It isn’t smart to cheat our brightest pupils

Len LaCara
You don’t need to be an Einstein to know Ohio is cheating its most promising students.
Last week, The Plain Dealer wrote a story about the sorry state of gifted education in Ohio. Consider these facts:

  • 31 states require school districts to provide special services for children identified as gifted. Ohio does not, even though a sixth of its pupils have that classification.
  • Three-fourths of the state’s gifted students receive no special services, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Many of the rest only get partial services.
  • Ohio spends more than $8 billion a year on educating students. But less than 1 percent of that amount – roughly $47 million – goes toward gifted education.

Does this strike you as, well, smart?

7 thoughts on “It isn’t smart to cheat our brightest pupils”

  1. Well, Jeff, you likely know my opinion. Kids labeled “gifted” should not feel put upon. “The Gifted”, “The Average”, “The Behind” are all being cheated.
    Schools seem primarily concerned with everything but an academic education. The Firsts on most schools’ list seems to be “socialization”, “working together”, “diversity”, and “making learning fun”. Close Seconds are “hand wringing”, “NCLB”, “modeling empathy”, and “making progress PR”.
    Schools seem more and more desirous of the parents, the community and fellow students to pick up the substantial slack caused by the failure to place academics first.
    Pre-school, 4K, after school, small class sizes, small learning communities, professional learning communities, heterogeneous classes, homogeneous classes, teacher communication, alternative schools for kids that “cannot learn in the traditional school setting”, teacher merit pay, dress codes, school uniforms, zero tolerance codes, cultural “sensitivity”, multiple intelligences, grant writing, virtual schools (with the parents as teachers!), teacher diversity, “acting white”, charter schools, magnet schools, teacher certification; shifting control of schooling to private companies, or the mayor, or the State or the Feds; computer for every child, computer programs instead of books, computer “learning” games; neurological studies on learning, brain scans, genetic “studies”; massive research to develop another theory that “earns” a Masters, a PH.D., or getting famous, being on the lecture circuit, starting an education business.
    Every one of the above is, in my view, useless junk.
    All this effort, time and money spent and wasted because there is no time or inclination to actually teach the academic material.

  2. I completely agree with Larry’s posting. There isn’t enough time spent on teaching academics. So much of the discussion is focused on what Larry listed above. There are too many teachers that don’t have the desire to truly teach their classes. I’ve seen, many times, teachers that just hand out the materials and let the kids teach themselves. Teachers can’t take all the blame. This appears to be the directive they are given. Fortunately, there are some “non-conformists” that still believe that their jobs are to teach their students.

  3. preschool is useless junk? (so learning should start at age 5?)
    afterschool is useless junk? (tell that to a working single parent!)
    heterogeneous classes vs. homogeneous classes is useless junk? (so no one is allowed to debate educational philosophies?)
    alternative schools are useless junk? (I suppose that every child should be expected to learn the same way – the way that you think is “right”, since it seems we’re not allowed to debate and everyone should just ask Larry.)
    magnet school, charter schools, and virtual schools are useless junk? (again, I guess we should just ask Larry exactly how to educate since he seems to have a magic formula that will work best for every child no matter what their background, abilities, or disabilities are)
    research is useless junk? (Why bother doing scientific research to find out what educational practices are and aren’t working? We can just ask Larry!)
    If you’ve already given up and don’t wish to participate in healthy, constructive debate on educational practices, then why are you bothering to post on SIS?
    Accusing educators of having “no time or inclination to actually teach the academic material” does not lead to constructive conversations or productive changes in the schools. Not to mention the fact that it ignores the many very real challenges that educators face in our diverse classrooms – for example the challenge of teaching in a classroom containing a bored gifted student who is acting out. After all, gifted students can sometimes be smart enough to know just how to be a massive pain in the rear. And after years of being told to sit quietly and wait for everyone else to “catch up”, who can blame them for deciding to be a squeaky wheel?
    Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away.
    Research and constructive debates on how to address a very real problem are not “useless junk”.

