What It Takes to Make a Student

A lengthy discussion of what it might take to close the minority achievement gap in the New York Times Magazine entitled, ” What It Takes to Make a Student”. The study Larry Winkler has so cogently referenced time and again here is highlighted.
The author concludes that low-income minority students need better educational opportunities than their middle class white counterparts. If there is a limited budget for education, does this mean then that those middle class students must accept less? Is it this thinking that is driving the elimination of diversity in our high school curricula? As I read this article, the greatest chance of overcoming disparities resides in early childhood and elementary experiences, not in dismantling the high school curriculum.

3 thoughts on “What It Takes to Make a Student”

  1. I think where the MMSD is getting it wrong is playing one end of the achievement gap off against the other. Students across the spectrum have to show improvement, not just the lower end. If this perpetuates the gap (and everyone moves up a few notches), that is a good thing. With limited resources, however, the devil is definitely in the details. What IS important is that the community has a say in how the MMSD proceeds, and I think we are slowly getting more input into the process, as opposed to the ends being dictated to us.

  2. Improvement for all students is necessary but not sufficient. We certainly do not want to close the achievement gap steady score at the lower end and falling scores at the higher end.
    I’m also not convinced that the current fiscal situation is the district’s sole limiter to academic progress. Before I could be convinced of that, I would want to see more public discussions on the Performance and Achievement Committee on a) curricula, b) what skills and experiences do students need (must have) by middle school, by high school, by graduation – more discussions of total sequence of learning, c) what can we do in the earlier grades to help to prepare our diverse student body for more advanced courses – academic, technical, etc., d) what results are we seeing. I would like to see this as part of the monthly agenda of this committee.
    In my opinion broad-based continued community involvement via dialogues and other mechanisms is also necessary but not sufficient. I think some of the items in the previous paragraph are a necessary first step. I would not support dismantling high school curricula until the School Board gets additional information from elem. and middle schools that feed into high school and from colleges that high schools feed into.
    For example, from my personal experience tutoring math in the elementary grades, I did not feel that children had the necessary math skills to go on to be successful math learners in middle school. This would concern me, because the math topics and the work require a sound understanding of math basics, and the students will take about 5-6 more years of increasingly advanced math classes – that’s a lot of additional math instruction built upon the math basics learned in elementary school. My understanding is there are categories on the various math assessments children are taking – what’s the data showing about strengths and weaknesses in what children are learning and how this is affecting different socio-economic cohorts (or other groupings of cohorts) of children in their studies of math over time.
    These are just a few of my thoughts. I’d be interested in hearing from others.

  3. I can tell you from working with Alternative School Students that many of those students do not have the needed math, reading, or English grammar skiills needed to enter the eighth grade. I suspect that many of their peers that stayed in their regular schools did not either.

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