The greatest challenge facing America’s schools today isn’t the budget crisis, or standardized testing, or “teacher quality.” It’s the enormous variation in the academic level of students coming into any given classroom. How we as a country handle this challenge says a lot about our values and priorities, for good and ill. Unfortunately, the issue has become enmeshed in polarizing arguments about race, class, excellence, and equity. What’s needed instead is some honest, frank discussion about the trade-offs associated with any possible solution.
U.S. students are all over the map in terms of achievement (see Figure 1). By the 4th grade, public-school children who score among the top 10 percent of students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are reading at least six grade levels above those in the bottom 10 percent. For a teacher with both types of students in her classroom, that means trying to challenge kids ready for middle-school work while at the same time helping others to decode. Even differences between students at the 25th and at the 75th percentiles are huge–at least three grade levels. So if you’re a teacher, how the heck do you deal with that?
Lots of related links:
- “Stand Up Against the MMSD High School Reform”
- Madison school district to consider alternatives to traditional public schools
- Advanced Placement, Gifted Education & A Hometown Debate
- On the Gifted & Talented Complaint Against the Madison School District
- Madison School District 2010-2011 Enrollment Report, Including Outbound Open Enrollment (3.11%)
- Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools
- English 10
- District Small Learning Community Grant – Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 2