Category Archives: TAG

Don’t expect less of low-income minority students and their families

Esther Cepeda

We’ve heard for years that when it comes to African-Americans, Hispanics and low-income minority communities in general, expectations for academic achievement are low.

Indeed, the Center for American Progress found in 2014 that 10th-grade teachers thought African-American students were 47 percent, and Hispanic students were 42 percent, less likely to graduate college than white students.

But parents and families of these students disagree. They want public schools to be rigorous and to set high expectations for their children.

According to a new nationwide survey conducted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund on the attitudes and aspirations of African-American and Hispanic parents — who were interviewed in person and via landline and cellphone, in both English and Spanish — a third of African-Americans and a quarter of Latinos do not believe that the nation’s schools are really trying to educate low-income students in their communities.

This belief goes hand in hand with these parents’ certainty that their students should be challenged more in school than they currently are to help ensure they are successful later in life.

This could be a potentially groundbreaking insight if we can get it into the heads of teachers.

You see, educators insist they have a particularly difficult time teaching low-income and minority students because these kids tend to show up in classrooms lacking the fundamentals of a stable home — reliable schedules, quiet places to study, nutritious meals, enough sleep, the ability to control impulses — that set them up for success in the classroom

If a child doesn’t do homework and does not participate constructively in class or show the adults in school respect — perhaps because the child does not have the basic routines and resources a college-educated teacher might expect at home — it becomes easy for teachers to believe that his or her parent must not care about the child’s education.

According to Wade Henderson, the Education Fund’s president, not only are minority parents (which his group calls “new majority parents,” since students of color are the new majority in schools) highly interested in their children’s education, they are “a sophisticated group of respondents who are savvy consumers of public education, want more funding for schools and more rigor for their kids.”

Interestingly, though one might have expected such a survey to confirm that African-American and Hispanic parents prioritize racial issues at school — due to news headlines about violence in schools and the school-to-prison pipeline — the parents who responded actually listed good teachers as the No. 1 important quality, by far, of a great school. Good core curricula and parental involvement rounded out the top three.

Not to say that diversity is completely unimportant to these families — it is in the eighth spot on a list of nine factors for ensuring great schools — but it certainly takes a back seat to the same qualities that white parents expect from their schools: adequate funding, low class size and high standards.

A full 90 percent of both African-American and Latino parents said that they believe expectations for low-income students should be either the same or higher than those of other students.

And both minority groups take personal responsibility quite seriously, saying that when low-income students succeed, it is mostly because of the support they receive at home. Their student’s own hard work is seen as the next biggest reason, while few parents cited schools as the driving factor in a low-income student’s success.

This is, potentially, a revelation for school systems, administrators and teachers who have for years equated poor educational outcomes for students with a lax attitude at home about academic potential.

If the results of this survey truly reflect the mindset of minority parents, then it bodes well for schools to partner with them. After all, education leaders are always talking about how crucial parents are to the task of catalyzing changes necessary to ensure low-income community schools meet their academic potential.

At a bare minimum, these findings should provide education policymakers a new lens through which to view low-income and minority students: Don’t underestimate them — and don’t expect less of their parents and families, either.

If schools endeavor to push these kids harder and expect them to achieve on par with their white peers, they are likely to find that parents, too, will rise to the challenge of helping their students succeed.

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From Isaac Newton to the Genius Bar: Why it’s time to retire the concept of genius.

Darron McMahon:

Geniuses are a dying breed.

And yet, they seem to be all around us. We live at a time when commentators speak without irony of “ordinary genius” and claim to find it everywhere. From the “genius bar” at the local Apple Store to bestselling books that trumpet “the genius in all of us,” geniuses seem to abound. But if we consider the idea of “genius” as it has evolved across history, it starts to look like we don’t really need geniuses as we once did. It may be that we don’t need them at all. The increasing banality of genius in the contemporary world has begun to dissolve it as a useful category.

The modern genius emerged in 18th-century Europe as the focal point of a secular devotion of the sort previously reserved for saints. Like the prophets of old, these geniuses were conceived as higher beings endowed with natural gifts—intelligence, creativity, and insight took the place of grace. They, too, were granted a privileged place in the order of creation. As one astounded contemporary asked of Isaac Newton, among the first exemplars of the modern genius, “Does he eat, drink, and sleep like other men?” His virtues, commented another, “proved him a Saint [whose] discoveries might well pass for miracles.” Newton had revealed the laws of the universe—had he not?—he had seen into the mind of God.

Just like their saintly predecessors, the bodies of “geniuses” were treated as holy relics. Upon his death in 1727, Newton was buried in Westminster Abbey, resting place of the saints, and though his skull and bones were left intact (contemporaries marveled instead at his tomb, his death mask, and the many items he had owned and touched), the remains of other geniuses were picked over and venerated as the relics of the special dead. Three of Galileo’s fingers were detached when his body was exhumed in 1737; Voltaire’s heart and brain were absconded with at his death in 1778. Admirers fashioned rings from the repatriated bones of René Descartes during the French Revolution, and the skull of the great German poet Schiller was housed in a special shrine in the library of the Duke of Weimar in the early 19th century.

Why gifted education doesn’t make sense

Jay Matthews:

A new book out by nationally known gifted-education expert James R. Delisle, a former fifth grade special education teacher and Kent State University professor, says our schools are making war on our nation’s finest young minds by failing to fund enough programs for the gifted.

What’s the problem with that? He — and others involved with gifted education — doesn’t address what I see as the biggest problem with gifted education: its ill-considered selectivity.

After a school district has designated a certain group of students as gifted, what should it do for the children who missed being admitted by one or two IQ points, one or two votes on the selection committee or some other narrow margin in the variously complicated ways this is done?

Given the unavoidable imprecision of any selection criteria, many children being denied gifted services would be for all practical purposes identical to many of those selected. If gifted services are as necessary for the gifted as Delisle says they are, how can he deny them to children with the same capabilities and needs?

Splitting classes by ability undermines efforts to help disadvantaged children, finds research into English primaries

Richards Adams:

Splitting pupils as young as six into classes based on ability – known as streaming – makes the brightest children brighter but does little to help the rest to catch up, according to new research into schools in England.

The analysis of the progress made by 2,500 six and seven-year-olds in state primary schools in England, conducted by academics at the Institute of Education in London, found that the use of streaming appears to entrench educational disadvantage compared with the results of pupils who were taught in all-ability classes.

But, does the other approach make a difference? Madison’s experience with English 10 and small learning communities has not moved the needle.

The Vexing Legacy of Lewis Terman

Mitchell Leslie:

To the Los Angeles juvenile authorities in 1923, Edward Dmytryk was an ordinary runaway trying to escape a vicious father who tore up his schoolbooks and clubbed him with a two-by-four. Mr. Dmytryk wanted his 14-year-old son back — if only, as the caseworker suspected, because Edward brought home vital income.

While the authorities deliberated, a letter arrived from Professor Lewis Terman, the nation’s most famous psychologist and the man who had planted the term “IQ” in America’s vocabulary. He wasn’t a relative or family friend; he had never even met the boy. But the Stanford professor believed Edward deserved a break because he was “gifted” — a word Terman coined to describe the bright kids he devoted his life to researching.

Edward’s high score on an IQ test had qualified him for Terman’s pathbreaking Genetic Study of Genius. Terman, who had grown up gifted himself, was gathering evidence to squelch the popular stereotype of brainy, “bookish” children as frail oddballs doomed to social isolation. He wanted to show that most smart kids were robust and well-adjusted — that they were, in fact, born leaders who ought to be identified early and cultivated for their rightful roles in society.

Though the more than 1,000 youngsters enrolled in his study didn’t know it at the time, they were embarking on a lasting relationship. As Terman poked around in their lives with his inquisitive surveys, “he fell in love with those kids,” explains Albert Hastorf, emeritus professor of psychology. To the group he always called “my gifted children” — even after they grew up — Terman became mentor, confidant, guidance counselor and sometimes guardian angel, intervening on their behalf. In doing so, he crashed through the glass that is supposed to separate scientists from subjects, undermining his own data. But Terman saw no conflict in nudging his protégés toward success, and many of them later reflected that being a “Terman kid” had indeed shaped their self-images and changed the course of their lives.

The End of Genius

Joshua Wolf Shenk:

WHERE does creativity come from? For centuries, we’ve had a clear answer: the lone genius. The idea of the solitary creator is such a common feature of our cultural landscape (as with Newton and the falling apple) that we easily forget it’s an idea in the first place.

But the lone genius is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Fortunately, a more truthful model is emerging: the creative network, as with the crowd-sourced Wikipedia or the writer’s room at “The Daily Show” or — the real heart of creativity — the intimate exchange of the creative pair, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and myriad other examples with which we’ve yet to fully reckon.

Historically speaking, locating genius within individuals is a recent enterprise. Before the 16th century, one did not speak of people being geniuses but having geniuses. “Genius,” explains the Harvard scholar Marjorie Garber, meant “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth.” Any value that emerged from within a person depended on a potent, unseen force coming from beyond that person.

Commentary on Madison’s special Education and “inclusive” practices; District enrollment remains flat while the suburbs continue to grow

Pat Schneider:

That was one issue that brought together family activists who formed Madison Partners for Inclusive Education [duckduckgo search] in 2003, Pugh said.

“A parent in an elementary school on the west side could be seeing high-quality inclusive expert teaching with a team that ‘got it,’ and someone on the east side could be experiencing exactly the opposite,” Pugh said. Families and the school district are still striving to provide the best learning experience to all students with disabilities.

The key is to establish a culture throughout the district where participation in the classroom by students with disabilities is expected and valued. In addition, all teachers need to be trained to work collaboratively with special education teachers to make that happen, she said.

“It comes down to leadership,” said Pugh, who added that she is heartened by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham’s remarks about raising expectations for all students. “That’s where we start.”

The district had an outside consultant review its special education programs earlier this year.

“In the next several weeks, we’ll use this information, our own data and expertise in the district to develop an improvement plan, including what our immediate steps will be,” spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson said.

There has been no small amount of tension over Madison’s tactics in this matter from the one size fits all English 10 to various “high school redesign” schemes.

Yet, Madison’s student population remains stagnant while nearby districts have grown substantially.

Outbound open enrollment along with a Talented and Gifted complaint are topics worth watching.

The poor neglected gifted child

Amy Crawford:

IN 1971, researchers at Johns Hopkins University embarked on an ambitious effort to identify brilliant 12-year-olds and track their education and careers through the rest of their lives. The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, which now includes 5,000 people, would eventually become the world’s longest-running longitudinal survey of what happens to intellectually talented children (in math and other areas) as they grow up. It has generated seven books, more than 300 papers, and a lot of what we know about early aptitude.
 
 David Lubinski is a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, where the project has been based since the 1990s. He and his wife and fellow Vanderbilt professor, Camilla Benbow, codirect the study and have dedicated their careers to learning about this exceptional population.

Gifted in Math, and Poor

New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up” (“Numbers Crunch” series, editorial, Dec. 15): Educators know that when the curriculum is set at an optimal difficulty level, students learn to persist, attend carefully and gain self-confidence. For mathematically gifted students, the curriculum must move more quickly and in greater depth so that they can become disciplined, resilient students.
When the mathematically gifted sons and daughters of affluent, well-educated parents are not challenged, their parents spend considerable amounts of time and money finding tutors, summer programs and online courses. As a psychologist who has worked for more than 20 years with the families of gifted students, I have seen how much time and money is required for this effort.
For mathematically gifted students from poorer families, there is neither the time nor the money to seek educational opportunities outside the public schools. A weak public school system without flexibility or adequate challenge can seriously limit the educational experiences and lifetime employment opportunities of these students. A weak public school system ultimately limits quality education to those few whose parents can pay for it privately.
JULIA B. OSBORN
Brooklyn, Dec. 19, 2013
Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine — NOT!

A Team Approach to Get Students College Ready

David Bornstein
When Parker Sheffy, a first-year teacher in the Bronx Leadership Academy II, a high school in the South Bronx, talks shop with friends who are also new teachers, he often hears about the problems they are facing: students not showing up to class on time, not understanding their work, not doing homework. “I’m thinking: I don’t have that problem… I don’t have that problem…” Sheffy recalled. In his ninth grade integrated algebra class, he estimates that 80 to 90 percent are on track to pass the Regents exam, more than double last year’s figure.
“But I have to remind myself that this is not just because of me,” Sheffy said. “I’m one of six people who have created this class.”
Sheffy’s school is one of three New York City public schools working with an organization called Blue Engine, which recruits and places recent college graduates as full-time teaching assistants in high schools, helps teachers shift to a small-group classroom model with a ratio of one instructor for roughly every six students, uses data tracking to generate rapid-fire feedback so problems can be quickly addressed, and provides weekly instruction in “social cognition” classes, where students are introduced to skills and concepts — such as the difference between a “fixed” and a “growth” mind-set — that can help them grasp their untapped potential.
Blue Engine also targets algebra, geometry and English language arts in the ninth and 10th grades because performance in these so-called “gateway” courses is associated with college success.
Despite its modest size and short track record, Blue Engine has already seized the attention of educators and attracted notice from President Obama. Last year, in its schools, as a result of the program, the number of students who met the “college ready” standard — scoring above 80 on their Regents exams in algebra, geometry or English language arts — nearly tripled, from 49 to 140.
Katherine Callaghan, the principal of the Bronx Leadership Academy II, who has worked in the school for more than 10 years, said: “Blue Engine has moved a huge number of our students in a way that nothing else that we’ve ever tried has been able to do.” She added: “Last year we had a 44 percent pass rate on the integrated algebra Regents, with two kids scoring above an 80. This year, we’re on track for 75 or 80 percent passing, with 20 kids hitting the college-ready mark. We’re close to doubling our pass rate and multiplying by a factor of 10 our college-ready rate.”
Gains like this are not often seen in education. So it’s worth taking note. What’s happening?

Read more here.

Rigorous Schools Put College Dreams Into Practice

Kyle Spencer

ALONG his block in Newark’s West Ward, where drugs are endemic and the young residents talk about shootings with alarming nonchalance, Najee Little is known as the smart kid. He got all A’s his sophomore year, breezing through math and awing his English teachers. His mother, a day care worker, and father, who does odd jobs to make ends meet, have high aspirations for him. They want him to earn a college degree.
So last year, when Bard College opened an early college high school in Newark for disadvantaged students with dreams of a bachelor’s degree, he was sure he’d do well there. He wrote his first long paper on Plato’s “Republic,” expecting a top grade. He got a D minus. “Honestly,” he recalled, “I was kind of discouraged.”
That paper marked the beginning of a trying academic path that would both excite and disillusion him. The past two years have been peppered with some promising grades — an A in environmental science — and some doozies. He failed “Africa in World History” and squeaked by in calculus. Mostly, he came to realize that getting into college and staying there would be a herculean task. There was tricky grammar, hard math and tons of homework. There was the neighborhood cacophony to tune out and the call of his Xbox. And there was the fact that no one in his house could help him.
“My work is more advanced than anyone at home has experienced,” he said. And that, it turns out, is why the school had accepted him.


High poverty, high ability, high expectations, high achievement.

