Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Don't be a Hater!

Transform Education: What if KIPP "worked"?
Peter Campbell: dont be a hater, be a congratulator!

For all the kids that are not "lucky" enough to get a place at KIPP, it is not tolerable. For all the kids that do make it into KIPP but are not able to endure the 10-hour days and two hours of homework every night and who eventually drop out or are "counseled out," it is not tolerable. And even for those kids who do make it into KIPP and make it out of KIPP, their "success" is not tolerable because it comes at a price, a price that is too high to pay.

Ryan at Edspresso responds with a small bit of sarcasm:
So because school choice might harm others in some nebulous way, it should be withdrawn? And "success" in sneer quotes? Is this writer suggesting that said students are faking it, or that their academic achievements are somehow counterfeit?

but I wanted to add one more point. It's very hard to shake the feeling that there are some who truly wish for equality... equality of failure. I have used the argument in the past, but I will use it again. These are the sort of people who would let everyone drown on a sinking ship, because they couldn't save everybody. To them it's not about excellence, it's about equivalence. They have already given up on success, and now they just want to drag everyone down to the lowest level.


Peter Campbell said...

The sinking ship analogy is a good one. It would seem that this is precicsely what I am supporting, i.e., it's best that everyone on the ship drown rather than saving a few.

But this is, of course, absurd. And argument by analogy is the lowest form of logic.

But I'll offer my own argument by analogy.

Imagine we are in early 20th century America. There are no child labor laws. It is a common sight to see 10-year-olds working in factories for next to nothing. Along comes a reform movement that provides comfortable shoes for the children. They can now stand at their assembly line positions for 8 hours at a stretch and feel considerably less pain. Many people are relieved by this intervention. At last, they say, we have done something to help these poor children.

Providing comfortable shoes doesn't undo the injustice of children working in these conditions. Providing questionable schooling for an infinitesimally small population of poor black and Hispanic children doesn't undo the injustice of segregation.

We can't make "improving segregated schools" our goal. If we do this, we accept as a fait accompli that segregation is an immutable reality. The Brown decision said it is NOT an immutable reality. We must work to honor the legacy of that decision.

Does this mean that all schools have to be integrated? No. It may very well be that urban schools that are TRULY on the level of their suburban counterparts (as far as educational quality goes) can accept their segregated status. But, as I said, I fear the consequences of this level of acceptance, of this kind of abdication of a vision. We will accept our separation from each other. We will very seldom encounter each other.

Of course, we see each other on television – in movies and in sit-coms and on the news. And, based on my experience of others on television, I know that most Asians are very quiet and work in laundries, that women on crime shows have large breasts and wear short skirts and tend to over-react when under pressure, that young black men are very angry and sing a lot about bitches and hos, that Muslims wear scarves over their heads and carry Kalashnikov machine guns, and that white men are smart and usually in charge.

The only place where people can go and share common space inside non-commercial venues is a public school. (Channel 1 tried to change that, but – fortunately – it recently reported financial problems and looks like it’s going to be gone forever. Good riddance.) In our society today, public schools are the only place where we have a chance to see and talk to people who are not exactly like us, maybe even get to know them a bit. For those of us who have already graduated from public high schools, it’s too late. There is really no other place to go.

Look, I know. It’s not like there was a time when this did happen, back in the good old days when people of different racial, ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds got together and held hands and inter-related. Rich people have always stayed around rich people, whites have pretty much always stuck to whites, blacks to blacks, etc., etc. And, of course, this is the case today. And it was certainly not the case with public schools either, certainly not before Brown v. Board, and certainly not today. A large number of suburban and rural schools are virtually devoid of any kind of diversity, whether economic, racial, ethnic, or religious.

In acknowledging this, we should not conclude that since most public schools are devoid of diversity, we should give up on the vision that diversity entails. Rather, it’s a reminder that we have to fight for what little diversity there is, where people of different backgrounds can share common space. It’s also a reminder that we have our work cut out for us to extend the democratic commons, to find new ways for diversity to be nurtured or, at the very least, to be experienced on a more substantive basis beyond merely passing each other at the food court.

Peter Campbell said...

One more problem with the sinking ship analogy. Nothing can be done to save a sinking ship. The only thing that can be done is to try and save as many people as possible from drowning.

Social justice is not a sinking ship. There is a lot we can do to bring it about. To call it a sinking ship is more than just inaccurate. It is immoral.

Saving a handful of kids is to accept this inaccurate and immoral analogy.

Anonymous said...

*It's very hard to shake the feeling that there are some who truly wish for equality... equality of failure. I have used the argument in the past, but I will use it again. These are the sort of people who would let everyone drown on a sinking ship, because they couldn't save everybody. To them it's not about excellence, it's about equivalence. They have already given up on success, and now they just want to drag everyone down to the lowest level.*

This is now the reality in Illinois.

Illinois law now requires Algebra, Geometry, and an additional year of high school math for high school graduation (previous requirement was 2 years of math, courses not specified).

Sounds good - until the Illinois State Board of Education changed their policy so that students are not allowed to earn credit towards high school graduation before 9th grade.

Net effect: No one can take Algebra before 9th grade.

Voila - the narrowing of the achievement gap is accomplished by forcing high achievers to dumb down.

There you have it - equality of outcomes assured by placing limits and restrictions on students who would have been capable of a high level of achievement.

Parentalcation said...


I just checked the Illinois State Board of Education, and I am not sure it means that.

