Monday, November 20, 2006

D-Ed Reckoning: NYT perplexed over achievement gap

D-Ed Reckoning: NYT perplexed over achievement gap

The edublogosphere is buzzing over the latest article on the achievement gap at the NY Times. So far only D-Ed Reckoning has been brave enough to address the root of the problem.

The achievement gap mirrors the IQ gap. Of IQ gaps we cannot speak amongst polite company, such as those that read still read the NYT.

That's the elephant in the room.
Of course educators can't speak about the IQ gap, because the conversation inevitably leads to the Nature vs. Nurture debate.

Instead, education policy makers have created the "achievement gap" which is basically an arbitrary pass fail line drawn in the sand... draw the line low enough and the gap magically vanishes. Thankfully, we have the NAEP to help keep all the states honest, otherwise states could easily game the system.

Of course, even if the achievement gap is solved, it sill won't fix today's inequities. There are only a finite amount of college positions available, and success is all about higher education today. Even if everyone passed some arbitrary reading and math test, Universities are still only going to take the top performers. Of course, unless the IQ gap has been eliminated, historically low performing groups will still be under represented (especially considering the recent bans on affirmative action).

The inevitable reaction will be for educators to once again raise the standard to be considered "passing" causing another achievement gap. I suppose this might sound a little pessimistic and cynical of me, but hey its Monday morning.

Educators and policy makers need to come up with a realist and pragmatic approach to improving education. Instead of focusing on improving gaps between different groups, educators should be concentrating on ensuring that all students are taught to the highest standards that they are capable of being taught too. While we might never be able to fix the IQ gap in the United States, we need to ensure that any kid with the drive and the capability to excel is provided opportunities to do so. The problem is that there are bright driven poor/minority kids out there that are unable to live up to there full potential because they suffer in an education system that doesn't teach them the basics, doesn't provide scientifically based curriculums, and doesn't provide a safe environment.

Ok... Sermon over. Get back to work.

P.S. Did anyone else catch this in the NY Times article:

Standard & Poors has sifted test data from 16,000 schools in 18 states, identifying 718 schools making significant progress toward the national goal.

They are the classic diamonds in the rough, said Paul Gazzerro, director of analytics at Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services. But in general, schools are not closing achievement gaps.

One of the exceptions, the unit said, is Hoover Middle School in Lakewood, Calif., a community in Los Angeles County where the aircraft manufacturing industry has been hit by job losses. The school has raised Hispanic scores so much that in the spring of 2005 Hispanic students outperformed whites, said the principal, Michael L. Troyer. He said the progress resulted from focused instruction, frequent diagnostic testing and several tutoring programs.
I suppose the Hispanic - White achievement gap is hard to accurately measure because Hispanic is an ethnic designation, not a racial one. I checked out the scores and even though Hoover Middle appeared to eliminate the one gap, there are still big gaps between other groups.

Hispanics, whites, and Pacific Islanders all appeared to be performing at approximately the same level. AfAmericansricans lag way behind, and Asian and Filipinos's are excelling. Basically, this information tells us nothing without knowing the economic and educational background of all the various groups.

Why is it after all these years, no one can ever point to one school that has eliminated its achievement gap.