“I Was Adam Lanza”

The Daily Beast
Recently, the Huffington Post published an article titled “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” by a woman named Liza Long. The article presents a picture of a 13-year-old boy who threatened his mother, sometimes going so far as to pull a knife on her, scream obscenities at her, and leap out of cars as they’re driving down the highway.
The rest of the world has reacted to the idea of such a child with horror and incomprehension. I sympathize with the horror. I can only wish that I shared the incomprehension. I understand, intimately, how Liza Long’s son feels. I was like him.
Like the author of that piece, Liza Long, my mother had no idea what to do about my sudden transformation (in my case, around 16) into a borderline homicidal maniac. Like her son, I used knives to try and make my threats of violence seem more real. Like her son, I would leap out of our car in the middle of the road just to get away from my mother, over the most trivial of offenses. Like her son, I screamed obscenities at my mother shortly after moments of relative peace. And worse than this poor woman’s son, whose mindset toward his peers we can only guess, I will admit that I fantasized multiple times about taking ordnance to my classmates.
By the logic which leads Liza Long to say, “I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” I have to say: “I was Adam Lanza.”

This is a very honest, generous, and thought-provoking piece … and one from an important source.

Young, Gifted and Neglected

Chester E. Finn, Jr.
BARACK OBAMA and Mitt Romney both attended elite private high schools. Both are undeniably smart and well educated and owe much of their success to the strong foundation laid by excellent schools.
Every motivated, high-potential young American deserves a similar opportunity. But the majority of very smart kids lack the wherewithal to enroll in rigorous private schools. They depend on public education to prepare them for life. Yet that system is failing to create enough opportunities for hundreds of thousands of these high-potential girls and boys.
Mostly, the system ignores them, with policies and budget priorities that concentrate on raising the floor under low-achieving students. A good and necessary thing to do, yes, but we’ve failed to raise the ceiling for those already well above the floor.
Public education’s neglect of high-ability students doesn’t just deny individuals opportunities they deserve. It also imperils the country’s future supply of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs.
Today’s systemic failure takes three forms.
First, we’re weak at identifying “gifted and talented” children early, particularly if they’re poor or members of minority groups or don’t have savvy, pushy parents.
Second, at the primary and middle-school levels, we don’t have enough gifted-education classrooms (with suitable teachers and curriculums) to serve even the existing demand. Congress has “zero-funded” the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, Washington’s sole effort to encourage such education. Faced with budget crunches and federal pressure to turn around awful schools, many districts are cutting their advanced classes as well as art and music.
Third, many high schools have just a smattering of honors or Advanced Placement classes, sometimes populated by kids who are bright but not truly prepared to succeed in them.
Here and there, however, entire public schools focus exclusively on high-ability, highly motivated students. Some are nationally famous (Boston Latin, Bronx Science), others known mainly in their own communities (Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills, Austin’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy). When my colleague Jessica A. Hockett and I went searching for schools like these to study, we discovered that no one had ever fully mapped this terrain.
In a country with more than 20,000 public high schools, we found just 165 of these schools, known as exam schools. They educate about 1 percent of students. Nineteen states have none. Only three big cities have more than five such schools (Los Angeles has zero). Almost all have far more qualified applicants than they can accommodate. Hence they practice very selective admission, turning away thousands of students who could benefit from what they have to offer. Northern Virginia’s acclaimed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, for example, gets some 3,300 applicants a year — two-thirds of them academically qualified — for 480 places.
We built a list, surveyed the principals and visited 11 schools. We learned a lot. While the schools differ in many ways, their course offerings resemble A.P. classes in content and rigor; they have stellar college placement; and the best of them expose their pupils to independent study, challenging internships and individual research projects.
Critics call them elitist, but we found the opposite. These are great schools accessible to families who can’t afford private schooling or expensive suburbs. While exam schools in some cities don’t come close to reflecting the demographics around them, across the country the low-income enrollment in these schools parallels the high school population as a whole. African-American youngsters are “overrepresented” in them and Asian-Americans staggeringly so (21 percent versus 5 percent in high schools overall). Latinos are underrepresented, but so are whites.

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School Is ‘Too Easy,’ Say American Students

NPR
Many students in American classrooms don’t feel challenged enough. That’s according to new analysis of federal data (pdf) conducted by the Washington think tank American Progress.
The organization, which promotes “progressive ideas and action,” came to that conclusion when it analyzed surveys given to students by the Department of Education for its National Assessment of Educational Progress.
In its press release, American progress says its analysis found that the popular images of students overburdened with work and keeping “the hours of a corporate lawyer in order to finish their school projects and homework assignments” are quite simply off base.
“Many students are not being challenged in school,” the organization says. USA Today dug through the report and finds:
— “37% of fourth-graders say their math work is ‘often’ or ‘always’ too easy;
— “57% of eighth-graders say their history work is ‘often’ or ‘always’ too easy;
— “39% of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.”
USA Today spoke Florida State University English education professor Shelbie Witte who said students are likely bored by an education system that puts too much emphasis on standardized testing and “when they’re bored, they think the classes are easy.”
Another interesting find from the report is that lower-income students reported that they comprehended their teachers less than their more affluent classmates.
American Progress points out that student surveys have been shown to be accurate predictors of a teacher’s performance. It’s the reason they decided to look at this set of data.

Closing the achievement gap, but at gifted students’ expense

Michael J. Petrilli and and Frederick M. Hess
President Obama’s remarks on inequality, stoking populist anger at “the rich,” suggest that the theme for his reelection bid will be not hope and change but focus on reducing class disparity with government help. But this effort isn’t limited to economics; it is playing out in our nation’s schools as well.
The issue is whether federal education efforts will compromise opportunities for our highest-achieving students. One might assume that a president determined to “win the future” would make a priority of ensuring that our ablest kids have the chance to excel.
To Obama, however, as for President George W. Bush, such concerns are a distraction at best. Last year the Education Department’s civil rights division announced that it would investigate local school policies that have a “disparate impact” on poor or minority students — signaling a willingness to go to court if department officials think that school systems have too few of such children in gifted programs or Advanced Placement courses. This bit of social engineering ignores the unseemly reality that advantaged children are statistically more likely to be ready to succeed in tough classes than are low-income children raised in households with fewer books and more television.
The result is a well-intended but misguided crusade to solve via administrative fiat the United States’ long-standing achievement gap: the dramatic differences in test scores between white and minority students and between middle-class and poor youngsters. The message to schools was unmistakable: Get more poor and minority children into your advanced courses or risk legal action by Uncle Sam.
Then, in September, the president offered states and school districts flexibility around onerous provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act — linked to certain conditions. Among these: States must explain how they are going to move more students into “challenging” courses. The effect will be yet another push to dilute high-level classes.
The goal of helping more young people succeed in challenging coursework is laudable. But pushing ill-prepared students into tougher classes without adequate preparation isn’t doing anyone any favors. Indeed, the administration’s strategy has been tried. Nationally, the number of graduates who had taken Advanced Placement exams rose from 1 million students in 2003 to 1.6 million in 2008. In a 2009 study of AP teachers, just 14 percent of educators said that the growth stemmed from an increase in the pool of qualified students. Half of the AP teachers in high-poverty schools said that their African American and Hispanic students were not prepared for AP instruction. Fifty-six percent said that too many students were in over their heads, with adverse consequences for those students and their better-prepared classmates.
Our single-minded focus on closing achievement gaps has almost certainly hurt our top students. In 1996, Rand Corp. scholars determined that low-achieving pupils benefit when placed in mixed-ability classrooms, faring about five percentage points better than those placed in lower-track classes, but that high-achievers score six percentage points worse in such general classes.
In 2008, six years after No Child Left Behind became law, a survey of teachers found 60 percent saying that struggling students were a “top priority” at their schools, while just 23 percent said the same of “academically advanced” students. Eighty percent said that struggling students were most likely to get one-on-one attention from teachers; only 5 percent said the same of advanced students.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association released a study in September that tracked more than 100,000 high-achieving pupils over time and found that more than one-third lost steam as they progressed through school. The Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless has reported that, while the nation’s lowest-achieving students made significant gains in reading and math between 2000 and 2007, top students’ gains were “anemic.”
There are trade-offs here. But the possibility that what’s best for our worst-off students is bad for high achievers is blithely ignored by the Obama team and many other school reformers. (To be fair, it was ignored by the Bush team, too.) Advocates with a single-minded focus on closing achievement gaps have insisted that what’s good for the neediest kids is best for all kids. Those who question this mantra risk being labeled racist.
It’s not like we can afford to coast. Just 6 percent of U.S. eighth-graders scored “advanced” on the 2007 international Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study assessment, while many nations fared at least twice that well.
Implemented thoughtfully, a commitment to getting more students into advanced classes is an objective worthy of a great nation. But it’s not going to happen overnight — not without defining “excellence” down.
At this very moment, millions of high-achievers are waiting to be challenged. Meeting their needs is another objective worthy of a great nation. They deserve our encouragement, not our indifference.
Michael J. Petrilli is executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Our Achievement-Gap Mania,” an article published in the journal National Affairs’ Fall 2011 edition.

Seattle Cluster (Spectrum) Grouping Discussion

Chris Cronas, Principal, Wedgwood Elementary

Prior to the Thanksgiving break, we administered a survey asking for feedback from families about their knowledge and thoughts on the changes we are making to the curriculum delivery model at Wedgwood. Thank you to the 259 families who responded to the survey. We have 449 students currently enrolled at Wedgwood, 185 of whom are siblings. If respondents only completed one survey per family, as requested, our sample is quite accurate.
Overall, families want more information about what cluster grouping is. This was expressed in a variety of ways by families of general education, spectrum and special education students. I will attempt to clarify what it is here and how Wedgwood staff is using this information to move forward.
For those who do not know, cluster grouping is a method of grouping gifted students (gifted being identified as students who score in the 98th – 99th percentile on a cognitive ability test) into clusters of 6 students in one classroom that also include high achievers and above average students. The remaining students would be clustered so that the highest achieving students and lowest achieving students are not in the same classroom. With that as a guide, Wedgwood is developing plans to move from having self-contained spectrum classrooms to integrated classrooms using an interpretation of this model. We are already doing this in 1st grade, albeit more heterogeneously than what the research we based our 1st grade model on suggests.

Charlie Mas has more:

Are you confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program? Join the club. Everyone is confused about what Wedgwood is doing with their Spectrum program. The president of the confusion club appears to be the school’s principal, Chris Cronas.

Madison School District Talented and Gifted Update

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Elementary Support & Services
National Novel Writing Month
Future Problem Solving
Math enrichment
GEMS
William & Mary Literature groups
M2 and M3 Math groups
American Math Competition 8
Science enrichment pilot College for Kids I (support)
Middle School Support & Services
WCATY courses
Future Problem Solving
Online courses
Advanced Math courses
Assistance with Science Symposium
American Math Competition 8
College for Kids II (support)
Great Books Pilot
Hybrid Geometry Pilot
High School Support & Services
College Matters at UW Madison
Math Meets (competitions)
Respectful Relationship days
Leadership Conference (pilot, grant application in progress)
Assistance with High School Science Symposium
Mentor Services
1. Falk- Working with students in a writing group
2. Stephens- Working with a group of students in math
3. Lapham-1’1/2″dgrade-Math
4. Schenk- Science/math enrichment
5. Crestwood- Math enrichment
6. Crestwood- Math enrichment
7. Crestwood-Math enrichment
8. Franklin- Math enrichment
9. Randall- Math enrichment
10. Randall – Math enrichment

Madison Schools for Whites Equivalent to Singapore, Finland (!); Troller Bids Adieu

Susan Troller, Via email:

Madison schools aren’t failing, by any stretch of the imagination, for many students.
In fact, if you’re a white, middle-class family sending your children to public school here, your kids are likely getting an education that’s on a par with Singapore or Finland — among the best in the world.
However, if you’re black or Latino and poor, it’s an unquestionable fact that Madison schools don’t as good a job helping you with your grade-point average, high school graduation, college readiness or test scores. By all these measures, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students is awful.
These facts have informed the stern (and legitimate) criticisms leveled by Urban League President Kaleem Caire and Madison Prep backers.
But they doesn’t take into account some recent glimmers of hope that shouldn’t be discounted or overlooked. Programs like AVID/TOPS support first-generation college-bound students in Madison public schools and are showing some successes. Four-year-old kindergarten is likely to even the playing field for the district’s youngest students, giving them a leg up as they enter school. And, the data surrounding increasing numbers of kids of color participating in Advanced Placement classes is encouraging.
Stepping back from the local district and looking at education through a broader lens, it’s easy to see that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have aimed to legislate, bribe and punish their way toward an unrealistic Lake Wobegon world where all the students are above average.

Remarkable. Are there some excellent teachers in Madison? Certainly. Does Madison’s Administration seek best in the world results? A look at the math task force, seemingly on hold for years, is informative. The long one size fits all battle and the talented and gifted complaint are worth contemplating.
Could Madison be the best? Certainly. The infrastructure is present, from current spending of $14,963/student to the nearby UW-Madison, Madison College and Edgewood College backed by a supportive community.
Ideally, Madison (and Wisconsin) should have the courage to participate in global examinations (Florida Students Take Global Examinations, Wisconsin’s Don’t). Taxpayers and parents would then know if Troller’s assertions are fact based.

Proposed High School Angers Parents at Gifted and Talented School

Emily Canal:

Parents gathered in the auditorium of the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars on Tuesday morning were not happy.
Their school, one of only three citywide gifted and talented programs in Manhattan, shares space in an East Harlem building with three middle schools. They learned recently that one of the schools, Esperanza Preparatory Academy, wants to expand to a high school, and they are concerned that the expansion will cause overcrowding and bring other problems.
Tuesday’s meeting was called by the Education Department last week after parents flooded the office with calls and e-mails expressing concern about the addition of high school grades when their school has children as young as kindergarten.

Should everyone take honors classes?

Jay Matthews:

Earlier this year, I said educators should try eliminating grade-level courses in high school and move everyone into honors or AP courses. Did I think anyone would actually do that? No.
Wrong again. As some upset e-mailers have been telling me, the Anne Arundel County schools are going ahead with such a plan, in a slapdash way made worse by not preparing parents for the change.
Karen Colburn, who has a seventh-grader at Central Middle School in Edgewater, said her advanced-track son found himself in mixed math and English classes slowed to a crawl so non-honors students could catch up. “Kids are repeating things they learned in elementary school,” Colburn said. “Also, supports are not in place for special education children and some standard-level children.”

Are Top Students Getting Short Shrift?

Room for Debate:

t sounds so democratic, a very American idea: break down the walls of “remedial,” “average” and “advanced” classes so that all students in each grade can learn together, with lessons that teachers “differentiate” to challenge each individual. Proponents of this approach often stress that it benefits average and lagging students, but a new study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggests that the upsides may come at a cost to top students — and to the international competitiveness of the United States.

AP & ACT Results Over the Years at Madison’s Edgewood High School

Edge on the News:

Last year, 120 students took 223 Advanced Placement exams from 15 different exams last year. Congratulations to all of our faculty and staff who contributed to our students’ success.

