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#118746  12/22/11 01:34 PM
Closing the achievement gap and gifted students

Member
Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 2359
Loc: MA

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/c...6ywO_story.htmlClosing the achievement gap, but at gifted students’ expense By Michael J. Petrilli and and Frederick M. Hess Washington Post December 15, 2011 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 highestachieving 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 lowincome children raised in households with fewer books and more television. The result is a wellintended but misguided crusade to solve via administrative fiat the United States’ longstanding achievement gap: the dramatic differences in test scores between white and minority students and between middleclass 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 highlevel classes. <end of excerpt>
_________________________
"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."  George Orwell

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#118752  12/22/11 03:28 PM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: Bostonian]

Member
Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 3152
Loc: California

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 highlevel classes.
Along those lines, has anyone who's 30ish or older looked at high school math books recently? The current trend is to fill them with colorful, distracting graphics and countless examples of Why We Use Math! and Fun Facts! and suchlike. The geometry text that my son's school uses is so full of the extraneous stuff (23 distractions per page), it's difficult to focus on the math. Plus, the challenging problems that used to make up the last 2025% of exercises in a given section are gone. It's as though no one is allowed to be good at math. Almost all of the questions are superficial and simplistic. DS studies independently, and we use an old book. This trend is a sorry example of how algebra and geometry have been diluted in the name of "accessibility." I don't understand why schools can't just teach basic geometry and honors geometry or something like that. But I guess it wouldn't be fair or something.

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#118779  12/23/11 05:35 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: Val]

Member
Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 2359
Loc: MA

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 highlevel classes.
Along those lines, has anyone who's 30ish or older looked at high school math books recently? The current trend is to fill them with colorful, distracting graphics and countless examples of Why We Use Math! and Fun Facts! and suchlike. The geometry text that my son's school uses is so full of the extraneous stuff (23 distractions per page), it's difficult to focus on the math. Plus, the challenging problems that used to make up the last 2025% of exercises in a given section are gone. It's as though no one is allowed to be good at math. Almost all of the questions are superficial and simplistic. DS studies independently, and we use an old book. I agree that many textbooks used in public schools have too many distractions and have noticed that textbooks purchased by parents (often homeschoolers), such as Singapore Math or Saxon or Art of Problem Solving have less fluff. A good set of math textbooks with challenging problems are those coauthored by Dolciani http://www.welltrainedmind.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1787181 . One "human interest" feature in Dolciani's books are 1page descriptions of the life and work of great mathematicians. They cannot appear in modern textbooks, because almost all of them were white men.
_________________________
"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."  George Orwell

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#118784  12/23/11 07:02 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: Val]

Member
Registered: 07/19/11
Posts: 304

The current trend is to fill them with colorful, distracting graphics and countless examples of Why We Use Math! and Fun Facts! and suchlike.
I'm gifted in math and it always came easy, but that didn't keep me from inquiring as to why we were learning about imaginary numbers. It seemed pretty useless when I was in high school, and my math teacher did not provide a very satisfying answer. Other children have a lower threshold for motivation to learn math they don't see the point of. These children need inspiration. Ideally, the problems themselves would pertain to useful applications of math. Figuring out how many years it will be before Jill is twice as old as Bill is not interesting or important, but math books are filled with those kinds of questions. Ohms law could be taught in algebra and used to answer similar questions... and the circuits could be built and the answers checked with a voltage meter. This trend is a sorry example of how algebra and geometry have been diluted in the name of "accessibility." I don't understand why schools can't just teach basic geometry and honors geometry or something like that. But I guess it wouldn't be fair or something. My school had honors geometry and regular geometry. I think the expectation was the students from honors geometry would never take trigonometry... I know I never did.

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#118789  12/23/11 07:42 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: Bostonian]

Member
Registered: 01/02/10
Posts: 757

Our grade school uses Everyday Math from the U. of Chicago as its textbook. Has anyone seen that? It seems muddled and confusing. Sometimes my kids have to do things like "write a sentence about how you liked this exercise" or "Write a sentence about how math helps you every day." Duh! However, in our local G/T program which starts in 4th grade and my kids have qualified for, they can ultimately take two years of AP Calculus at our local public high school, so I guess I can't complain TOO MUCH.

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#118792  12/23/11 07:57 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: jack'smom]

Member
Registered: 08/25/10
Posts: 868

Our grade school uses Everyday Math from the U. of Chicago as its textbook. Has anyone seen that? It seems muddled and confusing. Sometimes my kids have to do things like "write a sentence about how you liked this exercise" or "Write a sentence about how math helps you every day." Duh! However, in our local G/T program which starts in 4th grade and my kids have qualified for, they can ultimately take two years of AP Calculus at our local public high school, so I guess I can't complain TOO MUCH. The teachers at our elementary school had to use Everyday Math, and they hated it. They felt like it focused on the wrong things, was often confusing, and  like you said  they thought some of the homework questions were less than helpful.

