on which I differ.
    The gap does not begin in elementary school — it begins at birth. Except for the kids born with mental defects, the cause is clear — poor parenting.
    Poverty is a clear reason for poor parenting — no time and little resources. (But so are too many resources spent, when one has the money, for the purchase of dumbing down curriculum — TV, video games, mps3 players).
    But so there is a poverty of parenting skills — that is what the research shows when comparing the parenting across SES scale and the resulting tightly linked variance of academic skills.
    “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children” by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley is a must read.
    Their painstaking study began at 6 months of age for each child by recording each month — for 2-1/2 years — one full hour of every word spoken at home between mother (and others) and child in 42 families, categorized as professional, working class, or welfare families.
    It must be emphasized that none of the families were dysfunctional, severely stressed, abusive, addicted, or transient. These were parents who were doing their best.
    By age 3, the recorded spoken vocabularies of the CHILDREN from the professional families were larger than those of the MOTHERs in the welfare families.
    Between professional and welfare parents, there was a difference of almost 300 words spoken per hour. Extrapolating this verbal interaction to a year, a child in a professional family would hear 11 million words while a child in a welfare family would hear just 3 million.
    The number of positive vs. negative interactions between parents and their children are likewise staggering. For professional families the ratio of affirmations to prohibitions was 32 to 5 per hour; for working class, 12 to 7; for welfare, 5 to 11.
    Extrapolate this data to age 6 with kids entering elementary school, and understanding that the parenting skills within the families will not have likely changed, and will not likely change over the course of that child’s time in school, and you should see the challenges faced by teachers, parents and schools.
    None of these results are dictated by SES. Variances of parenting skills were large within the welfare families, much smaller within the professional SES group and the largest within the middle/working class SES.
    This variance means that everyone can do better. It certainly keeps me up at night, sometimes, knowing I could and should have been (and be now) a better parent.
    Hart and Risley make some comments:
    “The difficulties of parenting encourage the choice to be consumers…. Parenting in a society without television, toy stores, gas-powered lawn mowers, and sugar-coated cereals was easier by far. Technology has removed parents’ need for children’s help, the traditional means by which parents transmitted across generations the importance of work, and has left parents to guide their children as best they can through a maze of continuously available entertainment…. There can be scant hope for better parenting in a society that assumes that nuclear families and single-parent households can turn out well-informed, highly motivated, and well-behaved children in conditions that would almost certainly lead any other enterprise into bankruptcy.

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