  • 34% of juniors – over 40% of seniors and over a quarter of juniors took at least one AP course and exam in 2010-2011. The most recent report available shows the national figure in 2010 was 2010 was 26% for Wisconsin.
  • 86.7% of EHS students who took an AP course scored a 3 or higher (passing), compared with 69.9% in the State of Wisconsin and 60.2% globally.
  • 38.2% of the EHS graduating class passed (scored 3, 4 or 5) at least one AP exam. According to the 2010 AP report, the national average was 16.9% and Wisconsin average was 18.3% for any time during high school.
  • EHS offers one AP course for every 13-14 seniors.

For the period 1997-2011:

  • Edgewood’s average ACT score rose about 2 points to 25.0 with an average of 96% of EHS students taking the test over that period. During the same period, state and national averages remained essentially unchanged from the low 22s and about 21, respectively. In 2010-11, 71% of Wisconsin students and 49% of all US students took the test.
  • The total number of students taking Edgewood’s AP courses more than tripled.
  • The average number of tests taken per EHS AP student per year rose from 1.34 to 1.86.
  • The percent of students receiving passing scores (3, 4 or 5) rose from 54% to 87%.

Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students

Yun Xiang, Michael Dahlin, John Cronin, Robert Theaker, Sarah Durant:

Fordham’s latest study, “Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students,” is the first to examine the performance of America’s highest-achieving children over time at the individual-student level. Produced in partnership with the Northwest Evaluation Association, it finds that many high-achieving students struggle to maintain their elite performance over the years and often fail to improve their reading ability at the same rate as their average and below-average classmates. The study raises troubling questions: Is our obsession with closing achievement gaps and “leaving no child behind” coming at the expense of our “talented tenth”–and America’s future international competitiveness? Read on to learn more.

Educating the Gifted

Norman Augustine, via a kind reader’s email:

The very subject of giftedness is fraught with contradiction and controversy. On the one hand, we often encounter misunderstanding, envy, and perceived elitism–and on the other, admiration, dependency, and respect. Little wonder that our K-12 education system has not yet determined how best to nurture extraordinary individuals so that they can become extraordinary contributors to society–and feel rewarded in doing so. Unfortunately, it is not simply the gifted who are underserved by most of our nation’s 14,000 public school systems; that group is just more acutely neglected, along with the economically less fortunate, than the nation’s student population as a whole.

Rick Hess’s Critique of Achievement-Gap Mania

By Reihan Salam
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the latest issue of National Affairs, which includes Rick Hess’s fascinating and at times provocative discussion, or perhaps I say “devastating takedown,” of “achievement-gap mania.” The following paragraph gives you a hint as to Hess’s conclusion:

In essence, NCLB was an effort to link “conservative” nostrums of accountability to Great Society notions of “social justice.” The result was a noble exercise hailed for its compassion. The sad truth, however, is that the whole achievement-gap enterprise has been bad for schooling, bad for most children, and bad for the nation.


I found his discussion of the neglect of advanced and gifted education particularly convincing, as well as his recounting of how the “delusion of rigor” has undermined quality control across many domains. Hess ends his essay with an accounting of where “achievement-gap mania” has left the politics of K-12.
(1) Reforming education has become someone else’s problem:

First, achievement-gap mania has signaled to the vast majority of American parents that school reform isn’t about their kids. They are now expected to support efforts to close the achievement gap simply because it’s “the right thing to do,” regardless of the implications for their own children’s education. In fact, given that only about one household in five even contains school-age children — and given that two-thirds of families with children do not live in underserved urban neighborhoods, or do not send their kids to public schools, or otherwise do not stand to benefit from the gap-closing agenda — the result is a tiny potential constituency for achievement-gap reform, made up of perhaps 6% or 7% of American households.
Because middle-class parents and suburbanites have no personal stake in the gap-closing enterprise, reforms are tolerated rather than embraced. The most recent annual Gallup poll on attitudes toward schooling reported that just 20% of respondents said “improving the nation’s lowest-performing schools” was the most important of the nation’s education challenges. Indeed, while just 18% of the public gave American schools overall an A or a B, a sizable majority thought their own elementary and middle schools deserved those high grades. The implication is that most Americans, even those with school-age children, currently see education reform as time and money spent on other people’s children.


(2) Reforming education for the majority of students who come non-poor families is seen as somehow unnecessary:

Second, achievement-gap mania has created a dangerous complacency, giving suburban and middle-class Americans the false sense that things are just fine in their own schools. Thus it’s no surprise that professionals and suburbanites tend to regard “reforms” — from merit pay to charter schooling — as measures that they’ll tolerate as long as they’re reserved for urban schools, but that they won’t stand for in their own communities. …
Gap-closing strategies can be downright unhelpful or counterproductive when it comes to serving most students and families, and so can turn them off to education reform altogether. Longer school years and longer school days can be terrific for disadvantaged students or low achievers, but may be a recipe for backlash if imposed on families who already offer their kids many summer opportunities and extracurricular activities. Policies that seek to shift the “best” teachers to schools and classrooms serving low-achieving children represent a frontal assault on middle-class and affluent families. And responding to such concerns by belittling them is a sure-fire strategy for ensuring that school reform never amounts to more than a self-righteous crusade at odds with the interests of most middle-class families.


This is one reason why Hess rightly bristled at the crusader mentality that informs films like the recent Waiting for ‘Superman.’

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What does it mean to be a proficient 8th grade reader in Georgia? Not much.

Maureen Downey:

The U.S. Department of Education released a new analysis of state standards this week that maps the standards against federal ones to assess rigor. We don’t look strong on the mapping, especially in eighth grade reading where we trail the nation.
The analysis using National Center for Educational Statistics data superimposes a state’s standard for proficient performance in reading and mathematics onto a common scale defined by scores on NAEP, a federal test administered to student samples in every state to produce a big picture view of American education. (This report offers a lot of data and great graphics.)
The most alarming mapping revealed that Georgia’s standard for proficiency in 8th grade reading is so low that it falls into the below basic category on NAEP scoring. (We don’t look in 8th grade math, either, but the feds warn that our change from QBE standards to Georgia Performance Standards undermines comparisons.)

Madison School District Talented & Gifted Program Update

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

During the 2011-2012 school year, as MMSD implements Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) and the new district School Support Teams, the plan for delivery of Talented and Gifted Services will continue to be integrated and refined so that it accomplishes the following: 1) is both systemic and systematic in nature; 2) is collaborative; 3) is financially sustainable; 4) is fluid and responsive to student needs; S) offers appropriate opportunities for student growth and talent development; 6) addresses the comprehensive needs (academic, social and personal growth) of students; 7) is aligned with State regulations, professional standards, current research, and effective practice; and 8) provides goals and evaluation procedures to evaluate growth and suggest areas in which change is needed. This Plan for TAG Services describes the following:

Much more on the recent complaint regarding the Madison School District’s Talent & Gifted Update, here.

At Sleepaway Camp, Math Is Main Sport

Rachel Cromidas

As camps go, the Summer Program in Mathematical Problem Solving might
sound like a recipe for misery: six hours of head-scratching math
instruction each day and nights in a college dorm far from home.But Mattie Williams, 13, who attends Middle School 343 in the Bronx, was
happy to attend, giving up summer barbecues with her parents and
afternoons in the park with her Chihuahua, Pepsi. She and 16 other
adolescents are spending three weeks at Bard College here in a free, new camp for low-income students who are gifted in mathematics.

All are entering eighth grade at New York City public middle schools
where at least 75 percent of the student body is eligible for free
lunches. And all love math. At this camp, asking “What kind of math do
you like, algebra or geometry?” is considered an appropriate icebreaker,
and invoking the newly learned term “the multiplication principle”
elicits whoops and high-fives.

In a Bard classroom one afternoon, it seemed for a moment that Arturo
Portnoy had stumped everyone. Dr. Portnoy, a math professor visiting
from the University of Puerto Rico, posed this question: “The length of a
rectangle is increased by 10 percent and the width is decreased by 10
percent. What percentage of the old area is the new area?” The 17 campers whispered and scribbled. One crumpled his paper into a
ball. Mattie Williams may have looked as if she was doodling as she drew
dozens of tiny rectangles in her notebook, but she was hard at work on
the problem, which was taken from the American Mathematics Competitions,
a contest series known for its difficulty. In less than 10 minutes, she had the answer — 99 percent — and was ready for the next question.

For some schoolchildren, mathematics is a competitive sport, and summer
is the time for training — poring over test-prep books, taking practice
exams and attending selective math camps. But for students who cannot
afford such programs, or have not been exposed to many advanced math
concepts, the avenues to new skills are limited.

Daniel Zaharopol, the director of the camp at Bard,
is trying to change that. He has brought four math educators to the
Bard campus to teach the middle school students concepts as varied as
number theory and cryptography. Among the instructors is Mr. Portnoy, a
director of the Puerto Rico Mathematical Olympiads. The camp is financed by the Art of Problem Solving Foundation, the
nonprofit arm of an online school that promotes math education for gifted students. Classes meet in two-hour sessions and cover topics including voting theory, graph theory, and math and the arts.

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New Study: RI’s Suburban Schools Trail Nation In Advanced Programs

Dan McGowan:

A new analysis of the nation’s schools found that Rhode Island falls below the national average for offering high-level curriculum such as Advanced Placement or talented and gifted programs, particularly in the more suburban districts in the state.
The report, which seeks to showcase what is known as the “opportunity gap” between wealthy and high-poverty school districts, actually suggests that Rhode Island offers similar chances to be involved in specialty programs in urban schools as it does in suburban schools. In fact, in some cases, the high-level programs are more available in cities like Providence than they are in Barrington.
But the reality is the state offers very little advance programming overall, meaning that while there may not be a significant gap between the city schools and the ones from more rural areas, Rhode Island schools are still being outpaced by the rest of New England and most cases, the country.
The Numbers
The study, which was conducted by ProPublica, found that Rhode Island falls well-behind the rest of the country when it comes to offering AP tests, advanced mathematics courses and talented and gifted programming.
More students, however, are taking chemistry and physics than in other parts of the country.

Compare Wisconsin’s results, here.

Florida Leads the Nation in the Percentage of High School Students Enrolled in High Level Classes; Some States Still Leave Low-Income Students Behind; Others Make Surprising Gains

by Sharona Coutts and Jennifer LaFleur:

Florida is a state of stark contrasts. Travel a few miles from the opulent mansions of Miami Beach and you reach desperately poor neighborhoods. There’s the grinding poverty of sugar cane country and the growing middle class of Jacksonville. All told, half the public-school students in Florida qualify for subsidized lunches. Many are the first in their families to speak English or contemplate attending college.
In many states, those economic differences are reflected in the classroom, with students in wealthy schools taking many more advanced courses.
The Opportunity Gap
But not in Florida. A ProPublica analysis of previously unreleased federal data shows that Florida leads the nation in the percentage of high-school students enrolled in high-level classes–Advanced Placement and advanced math. That holds true across rich and poor districts.
Studies repeatedly have shown that students who take advanced classes have greater chances of attending and succeeding in college.
Our analysis identifies several states that, like Florida, have leveled the field and now offer rich and poor students roughly equal access to high-level courses.
In Kansas, Maryland and Oklahoma, by contrast, such opportunities are far less available in districts with poorer families.
That disparity is part of what experts call the “opportunity gap.”

Wisconsin’s results are here, while Madison’s are here.

Wisconsin Senate Democrat Members’ Proposed Budget Amendment: Save Talented & Gifted Funding

JR Ross:

The second Dem amendment includes a whole host of provisions on education.

See it here.

Here are some details, according to a summary from Minority Leader Mark Miller’s office:

-increase funding to K-12 by $356 million.

-repeal expansion of the choice program.

-repeal elimination of funding for gifted and talented programs, AODA grants, and science, technology, engineering and match grants.

-Fund the Wisconsin GI Bill and tie financial aid to increases in tuition.

-Boost funding to tech colleges by $17 million annually.

-repeal a provision JFC put into the budget that would create an individual income tax credit derived from property assessed as manufacturing or agricultural property. The tax credit would kick in Jan. 1, 2013, and when fully phased in for tax year 2016 would be worth $128.7 million annually.

— By JR Ross

Fascinating. I wonder what’s behind this?

Changing how gifted students think

Jay Matthews:

The Loudoun Academy of Science, a six-year-old public magnet school in Sterling inspired in part by the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, already matches that famous school in one vital statistic: Like Jefferson, the Academy of Science each year rejects about 85 percent of applicants.

With 240 students, the academy is one-seventh the size of Jefferson and takes only Loudoun County residents (Jefferson draws from most of Northern Virginia), but it has won glowing reviews from students and has created a research curriculum rare in U.S. secondary education.

“It was completely unlike the standard classroom procedure that I was used to, and I absolutely loved it,” said Carter Huffman, an academy graduate now at MIT. “I have yet to hear of another school that so encourages all of its students to pursue major independent research.”

Elizabeth Asai, another academy graduate, said she and a couple of Yale classmates received university funding this year to design biomedical devices, usually a process daunting to undergraduates. Her friends “were astounded by the ease of presenting our proposal and actually receiving a grant,” she said, but, having attended the Academy of Science, to her “this seemed normal.”

The Dangerous Mr. Khan

David Clemens:

Bill Gates likes Salman Khan a lot, so much so that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is streaming cash to his Khan Academy, an internet silo of over 2,100 free, downloadable video tutorials on Calculus, Physics, Organic Chemistry, et al. Mr. Khan’s Academy only has a “faculty of one,” but my own students enjoy Mr. Khan’s glib teaching style, and they consult his clips on quadratic equations, conic sections, and those hated word problems involving railroad trains. So is the Khan video approach a “disruptive technology” which undermines the existing deathbed educational model by doing it faster, better, and cheaper? Mr. Gates thinks so. “It’s a revolution,” he enthuses. “Everyone should check it out.” (www.khanacademy.org) Wearing his education reformer hat, Mr. Gates declares himself “superhappy.”
Mr. Khan, then, by all reports, is an entertaining, trustworthy, and helpful tutor of math and science. However, when he essays history, it’s a different story and one that exposes something disquieting about a hidden potential of Internet learning, especially if, as some predict, The Khan Academy is the future of education.
Curious about Mr. Khan’s take on something non-science, I pulled up his video “U.S. History Overview 3–World War II to Vietnam”
The screen looks like a squashed, two-dimensional schoolroom; you see a combined blackboard and bulletin board with colorful squiggly dates on a scroll down timeline, random photos (Hitler, Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, mushroom cloud), and tiny maps. Mr. Khan remains offscreen but writes or circles things onscreen with his pointer and provides his signature breathless voiceover.

Much more on the Khan Academy, here.

