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    #75979 - 05/13/10 10:01 AM School funding leaves gifted students behind
    Bostonian Offline

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2637
    Loc: MA
    School funding leaves gifted students behind
    Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    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.

    By ignoring the needs of gifted students, the achievement gap separating the best students from the worst will be closed "by pulling it down from the top rather than jacking it up from the bottom," he said.

    Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs even in the best of economic times have gotten only a token nod in school budgets, but in recent years, funding for those programs has eroded further as school districts have grappled with ever-shrinking budgets.

    Meanwhile, spending on programs to help the lowest-achieving students has increased with a boost from federal stimulus money and statewide efforts to target struggling schools.

    At the federal level, $8 billion has been set aside this year to help the country's worst schools, while the entire $7 million budgeted for GATE - the equivalent of about $140,000 for each of the 50 states - is on the chopping block.

    At the same time, California set aside about $39.9 million for the state's 490,000 gifted children. That's about 8 cents for every $100 spent on education - and down from $46.8 million in 2008-09.

    On top of that, a new state law allows local school districts to divert any or all of its GATE money to help cover budget shortfalls.

    School districts have had to make tough decisions.

    Earlier this year at Berkeley High School, for example, district officials proposed cutting extra science labs for honors and advanced placement students, citing a need to spread the funding out to meet the needs of a greater number of students.

    <rest of story at link>

    My comments:

    As Charles Murray has explained in the books "The Bell Curve" and "Real Education", many people don't have the intelligence to get an academic high school education (getting to at least pre-calculus by 12th grade, writing term papers in English), much less get a real college education (he estimates an IQ of 115 is needed, which is about 1/6 of the population if the mean IQ is 100 and the standard deviation is 15), and too much money is being squandered trying to educate people beyond their abilities.

    The reality of intellectual differences might be accepted if the intelligence distribution were the same for racial and income groups, but it appears not to be, whether one looks at IQ tests, the achievement tests used for NCLB, or college admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT. The article discusses how gifted programs use non-intellectual criteria to get the "right" mix of students in gifted programs, just as selective colleges do to get a "diverse" class. Instead, students should be selected based on measures of ability and achievement, letting the chips fall where they may.
    "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." - George Orwell

    #75986 - 05/13/10 10:56 AM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: Bostonian]
    Val Offline

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    I agree completely with the idea that our educational system has unreasonable expectations for many of its students. I've heard educators argue that "everyone needs a chance to try." This is a nice idea in a way, but there are a lot of problems with it when you think about it. A big problem is the assumption that academic pursuits (like doing pre-calculus in 12th grade) are somehow "better" and we should therefore push everyone in that direction, whether everyone's talents and abilities suit this direction or not. And in the process, the cognitively gifted students, who are the ones who are most suited to going in this direction, get largely shut out. An outcome like this seems paradoxical until you factor in the false promises of "equity for everyone" that this system bases itself on. In trying to force a large group of students into a direction that may not be right for them, we have to slow down the ones who could benefit the most from going that way at a higher speed.

    So from what I can tell, and I'm not trying to sound strident here, so forgive me if I come across this way: the schools effectively lie to a lot of students about their academic potential, which sets them up for failure and feelings of inadequacy. This policy also hurts the students who are most academically able.

    I mean, seriously, who would push a short kid to become a basketball player? Why is this so obvious in sports, but not in academics?

    As for IQ distribution among groups, I remember watching segment in a film our national eating habits. The segment was about a school for at-risk students, many of whom were minority students. The school had switched away from the fried and processed fare that's typical in most school cafeterias. They replaced it with fresh fruits and lightly steamed vegetables, and other non-processed foods. The principal claimed that behavior problems were drastically reduced and that student learning increased after the diet change. This is anecdotal, of course, but this and all the reading about our food supply that I've done make me wonder about what would happen if we changed our agricultural policies and stopped subsidizing corn (and, indirectly, processed foods).


    Edited by Val (05/13/10 10:56 AM)

    #76002 - 05/13/10 02:36 PM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: Val]
    Catalana Offline

    Registered: 12/10/09
    Posts: 393

    I am offended by your comments regarding race and IQ, so I need to speak up. There is no evidence (despite what the Bell Curve claims) that IQ differences between racial groups have a genetic basis. That theory has been debunked repeatedly. There is substantial evidence that IQ is heritable. Needless to say, that is an important difference (and perhaps your point was about the heritability of IQ - but since you referred to the Bell Curve, it wasn't clear). You might want to look here: for an article that explains the difference more fully. You might want to also read the book "Intelligence, Genes, and Success: Scientists Respond to THE BELL CURVE" which explains the junk science behind the book.

