Wednesday, July 18, 2007

So here is a question

It appears that NCLB might be encouraging teachers to teach to the "bubble kids", the kids in the middle, the ones who need just a little effort to score proficient.

My question is this: economically where should our we concentrate our efforts in this country? Does it make more sense to concentrate on the brightest 1/3 of our students who arguably will contribute the most to innovation and development? Perhaps raising the middle 1/3 is the best answer, after all these are the ones who will form the vast bulk of our middle class. Does the cost of raising the achievement of the lower 1/3 outweigh the benefits? I know that ideally we would give all kids a superior education, but until the country moves to a value added system that take into account progress at all academic levels, any policy is going to result in the system targeting specific groups. Just a hypothetical question...

Update: Matt Johnson churns out a well reasoned argument for concentrating on the bottom 1/3. Go read his post for the full scoop.

I am going to play devils advocate and say that we should spend most of our energy on the middle 1/3. Like Matt, I agree that the top 1/3 will be OK anyway, but my argument is that $1 spent on the middle 1/3 will give more return than $1 spent on the bottom 1/3. Of course like Matt says, throwing money alone at a problem isn't going to solve anything, what we really need is pedagogy reform. (Disclaimer: I actually don't believe this, but that's why we call it being a devils advocate.)

Highly Qualified Students

It suddenly occurred to me while reading eduwonk, that all this effort on improving teacher quality is so inefficient.

What we need is highly qualified students!

By the way, go read the Education Intelligence Agency's (EIA) take on "bubble tests."

Any question on a fill-in-the-bubble test provides all the data necessary to come up with the correct answer. Students are then supplied with four or five possible responses. By their very nature, standardized tests inflate the scores of students on the low end of the scale. The only students who score lower than 20 percent on a fill-in-the-bubble test are victims of bad luck, since entirely random responses should raise you at least that high.

I would go even further. Since we all know that most multiple choice tests have at least two distractors that you can eliminate out of hand, most kids should score at least 50% on any test. When you consider that the students have been prepared for the tests, its a wonder than anyone fails.