DPI Report: Madison Schools Are Out of Compliance on Gifted and Talented Education

Lori Raihala:

In response, Superintendent Nerad directed West to start providing honors courses in the fall of 2010. West staff protested, however, and Nerad retracted the directive.
Community members sent another petition in July, 2010-this time signed by 188 supporters-again calling for multiple measures of identification and advanced levels of core courses for 9th and 10th graders at West. This time there was no response but silence.
In the meantime, Greater Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire told us: “The law is there for a reason. Use it.”
So, after years of trying to work with the system, we filed a formal complaint with the DPI in September, 2010. Little did we know what upheaval the next months would bring. In October, the district administration rolled out its College and Career Readiness Plan; teachers at West agitated, and students staged a sit-in. In February, our new governor issued his reform proposal; protesters massed at the Capitol, and school was called off for four days.
In the meantime, the DPI conducted its investigation. Though our complaint had targeted West for its chronic, blatant, willful violations, the DPI extended its audit to the entire Madison School District.

Much more on the Madison parents complaint to the Wisconsin DPI, here.

Madison School District Final Audit Report: Gifted and Talented Standard

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

On September 20,2010, eight residents of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) filed a complaint (numerous others were listed as supporting the complaint) alleging the school district was not in compliance with the Gifted and Talented (G/T) standard, Wis. Stat. sec. 121.02(1)(t), that requires that each school board shall “provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented.” Based upon this complaint, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (department) initiated an audit pursuant to Wis. Admin Code sec. PI 8.02. The purpose ofthe audit was to determine whether the school district is in compliance with Wis. Stat. sees. 121.02(1)(t) and 118.35, and Wis. Admin. Code
sec. PI 8.01(2)(t)2. The investigation focused on three core content areas: English/language arts; science; and social studies; in particular at the 9th and 1oth grade levels, per the letter of complaint.
The department informed the school district of the audit on October 13, 2010, and requested information and documentation for key components of the G/T plan. The school district provided a written response and materials on November 29, 2010 and supplemental materials on December 21 , 2010.
On January 25 and 26, 2011, a team of four department representatives conducted an on-site audit which began with a meeting that included the school board president, the district administrator, the deputy superintendent, the secondary assistant superintendent, the executive director of curriculum and assessment, the interim Talented and Gifted (TAG) administrator, an elementary TAG resource teacher, a secondary TAG resource teacher, and legal counsel. After this meeting, the team visited East, West, LaFollette, and Memorial High Schools. At each of these sites, the team conducted interviews with the building principal, school counselors, teachers, and students. At the end ofeach ofthe two days the department team met with parents.

Fund gifted education

The Marion Star:

Ohio lawmakers are prepared to cut gifted education by a whopping 89 percent within the state’s new education budget. Truly, today’s economy means we all have to cut back, but why are gifted students targeted to take the biggest hit? Why are they singled out as not deserving an equal and appropriate education?
We are fortunate in the Marion City School District. We have not fallen victim to this unfair budget cut. Superintendent Barney and the school board have chosen to continue to serve our gifted students next year. For that, I am thankful. I must, however, be realistic. With monies being cut so dramatically, for how long will our district be able to maintain this service? Now is the time to let our legislators in Columbus know how important gifted service is. After all, public education is education for all children. Cutting funding for one specific group more deeply than any other group is simply unfair and unacceptable.

Strange Advice for Parents of Bright Kids

Tamara Fisher:

Awhile back, I posted here my “Strange Advice for Bright Kids.” Today I offer the same gems again, but tweaked to fit the parents of remarkably bright kids. I am once again calling it “strange” advice because I like to look at things from unusual angles and this advice comes from perspectives others may not consider.
1) Ask for help. As you have likely discovered, being the parent of a gifted child isn’t always the cakewalk that a lot of teachers, friends, and parents of average intelligence kids sometimes think it is. These bright lil’ buggers can be INTENSE, which means keeping up with them can be exhausting. They can debate you into a corner, even at a very young age, rationalizing their way into controlling the conversation. Some gifted children have extremely high energy levels and may not need naps at an age when other kids still do. Their sensitivity can catch you off guard as seemingly nonchalant moments turn out to be the impetus that causes a meltdown. Their keen sense of justice means they’re interested in causes beyond their years – and they enlist you to help them save the world. With remarkable focus, they become so immersed in the interesting task at hand that they are impervious to you struggling to tell them it’s time for dinner. And your ten-year-old is having a mid-life crisis, exhibiting his existential depression by asking you questions you haven’t even considered yourself yet (“Why am I here? Why is the world so cruel? What if I can’t make a difference? What’s the point if we’re all going to die someday anyway?”). Plus you know that if you tell your friends you’re worried about your seven-year-old because she’s reading four grade levels above but only being given grade-level material and instruction – that their reaction will be a cynical snort.

Would improved TAG program hurt other Madison School District Programs?

Chris Rickert:

Just when you thought the Madison School District had enough on its plate — perennially tight budgets, teachers incensed at Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting, minority achievement gaps — it’s under a gun of a different sort:
Get your program for talented and gifted, or TAG, students in order, the state told the district in March, after a group of parents complained their kids were not being sufficiently challenged in the classroom.
I am dubious of efforts to devote additional time and money to students who already have the advantage of being smart — and often white and upper-middle class — and who have similarly situated parents adept at lobbying school officials.
Money, time and effort generally not being unlimited commodities in public school districts, the question over what is to be done about Madison’s TAG program strikes me as one of priorities.
Improving TAG offerings would seem to require an equal reduction in something else. And maybe that something else is more important to more students.
Not that it’s likely anyone on the School Board would ever acknowledge any trade-offs.
It’s a “false dichotomy,” said School Board member Ed Hughes, and “not an either/or situation.” Can the district be all things to all people? I asked. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

Much more on the Talented & Gifted Wisconsin DPI complaint, here.

High School Classes May Be Advanced in Name Only

Sam Dillon:

More students are taking ambitious courses. According to a recent Department of Education study, the percentage of high school graduates who signed up for rigorous-sounding classes nearly tripled over the past two decades.
But other studies point to a disconnect: Even though students are getting more credits in more advanced courses, they are not scoring any higher on standardized tests.
The reason, according to a growing body of research, is that the content of these courses is not as high-achieving as their names — the course-title equivalent of grade inflation. Algebra II is sometimes just Algebra I. And College Preparatory Biology can be just Biology.
Lynn T. Mellor, a researcher in Austin, Tex., who has studied the phenomenon in the state, compares it to a food marketer labeling an orange soda as healthier orange juice.
“Like the misleading drink labels, course titles may bear little relationship to what students have actually learned,” said Dr. Mellor, who has analyzed course completion, test records and other student data in Texas. “We see students taking more and more advanced courses, but still not performing well on end-of-course exams.”

When Does a Parent Know His Child Is Gifted?

Carol Fertig:

So often I’m asked, “When does a parent know if his child is gifted?” I think they are surprised when I respond by saying, “I don’t know. What does it mean to be gifted?”
After all, I am supposed to be the expert. I am expected to have the answers. But I can’t provided any definitive reply.
First of all, what does it mean to be gifted? There are many definitions and many ways of assessing a child’s ability. Is one more correct than another? Who should make that determination? You may want to look at some of the previous posts on this blog about this subject, including
Conflicts in the Definition and Identification of Giftedness
What Does It Mean to Be Gifted?
Even if there is some consensus about the definition of giftedness, I think most people would agree that students fall somewhere on an extended continuum. There are children who have strong interests or abilities in just one area, which may or may not be a traditional academic subject. There are students who are more globally endowed and may finish high school before they are teenagers and receive graduate degrees by the time others finish high school. Some young people who are very bright have learning disabilities or physical disabilities or emotional problems. Some fit into a traditional school environment and some could care less about school.

For AP Students, a New Classroom Is Online

Sue Shellenbarger:

When budget cuts wiped out honors French classes at her Uxbridge, Mass., high school, 18-year-old Katie Larrivee turned to the Internet.
These days, Ms. Larrivee, who plans to study abroad in college, practices her pronunciation alone in front of a computer.
“J’ai renforcé ma comprehension de la langue” by taking an advanced-placement French course online, Ms. Larrivee says.
Advanced-placement classes have been booming amid efforts by high-school students and parents to trim college tuition costs and gain an edge in the college-admissions race. A record 1.99 million high-school students are expected to take AP exams next month, up 159% from 2000, says Trevor Packer, vice president, advanced placement, for the College Board, New York, the nonprofit that oversees AP courses and testing. About 90% of U.S. colleges and universities award college credit to high-school students who pass the program’s rigorous subject-matter tests.

Education reform: the problem with helping everyone reach ‘average’

Ann Robinson
The alarm clock is sounding on American education. While China’s emergence as an educational powerhouse is relatively new, the continued poor performance by US students – though improved, still 31st place in math on the most recent international test – is not. Today, Shanghai tops the charts, but yesterday, it was other nations. Even a casual observer of education news knows the US long ago ceded its place as world leader in student performance. It’s an unsettling state of affairs.
West loses edge to Asia in education: Top five OECD findings
But what’s more unsettling is how prominent education leaders like Education Secretary Arne Duncan have called America’s sorry standing a “wakeup call.” President Obama has called for a new “Sputnik moment” to reignite the nation’s commitment to science education. But the wakeup alarm didn’t just start going off. It sounded decades ago; the US has just repeatedly hit the snooze button.
The crisis in American education includes both our overall poor national performance and the miniscule numbers of US students achieving at the highest levels. Even our best students are less competitive. The problem with previous education reform efforts is that they have poured time, money, and resources into bringing all students up to proficiency – at the expense of our most gifted students. If we want the best educational performance, we have to target our brightest students, not ignore them in the fight to help everyone reach “average.”
Moving from paper to practice
We’ve been inundated with reams of reports, studies, and expert panels advising us how to fix this problem. During one week last fall, two government-convened panels released reports full of prescriptions for what the nation must due to reclaim its position as a leading innovator.
The reports by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the National Science Board offer a plethora of recommendations including better teacher training, creating 1,000 new STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) schools, and holding schools accountable for the performance of high-achieving students.

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The College Board Honors 4 Districts with Advanced Placement District of the Year Awards:
Districts in Chicago; Tampa, Fla.; Hudson County, N.J.; and San Bernadino, Calif. to Be Recognized at the AP® Annual Conference in July

The College Board:

AP Achievement List of 388 school districts that have had similar successes.
“These districts are defying expectations by expanding access while improving scores,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “They are experimenting with initiatives and strategies that have driven increases in average exam scores when making AP available to a much broader and more diverse student population. Over the next two months we will work closely with each of the AP District of the Year winners to document what they are doing so we can share their best practices with all members of the AP community.”

Wisconsin Districts that achieved recognition:
Appleton Area School District
Columbus School District
D C Everest Area School District
Diocese of Madison Education Office
Germantown School District
Green Bay Area Public Schools
Kimberly Area School District
Marshfield School District
Menomonie Area School District
Middleton-Cross Plains Schools
Monroe School District
Mt Horeb Area School District
Mukwonago Area School District
School District of Hudson
School District of Rhinelander
Stevens Point Area Public School District
Trevor-Wilmot Consolidated School District
Watertown Unified School District
Wauwatosa School District
West Bend School District

Changes Schools Should Make to Better Serve Students: A Student’s View

Adora Svitak
My mom once asked me about the first steps I would hypothetically take to make a “better school.” I don’t claim to be an education expert, but I do have personal opinions about the ideal school — one I’d like to go to. Among many other things, I said that I would change school starting times, improve cafeteria lunches, and bring back recess. These would be good first steps because they help a lot of students a little bit. And they can have wide-reaching impacts.
Starting Times
Studies have repeatedly shown that everyone, especially children with developing brains, need a good amount of high-quality sleep. It’s difficult to get when you have to worry about waking up at 7 in the morning to go to school. Not everyone is a morning lark, and by starting school so early, not only students but also educators have to stave off yawns throughout the day.
I was at a conference where a well-respected sleep researcher, Dr. James Maas, revealed that adolescent sleep cycles tend to begin at 3 a.m. and end at 11 a.m. Yet we’re starting school at 7 or 7:30 a.m. While I wouldn’t quite change school start times to 11 a.m. (since we have to consider parents who have to go to work), I think it would be reasonable to move them to 8:45 AM or after. Then hypothetically a teenager could go to bed at 12 a.m. (as many often do), wake up at 8, shower and eat breakfast, and go to school with eight rather than five or six hours of sleep.
Lunch
Another step: improve cafeteria lunches. Put a cap on the amount of sodium, fat, and calorie content allowed in each lunch. Mandate nonfat or 1 to 2 percent milk (and in smaller containers — who really drinks that much milk?) instead of whole milk. Get rid of chocolate milk, soft drinks, and vending machines with unhealthy items. Require a certain percentage of food served be organic and/or local, and have smaller portions to help minimize cost (we all know how much food gets dumped out). Have the school’s cooking classes (or maybe the entire student body) help make lunch on certain days.
A bigger step: I think it would be a good idea to have randomly assigned seating during lunch. This might be controversial among students, but the social division that occurs when students simply pick out where they want to sit can be hurtful and exclusive to students new to the school or children with difficulty making friends. Also, it seems that teachers rarely eat lunch and converse with the students. I’ve learned a lot from being able to have conversations with adults. So, teachers would be required to eat lunch with the students — at least on certain days — (and really, if they really can’t stand students to the extent that they can’t eat with them, should they be teaching?)

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New Way to Check Out eBooks

Katherine Boehret:

Get out your library cards: Now you can wirelessly download electronic books from your local library using the Apple iPad or an Android tablet.
Last week, OverDrive Inc. released OverDrive Media Console for the iPad, a free app from Apple’s App Store. With the app, you can now borrow eBooks for reading on the go with a tablet.
You can already borrow an eBook from a library using an eReader, including the Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble Nook, but you’ll need a PC and a USB cable for downloading and synching. Amazon’s Kindle doesn’t allow borrowing eBooks from libraries.
For the past week, I borrowed and wirelessly downloaded digital books onto tablets primarily using OverDrive, the largest distributor of eBooks for libraries. I tested the OverDrive Media Console for the iPad. I also used the Dell Streak 7 tablet to test the app on the Android operating system; this app also works on Android smartphones. An iPhone app is available.

Gifted Programs Go on Block as Schools Must Do With Less

Jennifer Gollan:

When she was just 3, Teela Huff understood how to add numbers. By third grade, she was tutoring her peers.
“She can explain the problems to you without making you feel stupid,” one of Teela’s classmates wrote of her, according to her father, Tom.
But Teela’s quick mind — she is now a 10-year-old fifth grader but reads at a 12th-grade level — meant her classes at Silver Oak Elementary in San Jose were often boring and frustrating. She finally enrolled in a program for gifted children, where students wrestled with things like mind-bending math riddles and thought-provoking questions like how to survive on a desert island. And she loved it.
Her new adventures in learning ended in September, however, when the Evergreen School District eliminated all programs for its 790 or so gifted children. The move was part of a statewide wave of cuts in a program known as Gifted and Talented Education.

Minnesota AP class results continue to improve, still behind national average

Tom Weber:

More high school seniors are taking Advanced Placement courses in Minnesota and scoring higher on the tests, but the state’s rankings are still below national averages.
According to new data from the College Board, more than 15,000 Minnesota high school seniors took an AP course last year, and nearly 10,000 of them scored at least a three on an AP test. A score of three to five usually allows students to gain college credit for that class.
Students have other options to take advanced coursework in Minnesota schools, including throughout the International Baccalaureate program. Tuesday’s report was confined to the AP program.