    Ultimately, one's willingness to believe in racial superiority probably doesn't have all that much to do with science, thus I don't intend to engage further on this subject.



    Edited by Catalana (05/13/10 02:37 PM)

    #76032 - 05/13/10 09:46 PM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: Catalana]
    Val Offline

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    Originally Posted By: Catalana
    Ultimately, one's willingness to believe in racial superiority probably doesn't have all that much to do with science....

    Hmm...well, I've read The Bell Curve and it doesn't use the term racial superiority at all. In fact, the authors went out of their way to dismiss this idea. For example, the Introduction says "This thing we know as IQ is important but not a synonym for human excellence" (Locations 760-784 on my Kindle).

    Unfortunately, many of the criticisms of this book make inaccurate statements about the material inside it and the conclusions the authors drew. The link you provided is an example of this practice:

    Originally Posted By: Catalana's link
    According to The Bell Curve, Black Americans are genetically inferior to Whites.

    Rubbish. The book says no such thing, anywhere, any time. It does make statements that are quite the opposite, though (like the one I quoted).

    The Bell Curve is a long way from "junk science." It's a nuanced discussion of IQ and intelligence and is full of references to peer-reviewed studies supporting its statements. Unfortunately, the book has been misunderstood and misquoted many, many times.

    Along those lines, the rather long article in the link you provided doesn't contain a single reference to support its conclusions. An article that makes vast, judgmental, yet unsupported statements loses a lot of its credibility in my eyes.

    Just my 2c.


    #76034 - 05/13/10 11:09 PM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: Val]
    Dandy Offline

    Registered: 08/12/08
    Posts: 574
    I'll toss a couple more pennies in to the fray.

    I've seen Block's writings surface in other threads that went all Bell-Curvey. The best response I've seen is from Sesardic, who has quite a bit to say about Block's meandering about heritability:
    Sesardic's response to Block and others

    I'd enjoy a live debate between the two.
    Being offended is a natural consequence of leaving the house. - Fran Lebowitz

    #76047 - 05/14/10 05:54 AM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: Dandy]
    inky Offline

    Registered: 10/10/08
    Posts: 1299
    I thought the original article made a number of good points.

    Why are the bright kids told to wait for the others to catch up? Why can't we feed that passion?

    "Our district is not just for students who aren't proficient," said Associate Superintendent Toni-Sue Passantino.

    Reading Sesardic's example of the red-haired children reminded me of this show on epigenetics:
    Q: People tend to think that the genes they're born with are set in stone—they're not going to change. But your epigenome does change. Do we have some responsibility to maintain it?

    Issa: The realization that the epigenome is so important to health and disease is really fundamental, because we now understand that the epigenome is something we can do something about, as opposed to the genome, which is what we are born with that we can really not modify. The epigenome is a little more dynamic. Potentially what we eat in infancy and what we eat in development could affect the health of our epigenome. But it is more than that. Smoking and exposures and lifestyle habits can affect our epigenome. And perhaps more interestingly, not to be negative all the time, there might be interventions that would make our epigenome more healthy.

    And this:
    A mouse gives birth to identical-twin sisters. One has brown fur and will grow up to be lean and healthy; the other has yellow fur and is destined to be obese and prone to disease. How can two mice sharing exactly the same DNA become so different? The answer lies in the epigenome, a kind of second genome that all animals have, including humans. The epigenome dictates which genes in the genome are turned on and which are not, a process that can differ even between identical twins.

    Just some more pennies...

    #76051 - 05/14/10 06:43 AM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: Dandy]
    BaseballDad Offline

    Registered: 07/10/08
    Posts: 165
    The Bell Curve debate is always emotionally charged, so thanks to everyone for keeping it reasonable so far. A couple of points.

    First, Catalana quotes from Block's article:

    Originally Posted By: Catalana
    "According to The Bell Curve, Black Americans are genetically inferior to Whites."

    Val thinks this is a mischaracterization of the book:

    Originally Posted By: Val
    Rubbish. The book says no such thing, anywhere, any time.