  4. The point of my list is that these are focuses of the current educational establishment, not the small enhancements to the general academic education that they really are (and should be). All the items on the list should be the dessert portion of a well-balance meal.
    Schools need to focus on education and education alone:
    1) not raising our kids between the ages of 1 and 4
    2) not providing day care services for working parents
    3) not debating educational philosophies — a real scientific approach stops debating because science actually has a goal of finding truth and making noticeable progress — education rehashes and debates the same philosophies endlessly. If medicine were in the same state as education, we’d still have bloodletting, leaches, prayer, incantations, witch doctors, barbers doing more than cutting hair.
    4) multiple intelligences and “every kid learns differently” is meant to be a distraction and earn Howard Gardner accolades from a clueless educational establishment.
    Gardner takes peoples’ basic tendencies and warps them into “intelligences” (if in his book *Frame of Mind* he had spoken of ” 7 Multiple Learning Tendencies”, he would have sold very few books — he’s added 2 more “intelligences”: Naturalist and Existentialist — I think his wealth and leisure has taken him to too many smoke-filled French cafes along the Left Bank).
    So now, time is spent putting kids into little “intelligence” pigeon holes and focusing efforts on remaking curriculum for each little hole. Amazing.
    I suspect like most, I use most of these “intelligences” every day, blissfully unaware that I can only learn in one particular way.
    There is also an obvious internal contraction within his exposition. Teachers are supposed to remake the curriculum for each different child — but the teachers, too, are burdened with these limiting “intelligences” — so how are they supposed to perform this miracle when they don’t have the other “intelligences”. Ah, I know. Teachers are so well trained, and able, and gifted that they can transcend their inherent limitations to teach all these different “intelligented” kids. How lucky we have to be graced by their superiority!
    5) magnet, charter arguments — junk. Parents are desperate to give their kids an education and an environment conducive to learning. They’ll bite at anything, any whiff of hope. All these schools make promises, based on non-existent “research”. Notice the “research”. One research paper concluded that public schools are better than charters, another paper found the opposite. These studies? The art of numerology — find a statistic that will prove what you want to prove and publish. It is patently absurd to believe one can compare in any meaningful way the aggregate category of charter against the aggregate category of public schools, and come to any scientifically defensible position. Educational quality has absolutely nothing to do with what the corporate structure of a particular school is.
    6) the “research” that is performed in the educational field (and in particular the research that sends education into the next latest fade) IS junk. There has not been any convergence to truth. As educational fads are rejected, new ones arise, as these new fads fade, the old fads return in a new guise. It’s a racket.
    I’m not ignoring the problem, hoping it will go away. The problem is education is not a science, it’s a very expensive political game of arguments of educational philosophy, which you clearly think is a good thing. It’s primarily a pseudo-science parading around all decked up like Astor’s pet horse.
    I’ll finish with several apropos quotes:
    From Richard Feynman:
    It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.
    The theoretical broadening which comes from having many humanities subjects on the campus is offset by the general dopiness of the people who study these things.
    From Albert Einstein:
    Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.
    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

  5. I, again, support the ideas and opinions that Larry has posted. It’s not that promoting preschool and some of these practices are bad, it’s that these things have become the focus. I understand why Frustratedbuthopeful was upset. I have been reading this site, long enough, to know what Larry was trying to say. Our teachers do have a difficult job. They have the responsibility of teaching a very diverse student population. They are constantly barraged with MMSD’s current philosophies and theories. The problem is that our students have become lab rats. Some will make it to the end of the maze, some will not. Unfortunately, I’m afraid, that the ones who make their way through, aren’t going to find the cheese at the end! My own kids have become these rats. I do fear for their future!

  6. I agree with many of the comments in Larry’s second post here. (not all, but many). *Research* on educational practices is not useless junk. It is fluff science posing as research that is useless junk. I’ve taken two classes on adolescent psychology in the education department. One professor presented hard research and it’s findings. Another professor presented only the “findings” and expected complete buy-in from the students. (it felt like brainwashing) Some profs are good, some are not. Some researchers are good, some are not. That said – good, solid, necessary research needs to start with a hypothesis that has little more than empirical evidence. It is necessary to try new things in order to advance research. Why not let the experimentation be done as an opt-in program such as magnet or charter schools? No need to make every student endure being a lab rat. Also, perhaps the lack of convergence to a single truth is that there is no global optimum, but rather many different local optimal solutions.
    Thanks for the debate 🙂

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