18.3% of Wisconsin high school seniors completed school with at least one successful AP experience. Wisconsin’s report can be found here.

New Advanced Placement Biology Is Ready to Roll Out, but U.S. History Isn’t

Christopher Drew:

While the College Board plans to unveil a sweeping revision to Advanced Placement biology courses on Tuesday, it is delaying similar changes in United States history by a year to address concerns from high school teachers.
The changes in both subjects are part of a broad revamping of A.P. courses and exams to reduce memorization and to foster analytic thinking. But while the new biology curriculum is specific about what material needs to be covered, some teachers complained that parts of the history course seemed vague, and the board said it needed more time to clarify what should be studied.
Board officials said they expected to publish the new United States history curriculum next fall. That curriculum will now take effect in the 2013-14 school year, they said, rather than in 2012-13, when the new biology program is to begin.

The Process for Discussing Madison School District High School Alignment

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

This is to provide clarity, transparency and direction in improving our high school curriculum and instruction, with ongoing communication.
(As presented to the MMSD Board of Education on January 6, 2011)
The following guiding principles were discussed:

Lots of related links:

‘Embedded honors’ program has issues

Mary Bridget Lee:

The controversy at West High School continues about the Madison School District’s new talented and gifted program. Students, parents and teachers decry the plan, pointing to the likelihood of a “tracking” system and increasingly segregated classes.
While I am in agreement with them here, I must differ when they mistakenly point to the current “embedded honors” system as a preferable method for dealing with TAG students.
The idea itself should immediately raise red flags. Teaching two classes at the same time is impossible to do well, if at all. Forcing teachers to create twice the amount of curriculum and attempt to teach both within a single context is unrealistic and stressful for the educators.
The system creates problems for students as well. There is very little regulation in the execution of these “embedded honors” classes, creating widely varying experiences among students. By trying to teach to two different levels within one classroom, “embedded honors” divides teachers’ attention and ultimately impairs the educational experiences of both groups of students.
While the concerns raised about Superintendent Dan Nerad’s plan are legitimate, “embedded honors” as a solution is not.

Lots of related links:

Unlike Madison, Evanston is cutting honors classes

Chris Rickert:

Twenty-three years ago I walked the halls of Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., with a diverse mix of white-, black- and brown-skinned fellow students.
Then I would walk into an honors class and be confronted with a near-blanket of white.
Not much has changed at my alma mater, and as a result the school district has been embroiled in a contentious curriculum debate that touches on race, academics and the meaning of public education itself.
Sound familiar?
Evanston and Madison are both affluent, well-educated and liberal. And both have high schools where racial achievement gaps are the norm. Their school districts differ, though, in their approach to that gap today: Evanston is cutting honors classes; Madison is adding them.
Unlike Madison, Evanston has long had a sizable minority population and began desegregating its elementary and middle schools in the 1960s — with some positive academic results.
Seniors at ETHS, the city’s only public high school, last year had an average ACT score of 23.5, or 2.5 points higher than the national average. This in one of only five states that requires its students to take the test and in a high school whose student population, about 2,900, is 43 percent white, 32 percent black and 17 percent Latino.

Lots of related links:

More here.

Madison Schools will press ahead with High School honors classes despite protests

Matthew DeFour:

Despite lingering concerns from some parents, students and teachers, the Madison School District will introduce 9th and 10th grade honors classes next fall at West High School — changes that prompted a student protest last fall.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said he discussed with staff over the weekend the possibility of not introducing the honors classes after school board members and parents raised questions at a meeting Thursday night.
Nerad said the decision comes down to following the district’s talented-and-gifted plan, which called for offering honors classes at all high schools starting in this current school year.
“This has already been put off a year,” Nerad said in an interview Monday. “We have an obligation to move forward with what’s been identified in the TAG plan.”
On Friday, 18 West parents sent a letter to the district asking that the honors classes be delayed.

Lots of related links:

More here.

What’s High School For?

Glenn Sharfman:

We all want more young people to attend college. Who would argue with that? Politicians and educators at all levels extol the obvious virtues, from enhanced earning potential to a greater satisfaction in life. One increasingly popular way to encourage college attendance is through dual enrollment, in which students take courses in high school for both high school and college credit.
In theory, dual enrollment enables high school students to accrue college credits for very little cost and imbues them with a sense of confidence that they can complete college work. If students can succeed in college classes while still in high school, conventional wisdom holds, they will be more likely to matriculate at the postsecondary level.
In Indiana, dual enrollment is encouraged at the highest levels, with state Education Secretary Tony Bennett maintaining that at least 25 percent of high school graduates should pass at least one Advanced Placement exam or International Baccalaureate exam, or earn at least three semester hours of college credit during high school.
In reality, though, dual enrollment may do more harm than good.

Related: Credit for non-Madison School District Courses.

American Education, Curbing Excellence

Steve Chapman
America’s primary and secondary schools have many problems, but an excess of excellence is not one of them. Not only do our weak students fare poorly in international comparisons, so do our strong ones. Mediocrity is the national norm. The very best students are the ones most likely to do things of great benefit to the rest of us — cure malaria, devise revolutionary inventions, start the next Apple or plumb the secrets of the universe. But we don’t always put much importance on helping them realize their full potential.
A case in point is Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., a racially and economically mixed suburb of Chicago that is home to Northwestern University. It recently decided to eliminate a high honors freshman English course aimed at challenging the top students. Henceforth, these youngsters will be grouped with everyone else in a regular “honors” class in humanities. Next year, the same may be done with biology. Your kid is an honor student at ETHS? Heck, everyone is an honors student at ETHS. It’s hardly the only school in America where grouping students according to their ability is in disrepute. There is a widespread impulse to treat all kids as equally able and willing to learn. But the results often fall dismally short of the hopes.
When the Chicago public schools scrapped remedial classes for ninth graders and put everyone in college-prep courses, “failure rates increased, grades declined slightly, test scores did not improve and students were no more likely to enter college,” according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. Among average and above-average students, absenteeism rose. The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, “The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, ‘Well, smart kids can make it on their own.'”
But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math — lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.
School administrators in Evanston insist the change is aimed at making the curriculum more demanding, even as they make it less demanding for some students. Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, “high-achieving students” will profit from “experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital.”
In other words, racial balance will take priority over academic rigor. Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly half of all students but only 19 percent of those in advanced placement courses and 29 percent of those in honors courses. This is because minority students at Evanston, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000, generally score lower on achievement tests. Putting all students together is supposed to give everyone an equal opportunity.
But if you have a fever, you don’t bring it down by breaking the thermometer. The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work. Evanston has had a big racial gap in academic performance for decades, and there is nothing to gain from pretending it doesn’t exist. Schools that group (or “track”) kids by ability generally get better overall results. Chester Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, notes in a recent report, “Middle schools with more tracks have significantly more math pupils performing at the advanced and proficient levels and fewer students at the needs improvement and failing levels.”
Why would that be? Teaching is not easy, and teaching kids with a wide range of aptitude and interest is even harder. Grouping students by ability allows the tailoring of lessons to match the needs of each group. Putting them all together is bound to fail one group or another. Shortchanging gifted teens creates the risk of another unwanted effect: inducing their parents to leave. Families in Evanston can always move to neighboring suburbs with good schools, or they can opt for several fine private and parochial alternatives. Average students don’t gain from being in the same classes as exceptional ones if the exceptional ones are not there.
We as a society have not been very successful at turning average students into high achievers. Maybe we’ll have better luck doing the opposite.

Reaching out to gifted students

Kelly Smith, Star Tribune
More Minnesota schools are turning to specialized programs to better address the needs of a small but struggling set of students — the highly gifted — and to bring new kids in their doors.
Eleven-year-old Benjamin Ogilvie reads a biology textbook for fun. But it wasn’t long ago that he found school boring. “It just wasn’t challenging,” said the fast-talking fifth-grader. “If you can imagine a third-grader in a first-grade classroom, that’s what it was like.” That’s why his Minnetonka school and others across Minnesota are focusing more on a unique group of struggling students: the highly gifted.
Despite shrinking budgets, a dozen Minnesota schools in the past eight years have started specialized programs for highly gifted elementary students who are often in the top 1 or 2 percentile for achievement. The state designated funding for gifted education for the first time in 2005. And just this year, the state launched an informal network to support these programs.
“It’s really about the realization that one size doesn’t fit all and for a highly gifted student, a specialized environment is the best,” said Wendy Behrens, the state’s gifted and talented education specialist. “We have made some amazing progress in our state.” Increasingly tight school budgets may have actually spurred an increase in programs as districts fight harder than ever to attract and retain students — and the state aid that comes with them.

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No High School Scholars Need Apply

Today, The Boston Globe published the latest in a long series of special “All-Scholastics” 14-page (12×22-inch) supplements on good local high school athletes from a variety of sports. These celebrations are produced three times a year (42 pages) with lots of pictures and little bios and lists of all-stars from the Boston area.
Again this Fall, there was no room for any mention by The Boston Globe of any noteworthy academic achievement by local students at the high school level. Christiane Henrich of Marblehead HS, in Marblehead, Massachusetts, wrote a 7,360-word Emerson-prize-winning history research paper on the quality (good for the day) of U.S. Civil War medicine. It was published in the only journal in the world for the academic papers of secondary students…No room in The Boston Globe for that to be mentioned. She is now at Stanford and doesn’t mind, but I mind about all the Boston-area students who are fed a constant diet of praise for athletic achievement by their peers and at the same time are starved of any and all news of the academic achievements of their peers.
In fact, over the years I have published a good number of exemplary history papers by high school students from the Boston area and they did not and do not get mentioned in The Boston Globe, nor do the academic achievements of our high school students in foreign languages (e.g. National Latin Exam, etc.), AP subject tests in Calculus, Chemistry, European history or in any other field, receive any notice from the Globe.
International competitions reveal that we are below average in Reading, Math and Science. Perhaps we should just explain that we don’t care about that stuff as much as we do about swimming, soccer, cross-country, football, golf, field hockey, and volleyball, because achievement by our high school students in those efforts are what we really like to pay attention to, (not that academic stuff), at least when it comes to The Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe (and its subscribers) are, in this way, sending a constant stream of clear messages (42 pages at a time in supplements, not to mention regular daily columns on HS sports) that in Boston (The Athens of America) what we care about is kids doing well in sports. If they do well in academics we don’t think that is worth mentioning. Sick, sad, and self-destructive, but there we are.
—————————
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
www.tcr.org/blog

Ask Students

Newsweek reports this week on Michelle Rhee’s new project StudentsFirst, but I have been thinking a lot lately about the fact that, while our High School students have spent some 12,960 hours observing teachers [6 hours x 180 days x 12 years] and giving at least some of their attention to other aspects of school reform that affect them, no one seems to show any interest in actually talking with them to discover what they have learned.
Tony Wagner of Harvard did conduct a focus group for recent grads of a suburban high school he was working with, and he was surprised and intrigued by what he learned from them during the course of the conversation. But he tells me he only knows of three high schools in the whole country (of 20,000 +) which conduct such efforts to learn from students what they have noticed about their schools.
When I left my job at the Space & Information Systems Division of North American Aviation to accept a new job with Pan Am in the early 1960s, they gave me an exit interview to find out why I was leaving, but also to discover what I might offer by way of observations about my tasks and the job environment.
Our high schools, I feel it is safe to claim, do not offer their students exit interviews, either as they finish graduation or a few years later. We pass up the chance to harvest knowledge from those thousands of hours of classroom observation, and from their “hands-on” experience of the educational system in which we placed them for 12 years.
What could be the reasons for this vacuum in our curiosity about education? I believe it comes in part from our attitude that, after all, students are merely students, and that they will not become thinking human beings until long after they leave our buildings.
This is a really stupid attitude, in my view. After all, some of these students have managed calculus, chemistry, Chinese and European history. I know some who have written very very good 11,000- to 15,000-word history research papers. So it should be obvious to us, if we take a moment to think, that not only are they fully capable of noticing something about the the instruction and the other schooling processes they have experienced, but also that they are fully capable of reporting to us some of what they have learned, if we can convince them that we really want to know.
Now, someone may point out that half our college freshman drop out before their sophomore year, that a million of our HS graduates are in remedial courses every year when they get to college, and so on. I know that, so let’s, at least initially, not talk to poorly-performing students. Instead, to get our feet wet, let’s give serious interviews to the ones who will graduate summa cum laude from Yale, Stanford, Princeton, MIT and Harvard. You know, the ones who will get the Nobel Prizes one day. Surely it is not so hard to identify the ten most academically promising and thoughtful of our HS seniors each year, and, after graduation, at least ask them if they would be willing to share some of their observations and thoughts in a conversation with us.
This would give us a small first step, and a fresh one, on the way to putting Students First, and start to put an end to our really dumb neglect of this rich resource for helping us understand how to do our education jobs better for their younger peers.
I can only hope that Mr. Gates, with his hopes to improve teacher training, and Michelle Rhee, with her new push to pay attention to students for a change, are listening to this.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
www.tcr.org/blog

Madison School District Talented & Gifted Plan: December, 2010

Madison School District Administration

The last Talented and Gifted (TAG) Education Plan was adopted by the MMSD Board of Education in 1991. With state statute and policy reform, alignment with current District strategic planning, and a desire to utilize research in exemplary practice, approval of a comprehensive Talented and Gifted Plan has become a District priority.
This document is meant to be a guide as the Division aims to achieve its mission in alignment with the MMSD Strategic Plan, the State of Wisconsin statutes and administrative rules for gifted and talented education, and the National Association for Gifted Children standards.
There will be a review of the Plan, with status reports issued to the Board of Education, in January and June 2010. Adjustments to the Plan will be documented at that time.
Wisconsin State Statute 121.02(1) (t), and Administrative Rule PI 8.01(2)(t).2 require school districts to identify those students who give evidence of high performance capability as talented and gifted and provide those students with access to appropriate systematic and continuous instruction. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) standards complements the Wisconsin framework and provides a guide for quality educational programming.
The Plan below identifies the following categories as areas in need of improvement in MMSD Talented and Gifted Programming. The primary focus in developing this Plan has been in the areas of identification, programming, and professional development.

Rhode Island’s 3-tiered high school diploma system described

Jennifer Jordan, via a kind reader’s email:

State education officials appear ready to move forward with their plan to establish a three-tier high school diploma system tied to student performance on state tests, and will start drafting changes to the regulations.
At a well-attended work session Thursday, the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education discussed the details of the plan, which differs significantly from the regulations the Regents approved in 2008.
Regent Colleen Callahan expressed concerns with the proposal, saying it places too much weight on the standardized tests, which were not designed to be high-stakes or to determine what kind of diploma a student receives.
“I’m worried about tests being the determining factor, as opposed to other parts of the system,” Callahan said, a reference to grades and student portfolios or projects.