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#118793  12/23/11 08:11 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: Bostonian]

Member
Registered: 08/25/10
Posts: 868

The result is a wellintended but misguided crusade to solve via administrative fiat the United States’ longstanding achievement gap: the dramatic differences in test scores between white and minority students and between middleclass 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 highlevel classes.
<end of excerpt>
We have seen this in our district  with a twist. As part of one of the largest school districts in the US, our high schools have a huge disparity of both dropout rates and students continuing on to college. For example, our high school has a graduation rate of around 97% and over 80% continuing on for higher education. 25% of last year's senior class graduated with over a 4.0. In contrast, another high school in the district battles dropout rates approaching 70% with paltry number of graduating seniors continuing on for higher education. In an attempt to equal the playing field, the superintendent proposed that our mid and high school not be allowed to offer advanced academic courses that were not also available to students at other high schools in the district. After a vociferous outcry, the proposal was tabled  but not dropped. While steps need to be taken to address the socioeconomic and social challenges that are affecting a disparity in education options for students, dumbing down all students is not the answer, either.

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#118794  12/23/11 08:12 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: DAD22]

Member
Registered: 10/04/11
Posts: 2657

My school had honors geometry and regular geometry. I think the expectation was the students from honors geometry would never take trigonometry... I know I never did. Huh. I'd have expected it to be the other way around. Why wouldn't an honors student keep progressing in the subject? When I took Honors Geometry, it was the only Geometry class offered by my school. But that was a quirk of the way the school system was organized at the time. We had grades 1012 in high school and 79 in junior high. If you were an honors math student, you'd have been ready for Geometry in 9th grade. If not, you'd have gotten it in high school. The honors track was laid out like this: 7th  PreAlgebra 8th  Algebra I 9th  Geometry 10th  Algebra II 11th  Trig/PreCalculus 12th  Calculus If you weren't an honors math student, there was another class they'd offer you in 7th, and you'd take PreAlgebra in 8th. If I recall correctly, you'd then get Algebra I, Geometry, and either Algebra II or something called Business Math, your choice, to satisfy your graduation requirements. You only needed 3 years of math in your last 4 years of school. So in my school, the Honors Geometry students were pretty much expected to take Trig... and I did. That was as far as I went, though. You know this epidemic of the lazy teachers you can't get rid of because of tenure and unions that certain politicians keep bloviating about in the media? In my public school experience I only ever met one, in my senior year, and he was teaching Calculus and AP Physics. I dropped both courses.

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#118795  12/23/11 08:17 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: ABQMom]

Member
Registered: 10/04/11
Posts: 2657

We have seen this in our district  with a twist. As part of one of the largest school districts in the US, our high schools have a huge disparity of both dropout rates and students continuing on to college. For example, our high school has a graduation rate of around 97% and over 80% continuing on for higher education. 25% of last year's senior class graduated with over a 4.0. In contrast, another high school in the district battles dropout rates approaching 70% with paltry number of graduating seniors continuing on for higher education.
In an attempt to equal the playing field, the superintendent proposed that our mid and high school not be allowed to offer advanced academic courses that were not also available to students at other high schools in the district. After a vociferous outcry, the proposal was tabled  but not dropped.
While steps need to be taken to address the socioeconomic and social challenges that are affecting a disparity in education options for students, dumbing down all students is not the answer, either. Wow. You have to wonder what problem they thought they were going to solve there, because the proposed solution seems to indicate that the problem is that your school is doing too well, and it needs to be dragged down to the level of the others.

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#118799  12/23/11 08:47 AM
Re: Closing the achievement gap and gifted students
[Re: DAD22]

Member
Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 3152
Loc: California

I'm gifted in math and it always came easy, but that didn't keep me from inquiring as to why we were learning about imaginary numbers. It seemed pretty useless when I was in high school, and my math teacher did not provide a very satisfying answer. Other children have a lower threshold for motivation to learn math they don't see the point of. These children need inspiration. I agree completely, so I think I didn't make myself clear. The textbooks used today (well, the ones I've looked at anyway) have so much extra stuff, it crowds out actual information. Here are examples from my son's geometry book:  LiNK
 Who uses this?
 Engineering application
 CONCEPT CONNECTION
 Why learn this?
 California Standards
 Remember!
This is on top of semiuseful stuff like "KnowIt Notes," "Helpful Hints," "Standardized Test Prep!" and "Spiral Review." There are bright, distracting icons everywhere and the book is loaded with irrelevant color photographs of things like traffic signals, puppies, heroes on horseback, and the Statue of Liberty. Did you know that her index finger is 8 feet long? I do now, thanks to that book. But what this has to do with similar triangles I do not know. There's very little space for actual text that you'd have to sit down and concentrate on. But that might be hard, and geometry wouldn't be "accessible." I'm looking at a "challenge" problem in my son's book. It's a straightforward question about sidehypotenuse relationships in a 454590 triangle (the side is 1; how long is the hypotenuse?). For those who've forgotten, the formula is 11root 2. I think that basic geometry is a really great thing for students who aren't mathematically inclined. What tears at me is that with books like the one I have on my desk, difficult geometry is out of the question.
Edited by Val (12/23/11 09:24 AM) Edit Reason: Fix something

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