From their Graduation Requirements

"Since many middle schools are offering Algebra I, a school district may count a middle school course that is equivalent to high school Algebra I as fulfilling the content requirement that students complete Algebra I. In dual districts, the high school district has the authority to determine whether it will recognize the algebra courses taken
at its feeder elementary districts as meeting the Algebra I content requirement, based upon whether the Algebra I content offered in middle school is consistent with the content offered in the high school course. The determination of high school course content is a local decision.

An Algebra I course taken in middle school, however, cannot be counted as meeting one of the three years of mathematics that high school students must complete in order to receive a high school diploma. In other words, courses taken before ninth grade do not reduce the number of courses that a high school student is required to complete under state law."

If I read this correctly, a student can take Algebra I in 8th grade, but will still have to complete 3 years of math in H.S.

Anonymous said...

“If I read this correctly, a student can take Algebra I in 8th grade, but will still have to complete 3 years of math in H.S.”

That is correct, and may not be too much of a problem for students accelerated one year. But, there are students who have accelerated further than taking Algebra I in 8th grade. Illinois law and ISBE policy *does* present a major problem for those students.

There are students who have completed Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II/Pre-Calculus before 9th grade. Under Illinois law and ISBE policy they have had those three years of high school honors math credits and grades stripped from their Academic Records and High School transcripts. They have exhausted the High School math curriculum through AP Calculus BC by 10th grade, leaving them short of the three years of H.S. math credits required for H.S. graduation - and their GPAs and Class Ranks are now below those of students who have completed H.S. math only through Algebra II.

The ISBE has refused to revise their policy for cases like these, effectively placing a limit on the high end of the achievement spectrum and effectively punishing those students for achieving to the best of their ability.

School policy usually reads something like this example: *No high school credit will be awarded to elementary or middle school students concurrently enrolled in high school courses.* These kids have taken high school courses at the high school, taken the same quizzes, tests, and finals as their high school classmates, but are then informed that their work and effort do not count (and will actually count against them) because they took those classes before they were in 9th grade.

This is in direct opposition to the many states that do allow students to earn high school credit before 9th grade (New York, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Kentucky, and many, many more).

Advocates are trying to fight what Illinois has done, but it will take years if it is even possible to reverse. The best course of action at this point is to warn students capable of high levels of achievement, and their families, away from Illinois.

Parentalcation said...

May I blog this over at Kitchen Table Math?

Anonymous said...

Yes, you may include this over at Kitchen Table Math.

Maybe it will make others more aware of a growing educational trend - mandated equalized outcomes. Everyone must reach a certain level of achievement, no one can exceed a certain level of achievement.

The push for equalizing outcomes has coincided with the release of the book, "Education, Equality and Social Cohesion" by Prof. Andy Green and Dr. Jan Germen Janmaat.

A Peabody Journal of Education article (PJE is America's second longest existing publication devoted exclusively to
educational research, practice, and policy, and is committed to providing information and reasoned opinion that will enhance understanding and practice among institutions and
individuals, in the United States and throughout the world, concerned with human learning and development. - Peabody College of Education and Human Development,
Vanderbilt University]
depicted the premise (as Figure 1) as follows:

"Educational Outcomes Equality => Income Equality => Social Cohesion"

and is explained as:

"Put simply, countries with education systems producing more equal outcomes in terms of skills and qualifications are likely to have more equal distribution of income, and this in turn promotes social cohesion."

The authors argue that this relationship is what should be influencing
education policy if a more cohesive (less crime, more involvement in the community) society is

Of course, a more cohesive society is desirable. BUT, I take significant issue
with the premise that the way to achieve this is to mandate equal educational outcomes onto a population.

To truly attain a majority population of equal educational outcomes to
equalize income levels, that educational outcome level would have to
be slightly below average.

That explains Illinois’s limits and restrictions on student achievement, but where does that leave the U.S.'s ability to compete and succeed in an increasingly global economy?

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear...

Equal educational opportunity is a goal that should be pursued. It is true that we are still falling short of providing all students an equal educational opportunity to learn to the best of their abilities. We should definitely be working toward providing equal educational opportunity to all.

Pursuing equal educational outcomes in order to equalize incomes across society, however, is a goal that should raise significant alarm.

There is no way that equal educational outcomes can be achieved unless some students are artificially propped up, while others are deliberately kept from developing their potential.

MensaRefugee said...

I strongly think anyone with an IQ above 120-125 can finish whatever is considered "rigorous" in High School by age 12-14...

The rest is just having their god given rights and potentials retarded.

Anonymous said...

I took a look at Kitchen Table Math today and found the following:

In David W. Murray’s ‘Waiting for Utopia’ (linked on Kitchen Table Math on Feb. 23rd),
I read that Richard Rothstein’s (author of the New York Times’s widely read “Lessons” column, a weekly commentary on education issues) answers to the problem of disparities in student achievement involve placing limits on high-achieving children rather than improving the education of low-achieving children.

This is exactly what has happened to students in Illinois. They’ve had limits placed on their achievement…

meep said...

FWIW, I was in the situation detailed here, but in NC. I took Calc in 10th grade, and was looking at no math the next year because not only did the high school not have anything Calculus I, but they wouldn't let juniors go to the local college to take classes, or get credit for it. I looked into it, and found that some colleges don't care that you don't have a high school diploma, so was just planning to "drop out" of high school and go straight to college instead. Made more sense.

In the end, I went to NCSSM (Illinois has IMSA, a similar school), which had more math, but I still ran out (and would you believe even they wouldn't let me go to the local college for further classes? I was resigned to "independent study", which was worthless in the time before OpenCourseware at MIT).

When your achievement is beyond the bounds of normal, you've got to get used to figuring your way to get around the system.

Parentalcation said...

Conversation moved here.