The Six Major Components of the MMSD High School Plan

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

In an earlier post, I provided my understanding of the background of the protest at West High about the proposal for changes in the District’s high school curriculum. I explained how the proposal was an outgrowth of the work that has gone on at the high schools for the last few years under the auspices of a federal grant, known as the REaL grant (for Relationships, Engagement and Learning).
That proposal, which will affect all four of the District’s comprehensive high schools and is now known as the High School Career and College Readiness Plan, has since evolved somewhat, partially in response to the feedback that has been received and partially as a consequence of thinking the proposals through a bit more.
Here is where things currently stand.
The high school proposal should start a conversation that could last for a few years regarding a long-term, systematic review of our curriculum and the way it is delivered to serve the interests of all learners. What’s currently on the table is more limited in scope, though it is intended to serve as the foundation for later work.
The principal problem the proposal is meant to address is that we currently don’t have any district-defined academic standards at the high school level. There is no established set of expectations for what skills students should be learning in each subject area each year. Since we don’t have any basic expectations, we also don’t have any specific and consistent goals for accelerated learning. A corollary of this is that we really don’t have many ways to hold a teacher accountable for the level of learning that goes on in his or her classroom. Also, we lack a system of assessments that would let us know how our students are progressing through high school.

Lots of related links:

Teaching Math to the Talented

Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann

In Vancouver last winter, the United States proved its competitive spirit by winning more medals–gold, silver, and bronze–at the Winter Olympic Games than any other country, although the German member of our research team insists on pointing out that Canada and Germany both won more gold medals than the United States. But if there is some dispute about which Olympic medals to count, there is no question about American math performance: the United States does not deserve even a paper medal.
Maintaining our productivity as a nation depends importantly on developing a highly qualified cadre of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other professionals. To realize that objective requires a system of schooling that produces students with advanced math and science skills. To see how well schools in the United States do at producing high-achieving math students, we compared the percentage of U.S. students in the high-school graduating Class of 2009 with advanced skills in mathematics to percentages of similarly high achievers in other countries.

Madison grapples with how to serve ‘Talented and Gifted’

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader’s email:

Three times a week, Van Hise Elementary fifth-grader Eve Sidikman and two fellow students from her school board a bus bound for GEMS, the Madison school district’s “Growing Elementary Math Students” program for students whose math abilities are so high they aren’t challenged in a standard classroom.
Eve’s bus also makes the rounds to Randall and Thoreau before pulling up to the curb at Shorewood Elementary, where Eve and her GEMS classmates have a two-hour math session taught by a member of the district’s Talented and Gifted staff.
“She teaches it in a creative and fun way,” Eve, who was placed in GEMS after her mother sought out and paid for a national test that proved Eve was capable of acing eighth-grade math, said of her teacher. “I think she’s preparing us for our middle school years well.”
The Madison School district is grappling with how best to serve students deemed “Talented and Gifted,” or TAG in district shorthand — partly to stem a talent drain through open enrollment, partly to satisfy a vocal group of dissatisfied parents, and partly to find more Eves who don’t necessarily have a family with the financial means, determination and know-how to capitalize on their student’s untapped talents.
District critics say change is happening too slowly — something Superintendent Dan Nerad admits — and programs like GEMS are few and far between. Advocates also acknowledge, however, there is skepticism of gifted services among both the public and educators at a time when so many students fail to meet even minimal standards.

Lots of related links:

Watch, listen or read an interview with UW-Madison Education Professor Adam Gamoran. Gamoran was interviewed in Gayle Worland’s article.

AP saves money for families, but what about taxpayers?

Jay Matthews

In Advanced Placement Nation, that version of America populated by high school students taking college-level AP courses and tests, Florida covers a huge portion of the map. The St. Petersburg Times points out the state is number one in the percentage of graduating seniors taking AP tests and number five in the percentage of seniors passing them.
So, Times reporter Ron Matus reveals, the newspaper decided to see if Florida was getting its money’s worth for paying its students’ AP testing fees, something only two other states do. The Times analysis concluded that the program was saving college families tens of millions of dollars they don’t have to pay for college courses that AP exempts their students from taking. Whether taxpayers are also saving money is more difficult to determine, Matus said.
“Florida students passed 114,430 AP tests this year,” Matus wrote, “up from 66,511 five years ago. Even assuming a fair chunk of those tests won’t translate into credits, the Times estimates Florida families will save at least $40 million in tuition and fees.”

Why Students Don’t Write Research Papers in High School

Catherine Gewertz via Will Fitzhugh:

Those of you who lament the state of high school students’ research and writing skills will be interested in a discussion that’s been unfolding at the National Association of Scholars. It began a couple weeks ago with the publication of a previously undisclosed report on why students are not learning–let alone mastering– the skills of crafting substantial research papers.
The report is here, and the explanation of its origins and disclosure is described in the press release here. A response from a frustrated high school English teacher is here.
The report found that most social studies/history teachers never assign moderately long research papers. Most of the teachers–whose student loads often surpass 150–said they can’t afford the time necessary to grade such papers.
This is hardly a new conversation. Consider the work done by Achieve and ACT on this issue, and the look Cincinnati took at it last year. And Will Fitzhugh, who was the driving force behind the recently disclosed paper, has been tirelessly advocating for rigorous high school research papers for years. A retired history teacher, he runs the Concord Review, the only journal that publishes high school students’ history research papers, and blogs as well. (He sums up his views on the importance of research papers in this EdWeek commentary, from a few years ago, and more recently on The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.)
On a related note, another recent paper pinpointed a fragmented high school English curriculum and a neglect of close-reading skills as key explanations for teenagers’ poor reading skills. That paper was written by one of the architects of Massachusetts’ academic standards, former state board member Sandra Stotsky, and published by the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW).
While the reflections on students’ mastery of reading, writing and research skills are hardly new, they take on an interesting dimension (and more urgency, perhaps?) with the widespread adoption of common standards that envision a significant shift in how literacy skills are taught.

2002 History Research Paper Study:

Among those teachers who do not assign research papers, the predominant factor is time. Namely, the time it takes to correct and grade the assigned papers and the time research papers can take away from other curriculum priorities.
The majority (82%) of teachers say it is difficult to find adequate time to devote to reading and grading the research papers they assign. Almost half (49%) of teachers say that is very difficult to find the time, one third (33%) say that it is somewhat difficult.
Underscoring that difficulty is that grading papers cuts into teacher’s personal time–more than six in ten specify non-school time, or personal time, as the place where they grade papers. Specifically, one in five (20%) grades papers at home or outside of school, 10% do so on weekends and 15% on their own time, 8% say they use evenings or late nights, 3% use time in the early morning and 1% assign papers over a holiday or break.
Since time is such an important consideration, it is not surprising that teachers value the timeliness of paper submission. On a scale of one to ten, 70% ranked submitting the paper on time as a “9” or a “10.” In terms of grading importance, timeliness is followed by the quality of written expression and a well-defined, important thesis or hypothesis.

“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
www.tcr.org/blog

Madison Community Conversation on Education Nov 9

Ken Syke, via email:

All community members are invited to participate in a Community Conversation on Education during which attendees can share – in small group discussions – their hopes and concerns for public education in Madison.
Join the Community Conversation on Education
Share your concerns and hopes for public education in Madison. Sponsors United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison, Madison Teachers, Inc., Madison Metropolitan School District and UW-Madison School of Education have organized an evening of focus questions and small group discussion intended to elicit ideas for action.
When: Tuesday, November 9 • 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Where: CUNA Mutual Group Building • 5910 Mineral Point Road
Who: Parents/Guardians, Educators, High School Students, Community Members
To register, go to www.Madison4Education.org or call 663-1879.
Seating capacity is 200 so please register soon. It is not necessary to have seen the movie Waiting for Superman.
Transportation from a few specific sites will be available to registrants, as will be childcare and language interpretation. However, it’s important to register to obtain these supports.

More on honors classes and racism

Posted on 10/18 to the East High Community list serv, in response to a description of the MMSD high school reform proposal. Posted here with the author’s permission.
Dear East Community:
I contribute to this discussion group only once in a blue moon, but this issue is near and dear to my heart and I am compelled to comment. I cannot think of a more important issue than that of race and racism in our educational institutions.
I speak as a lifelong political progressive who has been active in community issues relating to racism and economic and social disparities for thirty years, from Cleveland to Chicago’s south side to Madison. More important, I speak as an adult basic instructor in mathematics at MATC who teaches many of the students that have been failed by their experience in the Madison schools, most of them students of color or students mired in the low margins of the socioeconomic system.
With that said, it frustrates and saddens me see how many well-meaning people have this issue exactly backward. It is not racist school policy to offer multiple tracks, specifically honors or AP TAG classes. Rather, racist school policy – of the most insidious nature imaginable – is failing to offer those classes because students of color aren’t in them. That argument implicitly says that students of color cannot achieve, and that message speaks volumes about the difference between looking fair in some lowest-common-denominator way versus fighting for the hard and true and noble path in student achievement.
Simply put, we should have TAG classes and they should be filled with students of every class, race and color. That they have historically not been filled with students of every class, race and color is the real issue. It tells us that our methods for evaluating students are abysmal, even abusive (how many of you have enjoyed watching your 4th grader take class time to learn to use a squeeze ball to reduce stress on standardized tests?). It tells us that we are not successfully seeking out students of tremendous potential because we don’t understand them or don’t know how to relate to them or reach them. It also says that we fail to properly appreciate what a culture of demanding expectations of achievement can do for every student in a classroom, especially when we demand of ourselves to understand and embrace each of our students as strikingly unique individuals and not achievers based upon highly overrated and dubious “educational standards,” standardized test scores or other unhelpful common denominators.
The progress of my classes at MATC this semester is typical and no surprise to me. I have two algebra classes. One, downtown, is mostly white and/or middle class. The other, in South Madison, is almost entirely students of color, most with difficult personal circumstances, most of whom have always failed at math. One class is achieving well enough. The other class is over-achieving, pushed hard, pushing me back, engaged, holding an average grade of AB. Any guesses which is which?
As educators and supporters of our schools we can do so much better than we do. But we cannot do better by pretending that differentiation in a classroom can accomplish the same thing as a motivated rainbow of a class with a class-wide ethic to achieve deep understanding and a drive to overcome commonplace expectations.
I say that we need both TAG classes and the recruiting methods and policies to make sure that they reflect every kind of brilliance in our community.
Sincerely,
Pete Nelson


As they say, “Friend speaks my mind.”

Higher percentage of Pr. George’s seniors taking – and passing – AP tests

Michael Birnbaum

The percentage of Prince George’s County high school seniors taking at least one Advanced Placement exam is rising, as is the percentage of those achieving passing grades.
For the Class of 2010, the percentage taking an AP test rose to 35 percent, up from 27 percent for the Class of 2009, according to data released by the school system. Of the tests they took, 26.3 percent received passing grades of 3, 4 or 5 in 2010, up from 24.6 percent in 2009.

Advanced Placement, Gifted Education & A Hometown Debate

Anna Peterson, via a kind reader’s email:

This afternoon, I received an outraged phone call from my sister. “A bunch of obnoxious and pushy parents are demanding West High offer more AP classes. They say West needs to improve talented and gifted classes. Can you believe it? I knew this would happen someday.” Although my sister’s characterization of these parents’ complaints was less than completely accurate, her impressions and outrage will be shared with many members of my high school’s community. This makes me both frustrated and concerned for my former school.
Madison West High School prides itself on its diversity, fine arts programs, and impressive academic achievements, and West prepared most of my classmates well for our college careers. The preparation, however, did not involve many AP classes. Some of my classmates took AP exams for subjects in which they had not had official AP classes, and they often scored well. But many of us took only an AP language exam or maybe an AP calculus test. Historically, West’s teachers have resisted forgoing their own curricula in favor of those dictated by the College Board. And with instructional minutes treated like a precious commodity, I can see why many teachers don’t want to sacrifice the six weeks of school after the AP exams to the severe senioritis that overcame my classmates and myself in the few AP classes I did take. I have great respect for my teachers’ anti-AP position, and I think West is a better school for it. So whether or not these “obnoxious and pushy parents” are demanding AP classes for their gifted children, I share my sister’s skepticism of changing West’s curriculum to fit with that of the College Board.

Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools.

On the Gifted & Talented Complaint Against the Madison School District

Peter Sobol

A group of West High parents have filed a complaint concerning the perceived lack of sufficient gifted and talented programming as mandated by state statute.

A group of 50 parents in the West High School attendance area has asked state education officials to investigate whether the Madison School District is violating state law by denying high-achieving students access to the “talented and gifted” programming parents say they deserve.
In a Sept. 20 complaint to the state Department of Public Instruction made public Tuesday, the parent group argued that freshmen and sophomores at West have limited opportunities for advanced English, biology and social studies classes

I have heard similar complaints expressed by MG parents. (Some of which are addressed by recent changes to the high school science curriculum for freshman and sophomores. )

Much more on the complaint here.

Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools

greatmadisonschools.org, via a kind reader’s email:

News Release, Complaint attached

Fifty Madison School District parents filed a formal complaint on September 20, 2010, with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (“DPI”) against the Madison School District for violating State statutes for gifted education. The complaint targets Madison West High School‘s refusal to provide appropriate programs for students identified as academically gifted.

State statutes mandate that “each school board shall provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented.” The DPI stipulates that this programming must be systematic and continuous, from kindergarten through grade 12. Madison schools have been out of compliance with these standards since 1990, the last time the DPI formally audited the District’s gifted educational services.

“Despair over the lack of TAG services has driven Madison families out of the district,” said Lorie Raihala, a parent in the group. “Hundreds have left through open enrollment, and many have cited the desire for better opportunities for gifted students as the reason for moving their children.”

Recognizing this concern, Superintendent Dan Nerad has stated that “while some Madison schools serve gifted students effectively, there needs to be more consistency across the district.”

“At the secondary level, the inconsistencies are glaring,” said Raihala. “There are broad disparities among Madison’s public high schools with regard to the number of honors, advanced/accelerated, and AP courses each one offers. Also, each school imposes different requirements and restrictions on students seeking advanced courses. Surprisingly, Madison’s much touted West High School offers the fewest advanced course options for ninth and tenth graders. While the other schools offer various levels of English, science, and social science, Madison West requires all students to follow a standardized program of academic courses, regardless of their ability. This means that students with SAT/ACT scores already exceeding those of most West seniors (obtained via participation in the Northwestern University Midwest Area Talent Search program) must sit through the same courses as students working at basic and emerging proficiency levels.”

Related:

Gayle Worland:Parents file complaint over ‘talented and gifted’ school programming.

Are Honors Classes Racist?