    I agree with Val that Herrnstein and Murray hedge their bets. They say, for example, that certain factors "suggest, without quite proving, genetic roots" for differences in IQ between ethnic groups (p. 270 of the version available on Google books). On the other hand, it is certainly the goal of their book to argue that the heritability of IQ is at least in part genetically determined. They do so by arguing, for example, that environmental differences are not sufficient to explain the 15 point gap between blacks and whites in IQ scores (see the section entitled "Are the differences in overall black and white test scores attributable to differences in socioeconomic status", pp. 286-289); by arguing that the gap is not attributable to other factors such as biased questions in the tests (see p. 282); and by arguing that the noted convergence between black and white test scores over the last several decades is not likely to end in equality (see pp. 289ff). In addition to arguments that non-genetic differences are not sufficient, they also give a variety of arguments to the effect that the IQ difference between blacks and whites is genetically determined. (See the section entitled "Reasons for thinking that genetic differences might be involved", pp. 299ff.) In all, then, I think Block is giving a fair account of the book when he says that it argues (with respect to IQ at least) that "Black Americans are genetically inferior to Whites".

    The real issue around the book, though, is not what it argues but what its reasons for arguing it are. The claim that Block and others make is that H&M go too quickly from the claim that IQ differences are heritable to the claim that they are genetically determined. To say that IQ is 60% heritable within whites, as H&M and Block agree, is to say that there is a 60% correlation between variance in genes and variance in IQ. But this leaves completely open the question whether the genetic variance directly determines the IQ difference or indirectly determines it. In Block's example, earring wearing was highly heritable in American society during the 1930s: there was a strong correlation between variance in the sex chromosome and variance in earring wearing practices. But intuitively, at least, it would be wrong to say that whether you were an earring wearer or not was a genetically determined trait. The reason is that there are a number of different possible reasons for the correlation between genotype and practice, and in this case the correlation seems to have come about largely as a result of the way the environment treated the genders differently, not as a result of the genetic influence of the sex chromosome itself.

    The nice paper that Dandy links to by Sesardic draws out these different kinds of genotype-environment correlation. It seems to me exactly on target on the facts, but to leave Block's criticism of H&M completely untouched. The reason is that Block draws exactly the same distinctions that Sesardic does, but then goes on to argue that in the case of IQ heritability in particular, there is simply no way of knowing which kind of genotype-environment correlation is in effect. If only some of these kinds of correlation justify the move from heritability to genetic determination, and if we don't know which one is in play in the IQ case, then the move that H&M make from IQ heritability to the genetic determination of IQ is simply not justified.

    I'd be fascinated to hear what others think. Perhaps we won't get Dandy's dream of a live debate between Block and Sesardic. But we could try to figure out for ourselves how the debate would go.


    #76067 - 05/14/10 09:17 AM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: BaseballDad]
    ColinsMum Offline

    Registered: 09/19/08
    Posts: 1898
    Loc: Scotland
    I'll put my 2c in as well.

    I don't know (of course) whether there is any truly genetic component to measured differences in mean IQ between racial groups in the US. I think that to answer that question we'd need to define very carefully what we meant by the terms involved, including "genetic", actually: it's not quite as clear as these discussions often make it sound. Some article I read recently pointed out something I'd expand as follows: that generally in biology, if you take two groups from a species which differ in some observable feature (eye colour, leaf shape, skin colour, whatever) and then you look at some attribute that varies measurably within each group (height, number of seeds produced, IQ, whatever), and you measure the mean of that attribute across each group, you would generally expect that the means of the two groups would ("happen to") be different for these two groups. The groups having identical means would be the thing that required explanation, not the converse. Will there be a "genetic component" of the attribute, then? For most definitions, probably yes, but that doesn't make this fact or the original choice of groups interesting.

    This is what mostly strikes me: the "so what" of it. It reminds me strongly of the debate about mathematical ability in males vs females, which is something I am more competent to talk about. Observably, most extremely talented mathematicians are male. Debate has raged about whether men are "genetically" better on average than women at maths or more likely to be in the tails or whatever. Once you start looking into it, it's clear that there's no convincing way we could ever be sure. Girls and boys are socialised differently from the moment of birth (literally: there's a very interesting study of what people say to boys and girls as babies in the delivery room!) so there's no practical way you could ever separate out the effects of social expectations of boys vs girls from the effects of genes. But if you could, what would you do with that information? The variation in mathematical ability among people of the same sex completely swamps any between-sex difference, so knowing whether someone is a boy or a girl is not useful in predicting how mathematical they'll be. Nobody would defend, for example, making certain kinds of mathematical education available to only one sex or the other. At the end of the day the presence or absence of a sex-linked genetic influence on mathematical ability is just not a very interesting question.