High Expectations For All Students is the Way to Beat the Achievement Gaps

Simpson Street Free Press
editorial
Chantal Van Ginkel, age 18
Historically, Madison West High School has not had a spotless regard regarding race relations. Before and during the 1990’s, the school was accused by some of segregation. Most white students had their lockers on the second floor, while most minority students used lockers on the ground floor.
To the school’s credit, changes in policies have greatly improved a once hostile environment. Some of these changes include getting rid of remedial classes, and implementing SLC’s or Small Learning Communities.
A more recent change, however, has sparked controversy and heated debate. Madison West High School plans to largely eliminate honors classes. This is part of an attempt to provide equal opportunity for all students by homogenizing their classroom experience.
At one time, this might have been a good step toward desegregation of West’s student body. It is not a good idea now.
To some extent, enrollment in honors courses of all Madison high schools is racially segregated. Affluent students and white students take advanced courses much more frequently than other students.
But in my opinion, the lack of more rigorous courses is a problem. It is a problem for all students at West. Many parents, students and some faculty share this sentiment.
Recently, a petition signed by over a hundred West attendance area parents requested that 9th and 10th grade honors classes be reinstated. When Superintendent Nerad took steps to make this, some members of the West High teaching staff spoke up. They asserted that honors classes are racist. The project to reinstate advanced course offerings for West’s freshmen and sophomores was then abandoned.
Honors classes, in and of themselves, are not inherently racist. Rather, the expectation that only certain students will take these classes is the problem. The fact that too many minority students end up in remedial courses is racist, but eliminating rigorous courses is not the answer.
As writers for this newspaper have said many times, the real racism is the cancer of low expectations. High expectations for all of our students is how we will beat the achievement gaps in local schools. Low expectations will only make our problem worse.

Note: Madison West High School has not had honors classes in 9th and 10th grade for several years. (The only exception to that is the historically lone section of Accelerated Biology, which some West teachers have repeatedly tried to get rid of.) Not only that, but Madison West High School is the only Madison high school that does not have any honors/advanced/accelerated classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade. All West 9th and 10th grade students are expected to take regular English 9 and 10 and regular Social Studies 9 and 10, in completely heterogeneous (by ability) classes.
Note: The petition mentioned by the author — the one requesting honors classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade — has now been signed by almost 200 current, past and future West community members.

Free Online School Curriculum Draws $11 Million in Funding

Tomio Geron:

or public schools looking to improve their curricula, it’s hard to argue with a free product.
That has proved to be a good thing for Web-based education company Everfi, which has raised $11 million in Series A financing from New Enterprise Associates and Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, as well as angels including Michael Chasen, chief executive of Blackboard, which sells a learning management system.
Everfi provides Web-based learning programs for students, particularly in public schools, focusing on subjects that are not covered in traditional courses, such as nutrition and wellness, personal finance and student loan management.
The company’s curriculum is different from the traditional textbook model because it includes 3-D animated gaming-oriented applications. For example, for a lesson about stocks, students virtually visit the New York Stock Exchange and learn how to make a trade, while for a section about student loans, students virtually go to a college campus and learn how to fill out forms and the like.

A Look at the Small Learning Community Experiment

Alex Tabarrok:

Did Bill Gates waste a billion dollars because he failed to understand the formula for the standard deviation of the mean? Howard Wainer makes the case in the entertaining Picturing the Uncertain World (first chapter with the Gates story free here). The Gates Foundation certainly spent a lot of money, along with many others, pushing for smaller schools and a lot of the push came because people jumped to the wrong conclusion when they discovered that the smallest schools were consistently among the best performing schools.
…….
States like North Carolina which reward schools for big performance gains without correcting for size end up rewarding small schools for random reasons. Worst yet, the focus on small schools may actually be counter-productive because large schools do have important advantages such as being able to offer more advanced classes and better facilities.
Schools2 All of this was laid out in 2002 in a wonderful paper I teach my students every year, Thomas Kane and Douglas Staiger’s The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures.
In recent years Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have acknowledged that their earlier emphasis on small schools was misplaced. Perhaps not coincidentally the Foundation recently hired Thomas Kane to be deputy director of its education programs.

Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

Chicago Teacher’s Union: ‘Education on the cheap’ – Online Classes

Fran Spielman:

The Chicago Teachers Union on Tuesday accused Mayor Daley’s handpicked school team of hiring “baby sitters” to provide “education on the cheap” — online, after-school classes in reading and math that will extend one of the nation’s shortest school days for 5,500 students.
“When the kids are tired and they want to go home and they don’t want to do this any more, what happens? I’m a little concerned about how this plays out over an entire year,” said union president Karen Lewis.
At a news conference at Walsh Elementary School, 2015 S. Peoria, Daley acknowledged that “some parents and teachers will not support” his efforts to use computerized learning to extend the school day.
But he argued that an extra 90 minutes a day would add up to 255 more hours a year. That’s a 25 percent increase in a school day that pales by comparison to other major cities, he said.
“This is all about children and not about adults. . . . Education doesn’t end at 2:45” p.m., the mayor said.
Schools CEO Ron Huberman added, “All of our efforts to expand the school day with the traditional work force were, unfortunately, rejected. This has been the mayor’s push to say, ‘Despite constraints, we must find a way to do this.’ “

Virtual learning is an important and desirable part of the K-12 world.

‘Impossible’ working conditions for teachers

I have just returned from giving a three-day workshop on student history research papers for English and Social Studies teachers, both high school and middle school, in Collier Country, Florida.
They assessed and discussed four high school student research papers using the procedures of the National Writing Board. We went over some of the consequences for a million of our students each year who graduate from high school and are required to take (and pay for) non-credit remedial courses when they get to college.
I talked to them about the advantages students have if they have written a serious paper, like the International Baccalaureate Extended Essay, in high school, and the difficulties with both reading nonfiction books and writing term papers which students (and college graduates) have if they have not been asked to do those tasks in high school.
It was a diligent, pleasant and interesting group of teachers, and I was glad to have had the chance to meet with them for a few days. They seemed genuinely interested in having their students do serious papers and be better prepared for college (and career).
At lunch on the last day, however, I discovered that Florida is a “right to work” state, and that their local union is rather weak, so they each have six classes of 30 or more students (180 students). One teacher is being asked to teach seven classes this year, with 30 or more students in each (210).
After absorbing the fact of this shameful and irresponsible number of assigned students, I realized that if these teachers were to ask for the 20-page history research paper which is typical of the ones I publish in The Concord Review, they would have 3,600 pages to read, correct, and comment on when they were turned in, not to mention the extra hours guiding students through their research and writing efforts. The one teacher with 210 students would have 4,200 pages of papers presented to him at the end of term.
It made me both sad and angry that these willing teachers, who want their students to be prepared for higher education, have been given impossible working conditions which will most certainly prevent them from helping their students get ready for the academic reading and writing tasks which await them in college (and career).
The Washington Post
theanswersheet.com
25 August 2010
Valerie Strauss

Excellent Resources for Teaching Shakespeare to Gifted Students

Carol Fertig

The study of Shakespeare never grows old. His plays are counted among the greatest works in English literature. He was an outstanding observer and communicator of human character. He expressed enduring wisdom and wit. Presented appropriately, students–especially gifted students–are fascinated by Shakespeare and appreciate the opportunity to study and perform his plays. There are a number of excellent resources available to help teachers and parents expose their children to this icon of literature.
The Folger Shakespeare Library is located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. It is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials. On its Web site, there is a Teach and Learn section that contains a wealth of information. Teaching resources for K-12 provide Shakespeare lesson plans and other materials for teachers, including audio and video podcasts, a blog, a Teachers’ Lounge forum, and an expanding list of web features. The Shakespeare for Kids section of the site offers games, activities, and creative fun. Folger is a strong advocate of performance-based teaching, which is reflected in the resources at their Web site.
The University of Texas at Austin created Shakespeare Kids. It is designed for young people and also for teachers, parents, and administrators who work with students in grades K-8. The resource page contains an excellent list of Internet sites, books, and films.

AP Eliminates Guessing Penalty

Scott Jaschik:

The College Board is about to announce a change in the Advanced Placement program that will end the penalty for wrong answers.
So after decades in which test takers were warned against random guessing, they may now do so without fear of hurting their scores. The shift is notable because the SAT continues to penalize wrong answers, such that those who cannot eliminate any of the answers are discouraged from guessing. The ACT, which has gained market share against the SAT in recent years, does not have such a penalty. At this point, the College Board is changing its policy only for the AP exams.
Under College Board policy to date, AP scores have been based on the total number of correct answers minus a fraction for every incorrect answer — one-fourth of a point for questions with five possible answers and one-third of a point for questions with four possible answers. The idea is that no one should engage in “random guessing.” The odds shift, of course, if a test taker can eliminate one or more possible answers, and the College Board’s advice to test takers acknowledges this, saying that “if you have SOME knowledge of the question, and can eliminate one or more answer choices, informed guessing from among the remaining choices is usually to your advantage.”

A Study of M.C. Escher for Gifted Students

CFertig:

M.C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist known for his mathematically inspired constructions that seem impossible. His artwork represents explorations of infinity, architecture, fractals, and tessellations. Gifted students find his work fascinating and love studying his prints, which are readily available in books and on the Internet. Young people also appreciate learning about the theories behind Escher’s artwork and trying to replicate his techniques.

Ignorance By Degrees Colleges serve the people who work there more than the students who desperately need to learn something.

Mark Bauerlein:

Higher education may be heading for a reckoning. For a long time, despite the occasional charge of liberal dogma on campus or of a watered-down curriculum, people tended to think the best of the college and university they attended. Perhaps they attributed their career success or that of their friends to a diploma. Or they felt moved by a particular professor or class. Or they received treatment at a university hospital or otherwise profited from university-based scientific research. Or they just loved March Madness.
Recently, though, a new public skepticism has surfaced, with galling facts to back it up. Over the past 30 years, the average cost of college tuition and fees has risen 250% for private schools and nearly 300% for public schools (in constant dollars). The salaries of professors have also risen much faster than those of other occupations. At Stanford, to take but one example, the salaries of full professors have leapt 58% in constant dollars since the mid-1980s. College presidents do even better. From 1992 to 2008, NYU’s presidential salary climbed to $1.27 million from $443,000. By 2008, a dozen presidents had passed the million-dollar mark.
Meanwhile, tenured and tenure-track professors spend ever less time with students. In 1975, 43% of college teachers were classified as “contingent”–that is, they were temporary instructors and graduate students; today that rate is 70%. Colleges boast of high faculty-to-student ratios, but in practice most courses have a part-timer at the podium.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”

Autism and the Madison School District

Michael Winerip, via a kind reader:

People with autism are often socially isolated, but the Madison public schools are nationally known for including children with disabilities in regular classes. Now, as a high school junior, Garner, 17, has added his little twist to many lives.
He likes to memorize plane, train and bus routes, and in middle school during a citywide scavenger hunt, he was so good that classmates nicknamed him “GPS-man.” He is not one of the fastest on the high school cross-country team, but he runs like no other. “Garner enjoys running with other kids, as opposed to past them,” said Casey Hopp, his coach.
Garner’s on the swim team, too, and gets rides to practice with a teammate, Michael Salerno. On cold mornings, no one wants to be first in the water, so Garner thinks it’s a riot to splash everyone with a colossal cannonball. “They get angry,” the coach, Paul Eckerle, said. “Then they see it’s Garner, and he gets away with it. And that’s how practice begins.”

Two very different AP schools, both with good news

Jay Matthews:

I received some interesting news recently from two Washington area high schools, Washington-Lee in Arlington County and the Friendship Collegiate Academy in the District. W-L, as it is often called, is a regular public school. Friendship is a public charter school. About 34 percent of the W-L students are low-income. That figure is twice as high, 70 percent, at Friendship.

W-L graduates about 400 seniors a year, Friendship about 250. They both have dedicated teachers and ambitious programs to give as many students as possible exposure to college-level courses. W-L has both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Friendship also has AP, plus access to a significant number of University of Maryland and University of District of Columbia courses.

Friendship has fewer affluent, college-educated families than W-L does. (Arlington, where W-L is, has just been declared by the Brookings Institution as having the largest portion of adults with bachelor’s degrees, 68 percent, of any U.S. county.) Friendship students mostly come from D.C. schools with standards not as high as those in Arlington. So they start high school, on average, at a lower level.

How will Portland schools fare when gifted education funding is cut?

Kristin Carle:

Few U.S. citizens would agree to cutting special education funds. After all, students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) obviously learn differently and need increased time and attention from educators in order to ensure they are attending to and learning the academic standards. However, another group of students who learn differently and need time and attention to guide their learning of the academic standards are being denied this year. These are the gifted students.
According to the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Policy Insider, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee met to draft the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget for the Department of Education. Although the budget has increased 3.2% since FY 2010, the budget completely eliminates the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Student program. “The 20 year-old Javits program is the only federal program that supports the unique learning needs of America’s three million students with gifts and talents.”
Portland schools may not feel an immediate impact from the loss of the Javits Program. However, this program provides scholarships to the disadvantaged gifted student and research support in the area of effective instructional practices for these students who learn differently than their peers.

Dual credits encourage students on path to higher education

Carmen McCollum:

Thanks to a dual credit program at her high school, Casey Hahney, of Hammond, was able to transfer her credits and enroll at Ivy Tech Community College Northwest.
Dual credit is designed for high school juniors and seniors, enabling them to earn college credits while fulfilling high school requirements.
Educators say dual credit may not mean that students will finish college in less than four years but it may reduce the number of students finishing in six years.
Local colleges and universities recently reported six-year graduation rates in 2008 well below 50 percent, also less than the national average of 55.9 percent.
Not every high school graduate will go on to college. But for those who do, a basic high school diploma may not give them the preparation they need. Dual credit classes range from English to anatomy or engineering. It saves times and money, and gives students a leg up, helping to prepare them for a successful college career.

Related: Janet Mertz’s tireless effort: Credit for non-MMSD courses.

Gifted education might benefit from some new terminology

Ron Legge
Gifted and Talented Education is a broad term for special practices used in the education of children who have been identified as intellectually gifted. There is no common definition for exactly what that means. GATE supporters argue that the regular curriculum fails to meet their special needs. Therefore, these students must have modifications that will enable them to develop their full potential.
In Virginia, each school division establishes procedures for the identification of gifted students and for the delivery of services to those students. GATE funding comes from the state with a local match. Consequently, there is some variation between school divisions in the strength of their GATE programs.
Each Virginia school division must develop a GATE plan. The larger school systems often have separate GATE teachers and classrooms. Others use the regular classroom teacher (often specially trained) to practice what is called differentiation within the classroom.
Differentiation is not providing the GATE student with an extra worksheet. It might be more like, for example, having the GATE students write a novella while the other students are writing a short report. The GATE students may also work together in small groups to solve teacher-generated problems related to the curriculum the whole class is working on…..
But GATE has long struggled with an educational system that has been much more focused on the children struggling to reach a certain level of proficiency. This became more pronounced with the advent of SOL tests and No Child Left Behind. GATE also suffers from charges that it is elitist and focuses on economically advantaged and non-minority children. Any time children and academic labels come together, it can make for a highly-charged environment.
There is no doubt that some children’s academic skills put them in a very different category from the majority of students. And who could argue with the concept that public education should try to provide specialized programs to meet each student’s specific needs. I think advocates of gifted education would get more public support if they used different terminology. Special education is defined by the type of curriculum not the intellectual capabilities of the students. The identification process can be arbitrary in defining who is “gifted” and who is not. And everyone has the capability to be talented at something….

Why Intelligent People Fail

Accelerating Future:

Content from Sternberg, R. (1994). In search of the human mind. New York: Harcourt Brace.
1. Lack of motivation. A talent is irrelevant if a person is not motivated to use it. Motivation may be external (for example, social approval) or internal (satisfaction from a job well-done, for instance). External sources tend to be transient, while internal sources tend to produce more consistent performance.
2. Lack of impulse control. Habitual impulsiveness gets in the way of optimal performance. Some people do not bring their full intellectual resources to bear on a problem but go with the first solution that pops into their heads.
3. Lack of perserverance and perseveration. Some people give up too easily, while others are unable to stop even when the quest will clearly be fruitless.
4. Using the wrong abilities. People may not be using the right abilities for the tasks in which they are engaged.

The Pitfalls in Identifying a Gifted Child

New York Times
Thirty-seven states have some sort of mandate to address the needs of gifted and talented students in public schools. While many parents and teachers have mixed views about the tests used to identify talent and “giftedness,” the programs are strongly supported by many parents who cannot afford to send their children to private schools. They are hard to overhaul, for various reasons.
In New York City, officials are seeking a new exam for admissions of gifted students that may involve testing children as young as 3. The city says it is responding to complaints that minorities are underrepresented in the current selection process and that many parents have learned to game the system. Is New York’s approach a step forward or backward? What does the latest research show in identifying gifted and talented students?

“I Don’t Want To Be A Smarty Anymore”

Tamara Fisher:

One day this year, one of my elementary gifted students went home and proclaimed (in obvious distress) to his mom that he didn’t want to be a “smarty” anymore. Turns out the kids in his class had been teasing him about his very-apparent intelligence. In his meltdown, he expressed that he just wanted to be normal, that he wanted to know what it was like to not worry about everything so much, that he just wanted to be a regular kid and not “stick out” so much all the time.
I wondered how many of my other students wished at times that they weren’t so intelligent. What were their thoughts on the “love/hate” relationship gifted individuals sometimes have with their giftedness? As a means of offering you some insight into the mind of a gifted child, here are their responses to the prompt, “Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so smart because…” [To their credit, about half of the kids said they were glad they were intelligent. I’ll post those responses separately.] [All names are student-chosen pseudonyms.]
“I get taken advantage of. People ask to be my partner or work with me on a paper and I am stuck doing all the work. The only thing they do is make sure their name is on the paper or project.” Charlotte, 8th grade

How Many Graduates Does It Take to Be No. 1?

Winnie Hu:

There will be no valedictory speech at Jericho High School’s graduation on Sunday. With seven seniors laying claim to the title by compiling A-plus averages, no one wanted to sit through a solid half-hour of inspirational quotations and sappy memories.
Instead, the seven will perform a 10-minute skit titled “2010: A Jericho Odyssey,” about their collective experience at this high-achieving Long Island high school, finishing up with 30 seconds each to say a few words to their classmates and families.
“When did we start saying that we should limit the honors so only one person gets the glory?” asked Joe Prisinzano, the Jericho principal.

Growth of AP in Seattle – sort of

Charlie Mas:

In the Advanced Learning work session there was a slide that showed the growth of AP and IB in the District. It is true that many more students are taking AP classes than ever before. But it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.
Take, for example, Roosevelt High School. At Roosevelt about half of the 10th grade students used to take AP European History. This is typically the first AP available to students, one of the few open to 10th grade students on the typical pathway. The class is challenging for 10th grade students and the fact that about half of the students took it is a testament to Roosevelt’s academic strength. The other half of the students took a history class similar to the one that students all across district and the state take in the 10th grade.

Minnesota School District School district ponders whether to get rid of class rank

Tom Weber:

School officials in Mounds View will decide next week whether to get rid of class rank for graduating seniors. If they do, they’ll join a handful of other public school districts who have made the switch in recent years, and who say it might help some students get into college.
More than 400 seniors from Mounds View High School got their diplomas last week during commencement ceremonies. The school doesn’t list a valedictorian — but rather reconizes the top 10 ranking graduates during the ceremony.
That part of commencement might be gone next year, if the Mounds View School Board votes next Tuesday to ditch class rank. Class rank compares one student’s grade point average with that of his or her classmates.
Principal Julie Wikelius says the top of each class at Mounds View is compacted. Plenty of students earn good grades in honors and advanced classes, which creates a tight battle for the top-ranking GPA.

America’s Best High Schools – 2010

Newsweek:

Each year, Newsweek picks the best high schools in the country based on how hard school staffs work to challenge students with advanced placement college-level courses and tests. Just over 1600 schools–only six percent of all the public schools in the U.S.–made the list.
This year rankings have some fantastic new interactive features. We’ve teamed up with a data company called Factual to create individual profile pages for each school where students and faculty can comment and contribute. (For more information about how the rankings were calculated, see our FAQ.)

Mostly Milwaukee area high schools such as Rufus King (318) made the list. The only non-southeast Wisconsin high schools to make the list was Marshfield (370) and Eau Claire Memorial (1116). Marshfield High School offers 29 AP classes while Milwaukee Rufus King offers 0 and Eau Claire Memorial offers 14, via AP Course Ledger.
Related: Dane County High School AP course comparison.

Announcing the SUMMER 2010 Online Issue of Gifted Education Press Quarterly

via a Maurice Fisher email:

Dear Subscriber —
Could you share the following message with your STAFF, TEACHERS OR PARENTS? We are offering a complimentary copy of Gifted Education Press Quarterly. They would need to email me directly to receive our SUMMER 2010 issue. My email address is:
gifted@giftededpress.com
Please encourage your colleagues and friends to email me for a complimentary online subscription to GEPQ.
I need your help in locating new subscribers, and would greatly appreciate your asking colleagues and friends to contact me. We are now in a major political battle with federal and state governments to maintain gifted education programs in the public schools. I need your support in making Gifted Education Press Quarterly a resource available to all educators and parents who want to maintain and expand programs for gifted students! Your colleagues and friends should email me at: gifted@giftededpress.com. Thank you.
We’re all on a mission to advance the well-being of gifted education, and we all share a vision of excellence in this field. At this time in our nation’s history, it is important to maintain our leadership in education, science and the humanities. Therefore, I am asking the readers of Gifted Education Press Quarterly for your support to insure that we can continue publishing this Quarterly. Please consider sending a few dollars to help defray the costs of producing this important periodical in the gifted education field or ordering some of our books. We have been publishing GEPQ for 23 years with the goal of including all viewpoints on educating the gifted. Our address is: Gifted Education Press; 10201 Yuma Court; P.O. Box 1586; Manassas, VA 20109. Thank you.
I would also like to give you a special treat. Joan Smutny, the editor of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal has given me permission to place the entire Spring 2010 Journal on the Gifted Education Press web site in PDF format. This is a very important journal issue in the gifted education field because it contains 27 excellent articles on Advocating for Gifted Education Programs. I invite you to read and/or print any or all of these articles from our web site. There is no charge for accessing this journal! Just go to my web site at www.GiftedEdPress.com and click the link for Gifted Advocacy – Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal. Happy reading!
Members of the National Advisory Panel for Gifted Education Press Quarterly are:
Dr. Hanna David — Ben Gurion University at Eilat, Israel; Dr. James Delisle — Kent State University; Dr. Jerry Flack — University of Colorado; Dr. Howard Gardner — Harvard University; Ms. Margaret Gosfield – Editor, Gifted Education Communicator, Published by the California Association for the Gifted; Ms. Dorothy Knopper — Publisher, Open Space Communications; Mr. James LoGiudice — Bucks County, Pennsylvania IU No. 22; Dr. Bruce Shore — McGill University, Montreal, Quebec; Ms. Joan Smutny — National-Louis University, Illinois; Dr. Colleen Willard-Holt — Dean, Faculty of Education, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario; Ms. Susan Winebrenner — Consultant, San Marcos, California; Dr. Ellen Winner — Boston College.
Sincerely Yours in the Best Interests of the Gifted Children of America,
Maurice
Maurice Fisher, Ph.D.
Publisher
Gifted Education Press

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Seattle Board Work Sessions – Math and Advanced Learning

Charlie Mas:

The Board has two work sessions scheduled for this month.
The first, today, Thursday June 10 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, will be on Math. No agenda details are available but there is sure to be a powerpoint and it is sure to appear on the District web site soon. I have to believe that the Board is looking for a report on the implementation of the curricular alignment, the implementation of the Theory of Action from the High School textbook adoption, and some update on student academic progress in math.
Next week, on Wednesday, June 16, from 4:00pm to 5:30pm, will be a Board Work Session on Advanced Learning. I honestly cannot imagine what the District staff will have to report

Madison High School REal Grant Report to the School Board

Madison School District [4.6MB PDF]:

District administration, along with school leadership and school staff; have examined the research that shows thatfundamental change in education can only be accomplished by creating the opportunity for teachers to talk with one another regarding their instructional practice. The central theme and approach for REaL has heen to improve and enhance instructional practice through collaboration in order to increase student achievement. Special attention has been paid to ensure the work is done in a cross – district, interdepartmental and collaborative manner. Central to the work, are district and school based discussions focused on what skills and knowledge students need to know and be able to do, in order to be prepared for post-secondary education and work. Systemized discussions regarding curriculum aligmnent, course offerings, assessment systems, behavioral expectations and 21 st century skills are occurring across all four high schools and at the district level.
Collaborative professional development has been established to ensure that the work capitalizes on the expertise of current staff, furthers best practices that are already occurring within the MMSD high school classrooms, and enhances the skills of individuals at all levels from administration to classroom teachers needed. Our work to date has laid the foundation for further and more in-depth work to occur.
Since March of 2010, MMSD district and school staff has completed the following work to move the goals of the REaL Grant forward. Specific accomplishments aligning to REaL grant goals are listed below.
REaL Grant Goal 1: Improve Student Achievement for all students

  • Accomplishment I: Completed year 2 of professional development for Department Chairpersons to become instructional leaders. The work will continue this summer with the first ever Department Chairperson and Assistant Principal Summer Institute to focus on leading and fostering teacher collaboration in order to improve student achievement.
  • Accomplishment 2: Continued with planning for implementing the ACT Career and College Readiness Standards and the EP AS system. Visited with area districts to see the
    impact of effective implementation the EP AS system in order to ensure successful implementation within MMSD.

  • Accomplishment 3: Piloted the implementation of the EXPLORE test at Memorial, Sherman and with 9th grade AVID students at all four comprehensive high schools.
  • Accomplishment 4: This summer, in partnership with Monona Grove High School and Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA), MMSD will host the Aligned by Design: Aligning High School and Middle School English, Science, Math and Social Studies Courses to College/Career Readiness Skills. To be attended by teams of MMSD high school and middle school staff in July of 2010.
  • Accomplishment 5: Continued focused planning and development of a master communication system for the possible implementation of early release Professional Collaboration Time at MMSD High Schools. Schools have developed plans for effective teaming structures and accountability measures.
  • Accomplishment 6: District English leadership team developed recommendations for essential understandings in the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening for 9th and 10th grades. Following this successful model, similar work will occur in Math, Science and Social studies.

Related: Small Learning Community and English 10.
Bruce King, who evaluated the West High’s English 9 (one English class for all students) approach offers observations on the REal program beginning on page 20 of the PDF file.

Gender Gap for the Gifted in City Schools

Sharon Otterman:

When the kindergartners at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, one of New York City’s schools for gifted students, form neat boy-girl rows for the start of recess, the lines of girls reach well beyond the lines of boys.
A similar imbalance exists at gifted schools in East Harlem, where almost three-fifths of the students at TAG Young Scholars are girls, and the Lower East Side, where Alec Kulakowski, a seventh grader at New Explorations in Science and Technology and Math, considered his status as part of the school’s second sex and remarked, “It’s kind of weird and stuff.”
Weird or not, the disparity at the three schools is not all that different from the gender makeup at similar programs across the city: though the school system over all is 51 percent male, its gifted classrooms generally have more girls.

AP classes’ draw extends beyond extra grade points

Jay Matthews:

Like all human beings, educators accept rules and procedures that make sense to them, even when academic types wave data in their faces proving they are wrong. That appears to be the case with one of the most powerful and widespread practices in Washington area high schools — the extra grade point for college-level courses.
Thousands of students are taking panicked breaths wondering whether what I am about to reveal will incinerate their grade-point averages, keep them out of any college anyone has heard of and consign them to a life of begging for dollar bills like that scruffy guy on Lynn Street south of Key Bridge.
A new study shows that grade weighting for Advanced Placement courses is unnecessary. Schools have been promising students 3 grade points (usually given for a B) if they get a C in an AP course so they will not be frightened away by its college-level demands. It turns out, however, they will take AP with or without extra credit.

Autism’s effect on the ‘normal siblings’

SACHI FUJIMORI
When Gabby Abramowitz was younger, she was cautious about inviting new friends to the house. She wasn’t sure how they would react to her younger brother, Ben, who is autistic. And she didn’t want a repeat of the Simpsons incident. That was the time she had a friend over for dinner, and Ben sat at the table reciting the entire “Treehouse of Horror” Simpsons Halloween special.
Gabby pleaded with him to stop, but he persisted.
“My friend was like, ‘What’s going on?’ and then started laughing,” she said.
At that time, she was in elementary school and lacked the words and understanding to explain her brother’s condition. But with the help of her parents and through her own study, Gabby, now 16 and a sophomore at Tenafly High School, has grown to understand the nuances of autism and often speaks out to teach her peers while growing closer to Ben, 14.
Through her research, she found that her experiences, and those of others like her, often are overlooked. “I think the effect on siblings is underestimated. We get pushed into the background.”

Madison School District Online Survey: “Embedded Honors” High School Courses

via a kind reader’s email. The survey is apparently available via the District’s “Infinite Campus” system:

1. The Embedded Honors option provided work that was challenging for my child.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
2. Please provide an explanation to Question 1.
(empty box)
3. The Embedded Honors work allowed my child to go more in-depth into the content of the course.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
4. Please provide an explanation to Question 3.
(empty box)
5. For Embedded Honors, my child had to do more work than other students.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
6. For Embedded Honors, my child had to do more challenging work than other students.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
7. Mark the following learning options that were part of your child’s experience in the Embedded Honors for this corse.
o extension opportunities of class activities
o class discussions and labs to enhance my learning
o flexible pace of instruction
o access to right level of challenge in coursework
o opportunities to focus on my personal interests
o independent work (projects)
o opportunities to demonstrate my knowledge
o opportunities to explore a field of study
o additional reading assignments
o more challenging reading assignments
o additional writing assignments
o helpful teacher feedback on my work
o activities with other Embedded Honors students
o more higher-level thinking, less memorization
8. My child benefited from the Embedded Honors option for the course(s) for which he/she took, compared to courses without Embedded Honors.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree

Gifted students shortchanged as schools push low achievers

Jill Tucker

As California’s public schools have increasingly poured attention and resources into the state’s struggling students, high academic learners – the so-called gifted students – have been getting the short shrift, a policy decision that some worry could leave the United States at a competitive disadvantage.
Critics see courses tailored for exceptional students as elitist and not much of an issue when compared with the vast number of students who are lagging grades behind their peers or dropping out of school. But a growing chorus of parents and advocates is asking the contentious question: What about the smart kids?
“We have countries like India, Singapore, China, and they realize the future productivity of their country is an investment in their intellectual and creative resources,” said gifted education expert Joseph Renzulli.