    And similarly, well, what I'm saying is obvious, I think. There are better things to spend time on, like how to educate children, and this isn't because race and IQ is a touchy subject, it's just because it's not a very interesting subject!
    Email: my username, followed by 2, at google's mail

    #76072 - 05/14/10 09:32 AM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: ColinsMum]
    Austin Offline

    Registered: 06/25/08
    Posts: 1840
    Loc: North Texas
    The Flynn Effect on IQ begs the whole question of correlation and genetics.

    The Flynn Effect is a rate metric that exists outside of point-time measurements of IQ, and thus gives us another insight into what is going on.


    "Both Black and White American soldiers fathered children with German women, and the IQ scores of both groups of children were almost identical. Flynn argued that direct evidence of this kind, reflecting what actually occurs when different races are subject to qualitatively similar environments, is more important than the kind of indirect evidence that comes from attempting to correct samples for socioeconomic status or other environmental variables.

    In addition to this kind of direct evidence, Flynn argues here that the observation of IQ test gains over time further reduces the relevance of the indirect evidence of environmental differences. For one, the gain of IQ from one generation to the next must certainly be almost all, if not entirely, due to environmental change. Flynn presents this as a real-world example that fits Lewontin's model, above, where within-group differences are mostly genetic, while between-group differences are mostly environmental in origin. (This also plays into a continuing current theme in Flynn's research examining how IQ can continue to increase while remaining fairly strongly heritable. This itself appears paradoxical, since continued environmental gains would normally be expected to reduce the heritability by decreasing potential environmental variance.) Second, the magnitude of the IQ gains is so large, that the Black-White average IQ difference seems comparatively minor (15):

    As for the environmental gap one must posit to explain the Black-White IQ gap, IQ gains over time pull this out of the stratosphere and down to earth. It appears that Blacks have enjoyed a slightly higher rate of gain on Wechsler-type tests than Whites (Herrnstein and Murray 1994, pp. 277, 289). This implies that since 1945, Blacks have gained at an average rate of over 0.30 points per year and have gained a total of 16 points over 50 years. Therefore, the Blacks of 1995 should have matched the mean IQ of the Whites of 1945. Therefore, an environmental explanation of the racial IQ gap need only posit this: that the average environment for Blacks in 1995 matches the quality of the average environment for Whites in 1945. I do not find that implausible."

    #76136 - 05/14/10 08:00 PM Re: School funding leaves gifted students behind [Re: Catalana]
    Bostonian Offline

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2637
    Loc: MA
    Originally Posted By: Catalana

    I am offended by your comments regarding race and IQ, so I need to speak up. There is no evidence (despite what the Bell Curve claims) that IQ differences between racial groups have a genetic basis. That theory has been debunked repeatedly.

    I don't agree. I'll quote parts of a relatively recent (2005) review paper by psychologists Jensen and Rushton, "Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability"

    "Racial-group differences in IQ appear early. For example, the Black and the White 3-year-old children in the standardization sample of the Stanford–Binet IV show a 1 standard deviation mean difference after being matched on gender, birth order, and maternal education (Peoples, Fagan, & Drotar, 1995).
    Similarly, the Black and the White 21&#8260;2- to 6-year-old children in the U.S. standardization sample of the Differential Aptitude Scale have a 1 standard deviation mean difference. No data are available for East Asian children at the youngest ages. On the Differential Aptitude Battery, by age 6, however, the average IQ of East Asian children is 107,
    compared with 103 for White children and 89 for Black children (Lynn, 1996). The size of the average Black–White difference does not change signi&#64257;cantly over the developmental period from 3 years of age and beyond (see Jensen, 1974,


    The Scarr-Weinberg transracial adoption study is discussed. By age 17, the IQ's of the children with two white biological parents is 106, vs. 89 for those with two black biological parents. At age 7 the gap was only slightly smaller. All the children were adopted by white parents.

    The paper is at and discusses much other research.

    Intensive efforts, such as Head Start, have been made to close the black-white academic achievement gap, but it is quite persistent. No one can prove definitively that there is or is not a genetic basis for the gap, but it seems likely to me that genes do explain a substantial part of it. Educational policy such as NCLB based on the assumption that we KNOW there are no innate difference and that schools MUST close the gap or be shut down do harm by misallocating educational resources and causing states to water down their standards of "proficiency".

    "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." - George Orwell

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